Whether you are speaking in front of a civic group or making a sales presentation, your opening can make or break the deal. Unless you grab the audience at the beginning, they'll be sleeping through your most important information.
You must craft an opening that cannot be ignored. Great openings have three things in common:
they grab the audience's attention away from whatever else they're thinking
they maintain the audience's interest
they are colorful, not black and white
So, you might be wondering how to create an opening that will do all those things. Let's look at my top three tips that will help you create your own grabber openings.
#1. Make a startling statement.
There is nothing like a statement that startles, either because it is so counterintuitive or so amazing, that it gets an audience to sit up and take notice. Here's one friend Harry Hoover used recently in a talk about how to think like Leonardo da Vinci. "95 percent of what we know about the brain we have learned in the past 20 years." Now, that got my attention.
#2. Use a powerful quotation.
You can find quotes from famous and not-so-famous people that are applicable either to the speech topic itself, to the audience or best of all to both. For instance, if you were speaking at a Democratic event on the subject of achievement, you might pull out this one from Rose Kennedy. "Superior achievement, or making the most of one's capabilities, is to a very considerable degree a matter of habit."
#3. Use historic events.
Historic events provide much fodder for openings. If you are giving a speech on perseverance on April 16th, see what happened on that day in history. For example: What do the mimeograph machine and the airplane have in common? Their inventors, A.B. Dick and Wilbur Wright were both born on April 16th, and they both toiled for years before their inventions were perfected.
Here's a bonus tip for creating a grabber opening for a speech in a strange city. Check out the telephone directory. Toward the front, they have great information on local history, as well as more contemporary facts. It's a great resource to help you connect with your audience. There you have my top tips for helping you craft grand openings. Now, go grab your next audience.
Ty Boyd, CEO of Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems (http://www.tyboyd.com), is in the Broadcast Hall of Fame and the Speakers Hall of Fame. He has taught presentation skills to Fortune 1000 executives in more than 34 countries. His Excellence In Speaking Institute celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2005.