You might’ve heard some people (especially members of Toastmasters) say not to thank your audience at the end of your talk.
Consider this for a moment:
Have you ever stood in front of an audience and felt so nervous that you couldn’t remember what you wanted to say?
I’m sure you’ve been nervous about speaking in public
Even if you’ve never felt exactly that way, I’m sure you’ve been nervous about speaking in public. (I have, for sure!)
Because so many people can relate to that question, and it’s emotionally charged, it’d make a great opening line for a talk on public speaking.
In fact, it is the opening line for the 3½-minute Toastmasters video below. At least, you could say it’s the opening line – or you might argue it’s not.
More on that shortly, but 1st, why not watch the video and make up your own mind?
Does this age-old advice about presenting sound familiar?
- Tell people what you’re going to tell them.
- Tell them.
- Tell them what you told them.
You’ve probably heard that advice before (and you might well follow it, too). It basically says:
“Start your presentation with an agenda,
and end with a summary slide” [Doubtful advice]
I’ve used that format myself many times. But the more I thought and read about it, the more I realised it tends to bore listeners, for 4 reasons:
Of the countless presentations you’ve likely heard, how many have really made you listen? Often, they can sound and look a lot like all the rest. That’s why, if you’re like me, they tend to leave you cold.
So when you present, you risk seeming just like all the other presenters. In which case, people can start to tune out – fast! That is, unless you start strong.
What’s the best way to start strong? Involve people emotionally! To do that, mention their hopes or fears surrounding your topic – while still being professional of course. That engages your audience because they’re drawn in at a gut level. And, it’s so different from the norm!
“We need audiences to feel first, and then to think.”
Helio Fred Garcia in Fast Company
Mention their hopes or fears…
I recommend 3 neat ways you can start strong when you present. Choose any 1 of them to open your talk:
You’ve likely heard it said that opening your talk with a startling statistic helps you grab people’s attention. But what exactly does that technique look and sound like?
In this post, you’ll see 3 clear examples on video, and I’ll discuss key takeaways from each. So you’ll come away with solid tips you can use in your own talks.
Ultimately, I hope these examples inspire you to use some startling statistics yourself.
Here’s what you’ll find in this post – you can click any of these links to skip ahead:
If you’re like me, you won’t believe that anyone can be a better public speaker instantly. It takes repeated practice – often for years!
At least, I used to think that. But then I read a short post by Jon Acuff, and I saw that it is possible – in one sense – to be instantly better at speaking.
The instant that Jon’s talking about is the moment when you say your opening line. As he notes in this pithy quote:
“The beginning seals the deal
or ruins everything”
If you’ve read my recent post called
Do you make this #1 mistake when you present online?, you’ll know it asserts that the top mistake of online presenters (such as in webinars) is time-wasting, and it names 3 of the biggest symptoms:
- Spending too long on introductions
- Staying on the same slide too long
- Fixating on interaction instead of value
In that earlier post, you’ll find those 3 problems laid out, but you won’t find any solutions. So that’s where this post comes in.
Below, you’ll find ways to solve each of those 3 problems: Continue reading
For neat ideas for your next talk’s opening line, here’s a great free resource. It’s a 2-page PDF packed with almost 30 opening lines by Patricia Fripp, CSP – former president of the National Speakers’ Association in the US.
For lots more ideas, also see 20+ more opening lines from Patricia Fripp in a PDF
By giving you 5 specific examples of great opening lines, this post helps you cure three of your biggest presentation headaches. Namely, how to:
- Rivet people’s attention as soon as you speak.
- Make your message memorable, so it forms a lasting impression.
- And most of all, actually motivate people,
so your talk makes a difference!