15 seconds. That is how much time you have to grab the attention of your audience. 15 seconds to prove what you are about to say is important to them! Use this time efficiently and they are yours. Waste it and you can watch your audience fidget, turn away, and mentally leave the room. In one-on-one conversations, you will be able to watch their eyes dart about before they divert the conversation to a new topic.
We know the value of being clear on what we are trying to say. Now we shift the focus from us and look at why it is important to them, our audience.
Start your talk with a provocative statement that will capture your audience right off the bat. Think of a rhetorical question, a joke, a story, a statistic or a dramatic statement that will peak interest and make them want to hear the rest of what you have to say. Find something that demonstrates why what you want to say is of value to them.
Think about this: when you buy a book – is it wrapped in a jacket (or cover) that is designed to intrigue you or is it in plain brown wrapping? The purpose of the cover is to make you want to pick the book up and look deeper. Think of your opening statement as the cover of the book – what are you going to put there to make others want to know what is inside?
An all-too-common mistake is to starting the talk with the verbal equivalent of brown paper wrapping – uninteresting background, the usual thank yous, or other irrelevant information. The audience is lost before you have begun.
When you stand up to speak (or walk into someone’s office) – be ready with a good opening line that is to-the-point and captivating. It should be clearly thought out, well rehearsed and directly tied to your main message, even if you are speaking one-on-one.
Try this experiment – watch other people speak. Do they start with something of interest to you or do they begin by telling you things you don’t really care about? How do you react to this situation and what is it that makes you stay tuned?
The first 15 seconds of your talk are critical to your success. Take time to plan it well so that you grab their attention and make your audience want to listen.
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