4 Keys to an Unforgettable Opening

Speaking in Lafayette, Louisiana

Speaking in Lafayette, Louisiana

Did you know that, within the first 30 seconds of your speech, your audience members will have decided whether or not they want to hear more? What are you doing with your first 30 seconds?

Most speakers open with Unpleasant pleasantries by stating something like, “Thank you so much for having me here. It’s a real pleasure.” The problem with this kind of opening is three-fold:

1. It’s too normal and expected and therefore does not gain attention.

2. Nobody cares about how great you feel.

3. Audiences remember what they hear first and what they hear last. Do you really want “Thank you so much…” to be what they remember most? You have the perfect opportunity to make something meaningful stick.  


4 Keys to an Unforgettable Opening  


1. Come out with a Bang. The two best ways to open most presentations are the following:

a.            Go right into a story

b.         Ask a powerful question


2. Make a Big Promise. Sell your audience on what they will be able to do or understand by the time they walk out of those doors


3. Provide a Roadmap. Explain the path they are going to follow for your presentation. For example, in my Change keynote, I say, “This comes to you in the form of the 4 Rs to Remarkable Results.” In that way my audience knows I plan to go from one R to another R and to next R and so on. That makes it easy for them to follow.


4. Get an Agreement Up Front. Get your audience members to nod their heads in agreement with something in your opening. This greases the tracks and makes it easier for your message to come through. Believe it or not, a little agreement (nodding of the head) up front often leads to a larger agreement in the end.


Okay, Let’s Hear An Opening In Action

Listen to the following audio (3 minutes and 7 seconds) of an opening I gave recently. See if you can find the Bang, Big Promise, and Roadmap along with an agreement up front.



Okay, so now that you’ve heard an opening in action, let’s locate the 4 keys.


1. Bang? The story of my daughter’s letter which then went into the story of my son’s equestrian comment.


2. Big Promise? It was done if the form of a question. “How do you get remarkable results in business, leadership, and life?” Of course I also went into a statement about people who do well at one but fail at the other (i.e. good in business but without knowing their own kids). Essentially, what I am saying is “How can you have it all?” That’s definitely a big promise.


3. Roadmap? I said, “There are 3 Rs.” I didn’t tell them what the “Rs” are yet because I wanted them to be curious. Still, they knew we were going from one “R” to the next “R” to the final “R.” That made it very easy for them to follow.


4. Agreement? What agreement did I get early on with my  audience? I said, “Never stop asking questions.” When I said those words, my audience members nodded their heads in agreement. That small level of agreement sets the stage for larger agreements later in the speech.


Your Turn 

I specifically would like to know what agreement you get up front during your opening?



Craig Valentine

Leave a Reply 10 comments