YOU CANʼT LOSE WHAT YOU DONʼT HAVE. When you present, your audience’s attention must be earned. And that starts with the very first words out of your mouth.

How you open is a critical component of any speaking engagement.

Forbes says that you make a first impression in just seven seconds. By the time you finish your first paragraph, they’ve already formed an opinion of you. If you’re, well … typical, then the opinion isn’t likely to be extraordinary.

The goal is to make a positive splash and have them ready to listen and excited to hear what you have to say.

If we only have seven seconds, then the pleasantries and throw-away phrases have got to go. No “I’m happy to be here today.” Drop the parade of “Thank you so much for . . . ” Quit telling them what you’re going to talk about. They either already know… or they don’t care. And for Pete’s sake (and everyone else not named Pete), don’t open with a joke you copied from the Internet. Just get to it.

But what is “it”? What is the opening that works for the presenter and audience alike?

You need a device that connects. That ability to connect is what makes an audience want to listen. Nothing does that better than a story. Stories transcend age, culture, and demographic to connect better than any other technique.

The opening of your story is critical. Think about your favorite book or movie. They NEVER open with “This is a story about . . . ” or “Let me tell you a story.” They introduce the setting and get to the conflict before the first chapter is over or the opening credits roll. “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . . ” (Star Wars) “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . ” (A Tale of Two Cities) From the visual of the ball chasing Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or the simple uttering of “Rosebud” in “Citizen Kane,” the audience’s interest is piqued. You have far too much at stake to ramble on. Get to it! Quickly! 

Don’t finish a presentation and think, “Geez, I lost their attention somewhere during my presentation.” Win that attention from the start with a compelling story. Because… you can’t lose what you never had.

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Stan Phelps

Stan Phelps walks the walk. He stands out in the sea of sameness by modeling his own Differentiated Experience (DX) message: Differentiation isn’t just about what you say, it’s about what you do and, more importantly, how and why you do it. Stan leverages his unique collection of 5,000+ case studies on customer, employee, and brand experience to engage audiences with informative learning-based experiences. He believes purposeful DX wins the hearts of employees and customers, and differentiation ultimately boosts loyalty, retention, referrals, and results.

Find Stan’s in-person and virtual keynotes, workshops, and Goldfish tank programs at