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5 Ways to Connect With Your Listeners

Posted Mar 19 2009 3:17pm

You've been asked to speak to those folks in Finance. Maybe you've received a request to lead a meeting about that new killer project.

Just imagine how disappointed you’d be if the chosen expert/speaker/meeting leader had an alluring topic but the opening  failed to create interest and momentum. A big build-up followed by a weak opening is like inviting people to your home for a cozy dinner and then, while they watch, rummaging through the refrigerator for leftovers.

No need to agonize any longer for a special "how-to" that will keep you out of The Great Refrigerator of Life.

Here are 5 ways to open your talk or meeting that will capture the imagination and draw people deeper into your topic.

Get_connected1. Ask a Question

Opening with a question creates curiosity and jump-starts the thought process. Thinking causes  engagement with your topic--exactly what you and the audience are hoping for.

2. Relate a Quote or Anecdote

A meaningful quote from a recognized authority can work magic to capture attention in those critical opening seconds. Anecdotes are brief stories that can give people a laugh or quickly establish the main point of your talk.

3. Open Up The Mind's Eye

Producing a mental image in participants' minds powerfully engages the imagination . You can activate the mind’s eye of your listeners by using words such as “do you remember when,” “imagine,” “picture this,” etc.

4. Refer To a Shocking Statistic

Spend a little prep time researching an interesting fact. People enjoy hearing interesting data, but only if it is startling, unique, and even shocking. (The statistic should be directly related to point you are making-- and accurate).

5. Use an Analogy, Metaphor or Simile

Analogies, metaphors and similes are some of the most powerful devices available when it comes to telling a story in a few sentences. This is a great way to capture attention and also provokes the kind of  mental imagery that allows readers to tell a story to themselves. Here is an example of an effective analogy:

"Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and then seal them up, but to help them open and reveal the riches within. There are pearls in each of us, if only we knew how to cultivate them with ardor and persistence."
(Sydney J. Harris, "What True Education Should Do," 1964)

  You know which of the techniques above are most comfortable and reflect your personality. Use the ones that are "you". As time goes on and you become more confident, add some of the others to your repertoire.

What other approaches can you share that have worked well for you?


What if you only had 60 seconds to pitch your value for a job interview? Garr Reynolds shares a unique process along with video examples that reflect how much you can do in a minute--and with some powerful results.

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