We all have heard it before, but it needs to be said again. It requires repeating. It must be reiterated.
In the words of Rachel Blom,”Make your point and get out.” It’s just about that simple. Get your audience’s attention and keep hold of it like a precious jewel.
Whether you preach or present, you want to grab your audience’s attention from the beginning. No matter who you are speaking before, you need to speak with such a command and confidence that you win the audience over with your opening. You will need more than the bells and whistles of PowerPoint slides and audio-visual gadgets to get their attention. They need to hear from you in order to listen to what you have to say to them.
Look at Classic Literature. Opening lines stick to our memories like glue. I love Charles Dickens’ poetic phrasings that begin his classic story A Tale of Two Cities, stating: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Or, perhaps, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was more to your liking with what Wikipedia calls “one of the most recognizable opening lines in Western literature”: “Call me Ismael.”
Think Comedy. Some of the greatest stand-up comics can take the stage and win the crowd over with a whirlwind of comedic routines from impersonations to improvisation. They do so by reading the crowd. I used to watch “A Night at the Improv” back in the early ’90s. The best comedians got a feel for the crowd and worked the crowd with a constant barrage of comedic flair.
Make a Connection. Know who you are standing before as a speaker or presenter. Make a connection with them. I recall a television evangelist speaking of a blunder he made when speaking to a group of prison inmates by stating that he wanted to start by thanking them for being there. Make a connection by having some idea of who is in audience and why they might be there.
Use a Conceptual Approach. Incorporate concepts like engineering or gardening. These convey mental images that can help the audience wrap their brains around the conceptual theme of your sermon or presentation. Use a conceptual approach and work in imagery through clip art and photographs that can reinforce the theme of your speech.
Offer a Challenge. Challenge your audience to pay attention to what you have to say. Offer a challenge for the audience to open their minds to new concepts and ideas. Allow the audience to rethink the status quo and challenge its validity. That will start them to thinking and keep them thinking throughout the time that you speak and present.
Use these to grab your audience’s attention and win them over throughout your speaking. They may also be incorporated in teaching and training. Take them on one by one. Try them out and make them work for you.
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