Dale Carnegie knew that the most effective way to open a presentation or public speech is to go straight to the personal interests of the audience. It is the most assured way to get attention, as we are mightily interested in the things that touch us significantly.
In his book, “How to Develop Self Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking,” Carnegie tells the story of a student who gave a talk on the prime urgency of conserving our forests. The student began, “We, as Americans, ought to be proud of our national resources…” From that sentence, he went on to show that we were wasting our timber at a shameless and indefensible pace.
Unfortunately, the student lost his audience right from the start. The opening was bad, too general, and too vague. He failed to make his subject matter vital to those in attendance. For example, there was a printer in that audience. The destruction of our forests would mean something very real to his business. There was also a banker, who would be affected due to the affect on his customers’ general prosperity.
Carnegie suggests that the student should have begun by saying, “The subject I am going to speak about affects your business, Mr. Appleby; and yours, Mr. Saul. In fact, it will, in some measure, affect the price of the food we eat and the rent that we pay. It touches the welfare and prosperity of us all.”
Is that exaggerating the importance of conserving our forests? No…it is only obeying a quote from Elbert Hubbard that Dale Carnegie liked to relate, which was: “Paint the picture large and put the matter in a way that compels attention.”
Keep this in mind the next time you find yourself presenting to others and you’ll find your audience to be riveted to every word you say.
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