Your first sentence is my biggest fetish in public speaking. As a public speaker and trainer I’m fanatical about your first sentence. To capture 100% of the audience attention in the first couple of seconds – that is true art.
One of the five patterns for the first sentence I teach and use the most, I call it thought provocation.
Thought provoking first sentences are phrases like
- I’m sorry. [pause]
- My worst enemy is [pause] superficiality.
- My life is chaos. [pause]
- In my life I turn frontiers [pause] into borders.
- I will never make it. [pause]
The indicated pauses are crucial for increasing the impact of the respective phrase. Give your audience a moment of reflection. A thinking audience is a good audience – unless you’re a politician.
The most memorable first sentence I’ve heard in all those thousands of speeches took the grabbing of audience attention to a whole new level.
A professional, proficient and respectable English lady in her 40s started her speech with the phrase, Have you ever been on morphine?
While everyone else in the room let their pencils drop, I thought, Brilliant!!!
Not only did she use polemic for provoking our thoughts, but she combined it with one of the other patterns for the first sentence – the closed question. And she did even better. She used the question as a hook. She didn’t offer a resolution. Until…
After two-thirds of the speech, she finds herself somewhere in the north of India. An isolated rural area. Mountains. A trip. An accident! Flesh wound! Emergency operation!
And what was the only pain reliever they had? Morphine.
Your first sentence can be so powerful. Don’t waste this holy rhetorical moment. Be creative. Come up with something deep, unexpected, thought provoking.
Whether you’ve been on morphine or not – you would’ve never forgotten that one speech.