3 minute read


Did that get your attention?

The internet is littered with ‘clickbait’ – headlines designed to entice you further and further down the rabbit hole of information you might find useful but probably won’t. Whether it’s ‘The five things you MUST do to get promoted‘ or, more likely ‘People can’t get enough of these pictures of really hot firefighters ™Buzzfeed, (perhaps that’s just me), the power of a strong headline as an attention grabber can’t be denied – ‘Freddie Starr ate my Hamster anyone?

The headline is designed to give you the gist of the story that follows and is a device that can be used in business to tighten up and improve communication. Whether it’s the opening of a presentation, pitch, speech or the start of a conference call, thinking of (and practicing) your opening headline in advance will serve you well. It forces you to focus on the purpose driving what you want to say and ensures you start strong. So many people say about presentations, ‘I’m OK once I get going’ but, as an audience, do we really want to see and hear someone warming up in front of us? Don’t we prefer someone who starts with impact, and keeps us engaged?

When we coach individuals and teams on improving the impact of their communications, there is one simple technique that people love. It’s the ABCD of opening your presentation:


What can you say that would be a creative way to capture your audience from the outset and make them want to listen to you? It could be a question, priming our curiosity and asking something we can relate to, empathise with or would like to see answered. Or it could be a challenging statement, a surprising fact or statistic. Whatever it is, it should be one crisp sentence before you move on to…..


Audiences are selfish – they want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’ Your job here is to outline what they will gain from listening to you. What will they learn that they didn’t know? What will they do differently as a result of hearing from you?


Who are you and what gives you the right to speak on this subject? You could also include a line about your company here. We call this the ‘floating C’ because in some instances – if you know the audience well for example – you wouldn’t need to include your credentials. And in others, it may be better for you to introduce yourself ahead of your attention grabbing opening remark.


Here’s where you verbally outline the journey you’ll take with your presentation, conference call or workshop. The audience feels reassured that they know where they are going and what you will cover.

The trick with the ABCD device is to keep it tight. It’s not about creating a dense paragraph to cover each section, it’s about one sentence per letter. Less is more. For example:

ATTENTION: According to scientists, smartphone use has left people with such short attention spans, even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

BENEFIT: I’m going to give you a technique that can grab your audience’s attention for longer than the eight seconds of the average human span (Goldfish are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds).

CREDENTIALS: I’ve been helping high performing individuals and teams improve their communication impact for over 20 years, working with some of the world’s most dynamic companies.

DIRECTION: This blog will finish shortly and then you can try it out for yourself.

Easy to remember and straightforward to put into practice, give it a go the next time you’re struggling to think how to start a presentation. And as for making you rich, as the headline to this article promised, one of the dictionary definitions of rich is, ‘having or supplying a large amount of something that is wanted or needed.’ And if you want or need to have more impact when you communicate then…you’re welcome.


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Louisa Clarke

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