You know that the start of your presentation is critical to grab attention. [You did read Peter Jeff’s recent article with 5 ways to start your speech, right?]
But do you know how to develop a mindset that will enable you to devise effective speech openings?
Carmen Taran’s Better Beginnings: How to capture your audience in 30 seconds is a one-of-a-kind book entirely dedicated to helping you master this critical speaking skill.
This article is the latest of a series of public speaking book reviews here on Six Minutes.
The format of the book is unique relative to other books reviewed on Six Minutes — it’s a coffee table book! On every other page, you will find a full-page photograph to complement the writing and further spark your creativity.
Because of all the images, Better Beginnings is a quick read. Most books that I review take me two weeks to read through. I finished Better Beginnings in just two relaxing evenings before bed.
Visually, this book will stand out from every other one on your bookshelf, your coffee table, or your bedside table.
At the time of writing this review, you can get this hardcover book for $23.95 through amazon.com.
Given that the book is filled with full-color photographs, that price seems low to me, simply from a cost-of-printing perspective.
Most readers seem to like the value.
Most speech opening advice begins by telling you the types of openings you can try. For example, you might open with a personal story, a startling statistic, or a quotation. However, none of these types of openings are inherently focused on your audience. (A story or statistic can be focused on the audience, but it might not be.)
I really like the approach taken in Better Beginnings because it is organized not around types of openings, but according to the emotional or cognitive response you would like to trigger in your audience. Audience-focused!
Better Beginnings guides you to spark the desired response in your audience, with the following chapters:
- Ease of Comprehension
Each chapter includes numerous examples to illustrate how you can generate the desired response in your audience. This includes not only what to say, but how to say it and stage it. Consider these examples:
Incongruity (conflict between what your audience expects and what is actually said)
Like many of the great blues and jazz artists of our time, I found myself onstage at Carnegie Hall high on drugs.”
Novelty (new ideas competing with existing norms)
Our customers have been used to square tea bags. What if we made them round?
Simply, I’d like a bit more depth. Though I love the fact that this has a coffee table book format and was a quick read, I would like to see more depth offered. A more diverse set of speech examples would make it easier for readers to apply the lessons to their own speeches.
Also, how about a companion book like Better Endings? Speech openings and conclusions are intimately tied, and I would love to see similar treatment for speech endings.
Carmen Taran has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Design, a Master’s degree in Multimedia Design, and a Doctorate in Instructional Technology. She is a co-founder of Rexi Media, a presentation skills consulting firm.
In the brief video below, she pitches the key strengths of Better Beginnings.
I think every speaker will benefit from reading Better Beginnings, whether you speak with visuals or off the cuff, to investors or children.
It is the most thorough treatment I’ve ever seen for starting your speech.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review.
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