The best Opening Line ever?

20th June 2017

None of you will be able to wipe the smile off my face tonight. I’ve just heard my wife and I are expecting our first child …

This was a comedian’s Opening Line at a recent show.

He looked delighted. Could hardly speak for smiling. And the minute he said “first child”, everyone started clapping.

Until he interrupted us, saying “Let me finish… I’m smiling because I’ve heard my wife and I are expecting our first child to leave home. She’s only nine. I hope she takes her two brothers with her.”

A great start. In fifteen seconds, he had his audience in the palm of his hand. He’d given them a reason to cheer, applaud, be involved, be surprised, laugh…

And it worked because he split his opening into two. The first half set it up; the second finished it.

And, to get people listening to us, we can do the same.

For example, my favourite email title is the half-sentence “Jane, a quick question to ask…”

Jane will open this straight away. Three reasons:

  1. Her name grabs her attention
  2. The word “quick” means it won’t take her long
  3. It’s intriguing – she wants to know what the question is (the second half of the sentence)

Another example: when I’m making a presentation, my first sentence might be “I have a question for you…”

Everyone looks at me. They want to know what it is. And I’ve already ‘got’ my audience without doing anything (the question I then ask needs to be a good one!)

Other good opening half-sentences:

  • At the start of regular weekly meetings – "I thought we could try something different this week…" They want to know what it is
  • And five minutes before the end of your meeting – "I’m conscious of time. One quick question…" That stops them speaking. You can now close it down
  • When you want to find the best way to do something, ask "Can I ask your advice about something…?" They’ll say ‘yes’ (who wouldn’t?!) You then ask them
  • When you want someone to do something for you, "Can I ask a favour…?" They’ll say ‘yes’ (again, who wouldn’t?) You then ask them to help you
  • When you want someone to instantly listen – "Do you know the three biggest reasons why customers don’t buy from us…?"
  • When you want to stop people being grumpy “Do you know the one thing we haven’t thought of yet…?” They’ll ask what it is. You then say something positive about the situation. Or ask what a good solution might be. Anything to change their focus
  • When somebody asks you to write a communication for them – “Yes, of course. But can I quickly ask you something…?” They’ll want to know what it is. You then ask them what headings they want in it. Know these, and you’re much more likely to write what they want first time

And so on.

I call this technique ‘serve and volley’. The serve sentence sets up the point; the volley finishes it off. Much easier to do than serve an outright ace in one sentence.

And (serve) so I have a surprising question for you…

Action point

… (volley) who can you ‘Serve and volley’ this morning? Prep both your shots/sentences before you play/speak with them.

And to watch my FREE video, containing lots more simple, effective techniques like this, click here.

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