It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The best books, the best films and the best presentations start with an attention grabber. “Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. A retrospective review of prenatal ultrasound in South East Thames,” is unlikely to do that. If you grab the attention of the audience as soon as you start you will have their attention. Once the opening 30 seconds have passed that task becomes much harder. Start with best opening possible.

attention grabber“Everything you know is wrong” immediately demands a response. “This is the worst news for those of you who think you understand current concepts” requires those who believe they know to respond and those who don’t to pay attention. “Tomorrow will never come if you don’t change your approach,” shows an arrogance that will make sure doubters are ready for your talk. Whether you answer those challenges is actually of lesser importance, the audience are immediately paying attention. This is your goal.


Exactly what is a great opening is a personal decision. It should fit the present audience, stimulate them and engage them. It should not simply be your personal introduction, a repetition of the chairman’s introduction or recitation of the title of the paper. With each word, the attention of the audience will melt away. The same format as every other speaker similarly will present a challenge for the already bored. Why, should anyone listen? That is your challenge. Meet it.


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