How Can You Grab Your Audience? Expert Advice from Hollywood

In the classic movie Gone with The Wind, Vivien Leigh captures the audience from her first moment on screen.

Grab your audience in the first 30 seconds. If you don’t, you will lose them. This is true both in movies and in public speaking.

Good speeches, like good movies, TV shows, and books, open with what screenwriter David Freedman calls the “flavor scene.” An effective flavor scene makes an impact and tantalizes the audience. It creates interest in what will follow.

Take the decades-long favorite Gone with the Wind. Neither the film nor the original book opens with a discussion of the causes of the Civil War. Both begin with a sulking Scarlett O’Hara, upset that impending war might disrupt her social life. Immediately, the frivolous heroine foreshadows that all hell is about to break loose and makes us eager to learn more.

In Freeman’s screenwriting seminar, he describes 16 ways to make the first three pages of a film or TV script “kick ass.” If they don’t, producers don’t read the rest of the script. If they don’t read it, they don’t buy it, and they don’t make the movie. If you lose your audience during the opening of your speech, it will be difficult to get them to buy your ideas and use them.

Vivien Leigh grabs the audience from her first moment onscreen in Gone with The Wind. Wikimedia Commons image.

Vivien Leigh grabs the audience from her first moment on screen in Gone with The Wind.

Your opening is your flavor scene, grabbing attention and positioning your audience for what is to come or surprising the audience with what comes next, really capturing their attention. Imagine a film starting with two lovers strolling by a romantic lake. Suddenly a large man leaps out of the bushes with a huge knife. The audience had thought a romance was in progress, but suddenly they are in the middle of a frightening movie.

When my neighbor Mike Powell was a senior scientist at Genentech, he grabbed the interest of a business audience by beginning, “Being a scientist is like doing a jigsaw puzzle, in a snowstorm, at night, when you don’t have all the pieces or the picture you are trying to create.” Everyone sat up and paid attention, even those who had been prepared to zone out during a technical presentation.

Relate the first 30 seconds of your speech to the first paragraphs of a book or a scene of a movie. Your opening flavor scene doesn’t have to lead where the audience expects it to, but it must make an impact, and it must connect to what follows.

Why not have a conversation with Patricia Fripp to discuss how you can gain a competitive advantage by improving your sales conversations and presentations?Contact Patricia Fripp

“Your presentations on storytelling and superstar sales presentations, and executive speech coaching has had a tremendous impact on our business.”
– Tom Esposito, Director Channel Marketing, Zebra Technologies

Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp works with individuals and companies who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.

 

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