What draws you in to pay attention to a speaker or keep reading a blog post?
Effective openings arouse your attention by appealing to your senses – visual and auditory stimulation – and your curiosity – you are going to learn something of value.
A key point in the upcoming Academy Nutrition Communication book's chapter on effective openings and closings states: “… a strong opening captures the audience’s attention and sets the stage for what follows.” When I think of effective openings, a good example that comes to mind happened when I taught Nutrition Communication at Purdue. It illustrates opening a presentations using a novel, unexpected, and humorous approach. Allow me to describe it with help from one student partner.
Barb Mayfield: “The date is Thursday, March 6, 2014. It is “Food Demo Day” in NUTR424, our nutrition communications class at Purdue. Students have been arriving early to begin prepping in the foods lab down the hall from where they would perform during two intense 3-hour labs. I was preparing to watch 21 demonstrations over the course of 6 hours. That’s a big day of watching, grading, and tasting. How many smoothies would I taste? Would students remember to wash their hands and demonstrate food safety? Would we be entertained and educated as well as fed? Yes, we were in for a treat.
Nicole Bianco and Yi Qian Oo, demo partners in the morning lab, served us an unforgettable demo. Their theme was how to creatively use vegetables and they had selected to demonstrate making cauliflower crust pizza. The partners dressed up to portray Italian chef's Tony and Joe - wearing large white "chef's hats" (which they made), coordinated their outfits to match, and even taped giant black mustaches to their faces. Rather than open their demo with the typical, uninspiring, “Good morning, we are Nicole and Yi, today we will be fixing…” – their opening grabbed our attention, made us laugh, motivated us to keep watching, and set themselves up for an A grade.” My thanks to Nicole Bianco, RDN, CD, now a sports dietitian at the University of Illinois, for sharing her memories. In Nicole’s own words…
Nicole Bianco: “We began the presentation by startling the audience with a warm, welcoming "Buongiorno, Mi Amici!" which means "Hello, my friends!" in Italian. Grammar was probably off...but we explained (with Italian accents) what it means in English. Throughout the entire demonstration we added humor and spoke with boisterous Italian accents. We established a team-like dynamic between Tony and Joe by shouting out reminders at each other in a humorous manner to get certain points across (such as, "Hey Ton', don't forget we need to wash our hands before we get started!"), and coordinating actions to make the audience think, “These ‘guys’ know each other well, and they're going to do something really cool!” Having been raised in a large Italian family, I personally am familiar with the supportive dynamic and in-your-face honesty that goes along with being Italian. We wanted to embody an expert-chef type of feel – chefs who gained their status by many years of practice and passion for their work, hard workers, down-to-earth, approachable, and willing to share their craft. We finished by showing off what we prepared with flair and saying our main point in unison with an Italian accent.”
What memorable openings or closings have you experienced? Share in the comments.
“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”