“I’m a pediatrician and an anesthesiologist, so I put children to sleep for a living. And I’m an academic, so I put audiences to sleep for free.” – Dr. Elliot Krane, TED, March 2011
That’s how Dr. Elliot Krane opened his TED talk earlier this year… and I think it was brilliant! (Watch here.)
Here’s what I liked about it:
1. It was true to him. Could you imagine Zig Ziglar delivering that opener? It wouldn’t fit him. But for Dr. Krane, it works. There’s nothing worse than seeing a speaker trying to be something s/he’s not. You don’t have to be like anyone else. Just be you.
2. The audience was immediately engaged. It was funny — and safe (your opener is no time for risky jokes) — and it played right into what the audience is likely thinking when a physician/academic takes the stage: “Oh, this guy’s gonna be boring.” Never waste an opening moment with a “Hello” or a “Good to be here!” — connect with your audience immediately.
3. The audience knew what was coming. This is more about the statement that followed his opening joke, when he said, “…I want to bring to you the message that…” If you’re familiar with TED, you know you don’t have much time as a speaker — you have to get in and out and deliver “ideas worth sharing” within just a few minutes. That means you can’t give your audience a chance to get lost. They can’t be wondering during half of your talk, “What is the point of this?”
And there you have it. Three tips for a powerful opening.
See, it doesn’t have to be complicated. But it is critically important.
What’s your favorite opening from a speaker? (It could be your own!) Care to share? Leave a comment below!