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Shock Opener


Techniques Public speaking > Preparing the Presentation > Shock Opener

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Begin by startling or shocking the audience in some way.

One approach is to provide a shock to the senses with a loud noise, a flash or some other visual or auditory special effect, from loud music to setting off a firework.

Another method is to tell them something shocking. A good way to do this is to use something that will have personal effect on them, possibly immediately.

Customize the type and level of shock to your audience. You probably do not want to terrify a group of elderly people nor set off a damp squib in a sales conference.

You can then pick up immediately on the shock item or let it dangle, saying you will explain it later.


Did you know that within ten years, 80% of the people here will not be able to afford to run a car? Let me start at the beginning and by the time you leave, many of you will see transport in a completely new light.

<BANG> (Appears through cloud of thunderflash smoke). HELLO EVERYONE! Are you awake? Because if you're not then you'll wake up when you hear what I'm going to share with you today.

I'm sorry to have to tell you that your company will not pay for your coming here. Well, maybe they will today but the good times are ending and we are going to have to re-think how we meet and share.


Sometimes people go into a presentation with a 'not listening' hat on. Maybe they are tired. Maybe they have just heard a number of other speakers. Maybe they were told to come and are not really interested. In any case, their attention is not with you from the beginning, so you need to grab them and a shock is one way of doing this.

Once you have attention, then you have an opening into which you can sustain this through the real content of your speech. People will forgive you for an occasional trick, as long as you deliver something of value to them afterwards.

The techniques you use will need to vary depending on the audience. For example you may be able to get away with something more outlandish in a public conference or with people you know than with an evaluative business audience. Even in formal contexts, shock can still be used, although this needs to be more carefully designed and should relate to the topic.

See also

Sensory Opener, Surprise principle


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