We recently watched 9 TED Talks to answer the question, how are current presenters hooking the audience from the first line? Not a single one of them started their presentations with “hello, my name is…”. So what opening lines are popular speakers using in April 2023?
The 9 TED talks we studied were all posted in April 2023 and all have the kind of popularity that makes them eligible for promotion on the TED site. (You know, like hundreds of thousands of views). The current trends for opening lines fall into three categories: connecting with or addressing the audience, setting up a story, or sharing contextual details.
Let’s look at each of these types of openers and the examples of how these TED speakers used them.
Connect With/Address the Audience
What to do when there’s a polar bear in your backyard, Alysa McCall
“When you think of a polar bear, you might think white, cold, cute, fuzzy, huggable.”
5 steps to building a personal brand you feel good about, Marcos Salazar
“Whether you realize it or not, you have a personal brand.”
The most important century in human history, The TED-Ed Team
“What’s the most important century in human history?”
A faster way to get to a clean energy future, Ramez Naam
“It’s an honor to be with you here today.”
Four of the nine speakers used their opening sentence to directly refer to the audience, which is a really smart move. Alysa McCall and Marcos Salazar both made statements directly to their listeners. The TED-Ed team asked a question. And Ramez Naam expressed gratitude. All of these are great options for opening your presentation. It lets your audience know right from the start that you see them, respect them, and have prepared your content specifically for them, which is always a solid strategy.
Set Up a Story
The Hawaiian Story of the King’s Betrayal, Sydney Iaukea
“Long ago, the Hawaiian wind goddess wielded a gourd that housed the winds of the Islands.”
The rise of the “trauma essay” in college applications, Tina Yong
“There’s a story of mine that I’ve told about a million different times, and it goes a little something like this.”
Humans love stories. So it makes sense that two of the nine speakers featured on TED this month started with a narrative. Sydney Iaukea uses the familiar words “long ago” so that the audience is swept up in an unmistakable story structure right away. She has us hooked from the first two words. Tina Yong, on the other hand, chooses to more formally announce her story by telling us that she’s about to tell one. Be careful with this strategy though as it can turn into metadiscourse which can water down your message.
Share Contextual Details (Date, Setting, Purpose, Etc.)
Are you an ethical true crime fan? 4 questions to ask, Lindsey A. Sherrill
“In 2015, the podcast entitled “Serial” [and] docuseries like “Making a Murderer” and “The Staircase” were the hottest topics in pop culture.”
How does this all-female species reproduce?, Susan Freitas and Darren Parker
“In 2021, workers at a Sardinian aquarium were stunned by the birth of a smoothhound shark, who they called Ispera.”
What will the dream car of the future be like?, Alex Koster
“So I’d love to talk a little bit about cars today.”
Another popular opener many accomplished presenters use is sharing contextual details. These types of hooks prevent confusion by giving the audience the details they need to understand what is coming in the rest of the presentation. It might be a short history lesson, which begins with a date., as is the case with both Lindsey A. Sherrill and Susan Freitas and Darren Parker’s talks. Or it could be something as straightforward as Alex Koster’s, “So I’d love to talk a little bit about cars today.” This no-frills, straightforward opening line is simple and efficient. And it serves to put the audience at ease while also piquing their interest.
These Opening Lines Aren’t Really Trends
Here’s the thing about the three strategies these nine speakers used: They aren’t really trends. These are time-tested ways to open a presentation. And they aren’t going out of style anytime soon. Why? Because they work. Whether you are connecting with the audience, setting up a story, or sharing contextual details, keep your opening line clear and simple. And try imitating the examples above when you are writing your next presentation. What fits your style? Which matches your content matter best? Trust us, it won’t be “hello, my name is…”
For more ways to level up your presentation content or slide deck design, get in touch with a member of our award-winning team now.