Wondering how to create a powerful presentation structure? Let’s look to one of the experts in the field: TED.

Since 1984, the TED organization has been a champion for using presentations to spread ideas. They are a giant and influential organization in the world of public speaking. Most everyone these days has watched at least part of a TED talk.

Their webpage tells us that they are “a global community. . . [who] believe passionately in the power of ideas . . . [and whose] agenda is to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation.” And they do that primarily through the power of presentations.

In their speaker’s guide, they offer a 4-part presentation structure that seems to work particularly well for speakers. Granted, there are many right ways to format a presentation. But here’s the structure TED offers: “1. Start by making your audience care, using a relatable example or an intriguing idea. 2. Explain your idea clearly and with conviction. 3. Describe your evidence and how and why your idea could be implemented. 4. End by addressing how your idea could affect your audience if they were to accept it.”

We are going to break this structure down over our next 4 blog posts. For today, let’s look at the first step of the structure given by TED.

“Start by making your audience care, using a relatable example or an intriguing idea.”

Opening with impact is so important. The first movements you make and the first words you say will set the tone for your presentation. In those crucial first moments, you have to appeal to your audience. Sometimes the first sentence of a speech or presentation is called a “hook.” This fishing metaphor means you work to get the audience on the line, to catch and hold their attention.

Part 1 in Action

Take a look at three examples of opening lines below. Each of these was taken from one of the presentations on TED’s list of the 25 most popular talks.

“So I want to start by offering you a free no-tech life hack, and all it requires of you is this: that you change your posture for two minutes.” Amy Cuddy

“How do you explain when things don’t go as we assume? Or better, how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions?” Simon Sinek

“When I was nine years old, I went off to summer camp for the first time.” Susan Cain

In these three examples, we see three very different ways of “hooking” the audience. Amy Cuddy offers something of value to the audience. Simon Sinek asks questions that gets the audience thinking. And Susan Cain sets up a classic narrative structure to capture attention.

Each of these strategies inspires audience attention and engagement. They show that the speaker is thinking about the audience and how to engage them. These three examples aren’t the only ways to hook your audience, but they do show us how to accomplish the first part of TED’s 4-part structure.

If you need more ideas for how to open in a way that makes your audience care, check out more opening lines of your favorite speeches online. Or, get in touch with our experts at Ethos3. We’re here to help you master the art of presenting.



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