Own The Stage: Writing A Killer Introduction By Answering A Question In Your Audience's Mind

The trick is to answer a question that already exists in the mind of your audience.

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Barbara Minto, author and consultant, argues that the key to a good presentation is a killer introduction– and offers a step-by-step guide for crafting one.


The trick, she says, is to answer a question that already exists in the mind of your audience– either a burning question they’re aware of, or something nagging just below the surface that they can’t quite put their finger on. It’s our job as speakers to put our finger on it. Minto offers a classic storytelling pattern to help us do just that. Minto created a four-step process called Situation, Complication, Question, and Answer. It’s best explained with an example, so here’s one about how a consultant could use S-C-Q-A to prepare a presentation for the owners of a struggling restaurant.

Situation Begin by stating the status quo: a non-controversial view of the world that your audience can relate to. (Pepper Pot restaurant has won multiple awards and for years has been the busiest, most profitable gourmet restaurant in town.)

Complication Something happens to upset the status quo. (Several Michelin-starred chefs have opened restaurants nearby in the past year, leading to a 30% drop in revenue for Pepper Pot.)

Question State the burning question this complication poses. (What steps must Pepper Pot take to win back that business?)

Answer The answer must offer something bold and concrete in one sentence. (Pepper Pot must stick with its brilliant menu that customers love– but needs a complete overhaul of its dated interior design.) Once we’ve nailed the “answer,” we have our introduction. The next step is to build your entire presentation around it.

This is an edited excerpt from Richard Dean’s book, Crowdpleaser: The 100 Greatest Public Speaking Tips of All Time, from Socrates to Steve Jobs. Published by Emerging Markets Leadership Press, Crowdpleaser brings together, for the first time, 100 classic tips, tricks and hacks on the art and science of public speaking. Spread across 362 beautifully designed pages, packed full of illustrations, infographics, and templates, Crowdpleaser is available in paperback at bookstores and online priced at AED110 (around $30), and as an illustrated e-book.

Related: Own The Stage: Here's Why Your Presentation Needs A Twitter-Friendly Headline

Richard Dean

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Richard Dean is a journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker. Based in Dubai, he’s best known as host of The Business Breakfast radio show on Dubai Eye 103.8FM.

Previously, he worked for The Economist, Reuters, Financial Times, and Bloomberg. He’s known by colleagues as “The Three Degrees” for his BA in History; Graduate Diploma in Economics; and MA in Mass Communication. For two years, he taught journalism at Middlesex University Dubai.

Richard’s first book, Sink or Swim, analyzed the real estate crash that hit Dubai in the late 2000s. Crowdpleaser is his second.

Richard talks at around 50 events a year as professional public speaker, with credits including tech giants IBM and Facebook, banks HSBC and Emirates NBD, as well as his 2016 TEDx Talk.

A design junkie, Richard is co-founder (with his architect wife Pallavi) of award-winning interior design firm Roar. They live in Dubai with their two sons and two pugs.