Open with the Fire

image: Brad Gillette

How many presentations have you heard starting with “hello my name is X, I work with company Y. Company Y is was established in xxxx and prides itself on good quality products and service. We are the market leader in blah blah blah and today we would like to tell you about Product Z.” ?

It’s a bit dull isn’t it?

In order to make people sit up and listen to your message you need to get them to sit up and pay attention. The British advertising executive David Oglivy was well aware of this when he said:

You have only 30 seconds in a TV commercial. If you grab attention in the first frame with a visual surprise, you stand a better chance of holding the viewer. People screen out a lot of commercials because they open with something dull. When you advertise fire-extinguishers, open with the fire.

This works because you start with the problem, a problem that everyone understands, one that they all want to solve. You’ve also made sure that everyone is thinking the same thing – how to solve the problem, this is perfect time to introduce your product, the solution to the problem, they’re more willing to listen.

Think of advertisements for smoke alarms, they don’t start with the smoke alarm, they start with a fire, a burning kitchen or sitting room while upstairs a family sleeps, ignorant of the danger below, they show how the smoke rises through the house suffocating its occupants before they have a chance to wake. It’s only at the end of the advertisement that they show the smoke alarm and simply say that a smoke alarm could have saved the family.

To grab attention and made your message more relevant, open with the Fire.