How To Open A Speech #51: The Incorrect Quote Open

This is an excerpt from my new book, 101 Ways to Open a Speech, now available at Amazon.

Writing in Presentations That Persuade and Motivate, Beverly Ballaro recommends using quotes “if they manage to invoke irony or humor,” and offers a wonderful example from an 1876 Western Union internal memo:

“This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communications. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

Leading a presentation by quoting someone who was wrong can help you transition to many powerful points, including the risks of false assumptions, the dangers of being slow to change, and the speed of evolution.

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This, from a 1995 Newsweek article titled “The Internet? Bah!” could be used as a perfect example to make any of those points:

“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. Baloney.”

Writer Andrew Solomon used this device to rather stunning effect at the beginning of his TED Talk, “Love, No Matter What.”

“’Even in purely nonreligious terms, homosexuality represents a misuse of the sexual faculty. It is a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality, a pitiable flight from life. As such, it deserves no compassion, it deserves no treatment as minority martyrdom, and it deserves not to be deemed anything but a pernicious sickness.’ That’s from Time magazine in 1966, when I was 3 years old.”

This is an excerpt from my new book, 101 Ways to Open a Speech, now available at Amazon. You can read more about the book here