How To Open A Speech #78: The Commitment Open

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

Let’s say you’re a legislator aiming to increase support for foreign aid. Your research shows that the public vastly overestimates the percentage of the budget that is spent on such purposes, and their incorrect perception fuels their opposition.

You could begin by rattling off statistics, citing data that show the difference between the actual percentage of the budget spent on aid versus what people think that percentage is.

You could also put up a slide with the following question and ask people to guess for themselves what the answer is:

What percentage of the United States budget is spent each year on foreign aid?*
a. 1 percent
b. 15 percent
c. 28 percent
d. 36 percent

101 Ways to Open a Speech Promo One
But there’s a more persuasive way to get the audience to change their minds: get them to own their answers.

You can do that by asking audience members to raise their hands (“How many of you think the answer is (a)? How about (b)?”). That public commitment forces people to make their answers known to their seatmates — so when their answers are revealed to be incorrect, they can’t pretend to have known the correct answer all along.

The commitment open is a wonderful technique for pointing out and correcting misconceptions. Just make sure you’re likely to get the incorrect response you anticipate; if most of your audience guesses correctly, your open will lose its power.

*Answer: (a). In 2013, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll showed that the public guessed 28 percent; the actual number was 1 percent.

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