When you start a speech or story, how do you capture your listener’s attention immediately? One method is what I call “the surprise.” This is a take-off on the surprise ending — it is the surprise beginning — and it is very effective to get your listener’s attention. As the listener, you’ve now taken me somewhere I didn’t expect so I’m going to pay attention. The key to this technique is to highlight the surprise through the crafting of the copy, and the delivery. If you bury the surprise, or don’t give it its due, it won’t have the same impact, and you’ll lose your listener or your audience.

In this video, you’ll hear two takes on the first paragraph of a story developed by Jeri Kendle, president of Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center in Phoenix, AZ. I’ve been working with Jeri on her story over the past couple of months as she participates in Social Venture Partners FAST PITCH program. I am one of her mentors.