Do you have a presentation coming up and are unsure if you’ll capture the audience’s attention? I’m sharing the first part of the structure we use at Astrolab to achieve just that.
You’ve probably heard that within just a few seconds, your audience forms an impression of you and decides whether to keep listening or not.
Authors talk about a range of 7 to 30 seconds to hook your audience—time depends on the platform you’re using, whether it’s digital or in-person, among other factors. Ultimately, the first part of your speech is crucial to gain the attention you need for your idea to take off.
If you’re about to introduce a change within your organization, showcase how a new product works, or aim to drive the adoption of new technology, this article is for you.
How to structure your ideas to hook your audience from the start?
If you’re in any of these situations, PERA is the tool we teach in our INSPIRA Persuasion Program: Storytelling.
PERA stands for Point, Example, Reason, Learning, or Action. It helps you better organize the information you want to communicate. It’s used to present ONE idea briefly and concisely, with the goal of capturing and maintaining your audience’s attention.
In this article, I’ll focus on the P, which stands for Point, the first component of PERA. To understand how the complete structure is used, I also recommend checking out this post on our blog.
What is a Point and how does it work?
The Point is the sentence with which you’ll begin your presentation. It’s a statement designed to immediately capture your audience’s attention and summarize in an impactful sentence the idea you’ll be conveying.
A good Point is short, catchy, and very specific. Think of the Point as if it were a 140-character tweet.
For instance, “Do you have to turn a part of yourself off to go to work?” or “In this beautiful neighborhood, we found a hell.” These are the beginnings of chapters in the books “Alive at Work” by Daniel M. Cable and “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins.
In contrast, a bad Point is lengthy, convoluted, and too abstract. An example could be, “In the world, there are people who don’t enjoy their jobs, or aren’t committed, or aren’t giving their best.” In this case, it addresses more than one abstract idea simultaneously, which can confuse your audience.
5 types of Points you can use
Make a compelling value judgment
To create a compelling Point, condense your message into a concise statement.
For example, Pamela Meyer begins her TED talk, “How to spot a liar,” with this value judgment, “I don’t want to alarm anyone in the room, but I’ve just noticed that the person to your right is a liar.”
Create a Contrast
Contrast is a formula used by thousands of professionals to generate suspense around an idea. It involves juxtaposing two contrasting ideas, for example, “what is” versus “what could be,” or the present and then the future.
For instance, in Julian Treasure’s TED talk, ‘How to speak so that people want to listen,’ he starts with this contrast, “The human voice: it’s the most powerful sound in the world. (…) And yet many people have the experience that when they speak, people don’t listen.”
Pose a Rhetorical Question
Rhetorical questions engage the audience’s minds and promote reflection.
A great example of this tactic is Simon Sinek’s TED presentation on ‘How great leaders inspire action.’
Sinek begins with this rhetorical question: “How do you explain when things don’t go as we assume? Or better, how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions? For example, why is Apple so innovative?”
Present a Hard Fact
Hard facts can be impactful and attention-grabbing for starting a talk.
In Myriam Sidibe’s TED talk, ‘The simple power of hand-washing,’ she begins with the following hard fact: “Imagine that 60 airplanes filled with children under 5 years old crash every day. That’s how many children never reach their fifth birthday. 6.6 million children don’t make it to their fifth birthday.”
Unveil an Intriguing Element
Intriguing elements serve to capture attention and generate interest in the audience.
Jill Bolte Taylor in her talk ‘My Stroke of Insight’ starts with this revelation: “I grew up to study the brain because I have a brother who has been diagnosed with a brain disorder: schizophrenia.”
The Point of PERA will allow you to hook your audience and then persuade them of the change you wish to introduce.
You can use the Point to start your meetings, presentations, discussions, or any situation where you want to capture attention. The challenge lies in finding and using the right information for each of the following categories (Example, Reason, Learning / Action).
PERA works particularly well for verbal messages (in-person, calls, voice messages), but it can also be used in emails or documents.