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Start with what could happen to the dog.

On a run the other day, I passed a sign in the open space near my house that was designed to encourage people to leash their dogs.

The sign enumerated four reasons for leashing, in this order:

  • Not everyone who uses the parks, trails and open space is a dog person.

  • You may believe your dog is well trained, but you don’t know how it will respond when it comes across other pets.

  • Unleashed dogs can disturb or threaten wildlife.

  • Coyotes and other wildlife are often spotted in the area and might see your unleashed dog as prey and attack.

All good reasons (I assume; we don’t have a dog). But I question the ordering.

If I wanted to grab a dog-walker’s attention, I wouldn’t start with how not leashing your dog would bother other people or other animals.

I’d start with: if you don’t leash your dog, it could be attacked by coyotes or other wildlife.


Because we’re all selfish.

We care about what would impact us—and the ones we care about—more than what happens to others. Right?

It doesn’t mean we don’t care about what happens to others, it just means that we care, first and foremost, about what happens to us.

By starting with what matters most to the sign’s audience—protecting your dog from harm—the sign would be more likely to change behavior.

It’s the same with presentation audiences.

As a communicator, if you start your presentation with the one thing that matters to your audience most and how you can help them address that, you’re going to have them in the palm of your hand.

Too many speakers start their presentations with a rambling list of “thank you”s, a discursive unpacking of the topic, or by telling listeners what they need to do without telling them what’s at stake.

I encourage you to start hot. Come out of the gate telling your audiences why you’re worth listening to by describing the primary (selfish) benefit you’re going to offer them.

Let them know you know what matters most to them.

Assure them you’re there to help.

Tell them, as soon as possible, "I'm here to protect your dog."


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