If you Want to Sell a Big Idea, Which Matters More, the Opening or the Closing?

I’ve always wondered … which matters more, the opening or the closing?

It’s a tough question, because:

1. if you open slowly, “winging it”, or if you take a while to
“warm-up”, then your audience won’t pay a lot of attention to you.

2. but if you close soft, it begs the question: will they be motivated to buy?

Wait a second Oren. Why not open strong, keep ’em engaged the whole
time, and close it out like Mariano Rivera (who threw a completely
un-hittable fastball to close 632 huge wins, more than anyone in
baseball history.)

Well, you can’t open strong and hold attention and close big because
you aren’t Chris Rock a professional trained entertainer with a
60-minute fully memorized master performance on stage for 10 million
people hosted by HBO.

You’re like me. A busy person with many things to do, only one of
which is going to an important meeting to pitch an idea.

You can’t possibly open with beautiful business concepts, hold the
audience with drama and tension and then close with disneyland
fireworks. It takes months of focused effort to prepare THAT
presentation. Almost no one can spend the time.

Need to focus here.

Let’s look at it through this lens: it’s well known the first
President to grow up in the TV age was Bill Clinton.  But  …
despite the massive reach of TV and Bill’s natural charm, he nearly
failed and was almost a minor footnote in history, here’s what
happened:

in 1988, he gave a long, dry speech for Michael Dukakis from a stack
of prepared notes that put the audience to sleep.

The next day he was on the butt end of every late night joke, and
essentially his career was over. His last chance was an appearance on
The Johnny Carson Show.

On that episode, he did a few things that turned it all around:

1. made fun of himself
2. although under stress, talked like a real person, not a stiff,
cardboard version of himself
3. showed a great sense of humor
4. didn’t overwhelm people with names, numbers and facts.
5. did not act needy

It was in these moments on the Carson show in front of an audience of
millions who would decide his fate that he had learned life’s grand
lesson, and from there he went on to easily win the New York Primary.

That grand lesson?

The first 5-minutes count … big time.