1) (True story.) “Do you think he has a gun?” I asked my friend.
It was past midnight. My friend had driven me to an isolated building – that’s where I had to pay the money. A big, muscular guy was waiting outside.
“This guy doesn’t need a gun,” my friend said. “He could kill us with his bare hands.”
(Let’s pause for a second to talk about stories. Ever use them at work? They’re one of the best ways to deliver a message.)
2) (Same story, new opening.) I knew I was in trouble when my friend drove off. It was the middle of night, in the middle of nowhere.
“Come back,” I yelled. “I have no money.”
(A good opening hooks us: “What happens next?” we wonder. Although there are lots of ways to open a story, try starting with a problem.)
3) “Every night, 20 new people hate my guts,” the big muscular guy said. “On a good night, 30 people.” Then he spit. “I could care less.”
(You can also start with a character.)
4) “A few hours ago,” the big muscular guy told me, “we watched you get out of your car, leave the parking lot, and walk down the street. That was your mistake. You should have never done that.”
(Start your story anywhere; it could be the first thing that actually happened, or it could be the middle.)
5) “It’s your own fault,” my mother said. “I would have never parked there.”
(It’s ok to embellish. My mother, for example, never said this, for the main reason that she’s been dead for several years. But it’s certainly something she might have said.)
6) When I returned to the parking lot after dinner, my car had vanished.
(Think about what you want to reveal in the opening, and what you want to leave out.)
7) “Apparently, you can’t read,” the big muscular guy said. “Otherwise you would have seen the sign in the parking lot. ‘If you walk off the premises, your car will be towed.’”
Tip: Use stories. Try different openings. Be careful where you park.
P.S. The tow guy demanded cash ($112) for my car. My friend, who had driven off, came back and took me to an ATM.
Consultant, author, speaker, and founder of express potential® (www.expresspotential.com), Paul Hellman has worked with CEOs, executives, and managers at leading companies for over 25 years to improve performance and productivity at work. His latest book is “Naked at Work: How to Stay Sane When Your Job Drives You Crazy,” and his columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and other leading papers.
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