A dedication style opening can all be done in about 90 seconds, and the reason why these openings are good is because it warps time inside your audience. The reason it's bad however is because it's you just talking about yourself in the beginning of your presentation, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad.
There are pros and cons to everything that you do. And if you start with a dedication, your audience may negatively interpret it, thinking "Why is this person only talking about themselves at the start of their talk?"
But a dedication is a nice structure that allows you to "bounce" people along a timeline where they feel that they've known you for an incredibly long period of time. If you've just met me, and I'd like you to trust me, the way I can do that is by making you feel like you've known me for 15 years. And I can do that using a dedication.
A dedication opening is quite simply three moments in history that have shaped you, up to the biggest problem that you've found, and then what you've dedicated your life to based off that problem, followed by a thank you.
Here's an example:
I've just walked on stage. "Thank you, thank you. Please grab a seat. Now, for those of you who have not met me before, my name is Benjamin J. Harvey and 15 years ago I found myself suffering from severe mental illness, and I was heavily medicated."
"And 10 years ago, I decided to do something about it. So I started to travel around the world, and I started to study with psychs, and seers, and sages, and skeptics, and sales reps, and psychopaths, anything that started with an "S" or a silent "P."
"And I started to really have a deeper understanding of this thing called 'personal development'. So five years ago, I packed in my job, and decided to really just focus all of my heart and soul into this thing, and launched a business called Authentic Education, which brings me here today to be in front of you."
"And over all the years of doing this, I've discovered that there really is just one core problem that people face day in and day out. And that problem is simply this: we are not born with a toolkit for our mind, and nor are we given one. And that's why I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to teaching people just like you, exactly how to use this thing called 'the mind', so they can heal themselves completely, and have a magnificent life every single day."
"My name is Benjamin Harvey, and welcome to tonight's presentation."
And that was 90 seconds roughly. But in that 90 seconds, I've taken you on a journey. And in that 90 seconds, you notice how much you now think you know me.
You feel like you've been here in my depression, my mental illness. You've been here traveling the world. You've been here learning all this stuff. You're now here in the room. Now I've got this big problem. Now I'm dedicating my life to something. And whoa, you know everything about me.
What I like about this process is that it's a very quick trust building process that warps time, and gives people a perception that they've known you for a very long period of time.
But if you do too many of these during your talk, your talk will feel like it goes forever, because it really does warp time in their brain.
So you've got to use these sparingly, because if I do too many bounces at the start of my talk, you'll start to feel it's going for a very, very long time.
And you wonder, "When are we getting to the content?" Even though you've only been here for five minutes, if I do too much bouncing it may feel like you've been here for 15, 20, half an hour, or an hour. So when I bounce, I generally just pick three points in time. And I make them 15, 10 and 5, even if they're not quite 15, 10 and 5. Or 30, 20, 10.
I keep them equally distant, because I want them to be easy for you to follow. Because remember your brain's now trying to do calculations. So if you say for example, "Back when I was 19 years of age, I found myself doing... " what is happening in the audience is they're now going to try and work out how old you are.
While they're trying to work out how old you are, they're missing the whole connection you're trying to make. So anytime you try and get your audience to think at the start of your talk, it's a bad thing.
Saying, "Back when I was 17" doesn't help your audience. But if you say, "Back 15 years ago when I was 17," that's kind of okay.
But now they're going to try and do the math of how old you are, because you've given them the timestamp. Then they think "Seventeen, so that makes him 32. So he's 32." And while they do that, you realise they've missed everything you've just said because they're trying to do a calculation.
So instead you just say, "15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago" etc. Or 30, 20, 10. Make it equidistant so it's easy for the brain.
Either way, whatever you pick is the first point in time, they will now feel they've known you for that long. It's a very unique thing about how the brain can warp time.
Writing Your Dedication
So your dedication is going to be a up to three minutes long. Ideally it's about 90 seconds when you do it. So you want to pay a bit of attention to it, and get it right.
In order to practice this process step by step, it would be wise for you to just take a few notes so you have some things to reference along the way. For example...
"For those who don't know me, my name is, (and you just write your name here). And something you may not know about me is, (and then you write in the amount of time and the bit of information you want to share).
"And then I found myself, (add here the next time frame and whatever it is you did).
"Then X years ago, (I did this) and during that time I discovered there is a major problem in the world where, (enter the major problem you solve).
"And that's exactly why I decided to dedicate my life to, (write in your dedication)"
And then you simply say "Thank you."
Where possible, try and keep equal distance between the years. It's not essential. It just makes it a little bit easier for the audience to follow along.
And that's it - three moments in history. They don't have to be bad, or good, or anything. They're just moments in history so your audience feels like they know you.
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