By Peter Jeff
The LeaderMints Guy
Here are 18 ideas to gain and retain audience attention from the beginning of your communication. Reading time: 4:56
The Lede. That’s what the first paragraph of a news story is called.
Leaders leverage their writing with Ledes that command attention and retention.
Leaders sharpen their Lede writing so that the first paragraph in their memos, speeches, or books establishes relevance and portends significance.
Leaders sharpen their Lede writing to give voice to a wide range of human emotions impacting the human condition –from horror to awe and from joy to desperation that may delight or fright, thrill or chill .
As the leader, you assume the role of Anchor News Man or Woman. Your task is to lead your audience into your story, to help them connect to it and even anchor to it.
That’s why leaders lead with Ledes that engage readers to process their written messages more critically, understand their written messages more strategically and act on their written messages more convincingly.
Here are 18 different ways you can structure an opening to lead your audience into your written communications. Think of these 18 thought-starters as so many templates or patterns. to craft your written communications with a Lede that is tailored and toned to fit the mood and expectations of your audience.
Look closely at a single feather of a peacock’s tail. Individually, the feathers are a dull brown. But, collectively, they display a brilliant array of colors. Out of many individually lifeless feathers comes one brilliant blast of beauty. Physicists call this phenomenon “Diffraction.” The colorful plume stems from the way light is diffracted from and through the other dull brown feathers.
Leaders take it personally. When Charles Lindbergh became the first solo pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, a business executive smirked: “It would have been even more remarkable if he had done it with a committee.” Committees don’t commit. They spin their wheels in the sand of consensus. They drive to assumptions more than to conclusions.
Edna Buchanan, the long time crime reporter for “The Miami Herald”, wasn’t squeamish the first time she entered the county morgue. She was too curious. “How did they die?” she wondered.
Grass used to be something you mowed. Coke was something you drank. And pot was something you put a chicken into. Now the drug culture has changed all that.
Burning rubber assaults your nose. Exhaust fumes upset your stomach. The gasoline-tinged atmosphere scrapes your tearing eyes. And a cacophony of squealing tires and roaring engines pierce your eardrums with a constant pounding that sends you reaching for the bottle—aspirin or otherwise. Drag racing draws a big crowd
It’s 5:30 a.m. and the park is already awake. Tennis balls bounce off the court with the regularity of a heartbeat. The joggers huff and puff as they weave their way through one of the park’s main arteries. It’s almost as if the park is breathing.
In the movie “The Producers,” Zero Mostel says to his accountant, “You are in a noble profession. You even have Count in your title.” Wordplay aside, titles do make a difference — and deference — between the job holder and the job.
The 7-year-old boy eagerly climbed into the rowboat. “Dad, I want to row today. Can I? Can I? His dad acquiesced. “Well okay son. Get in the middle seat next to oars while I untie us from the dock.” The boy sat down. He grabbed the oars. And the dad smiled at his son facing the wrong way in the middle rowing seat: “Jimmy, if you want to go forwards, you have to sit backwards. You have to sit with your back to the front of the boat. To get ahead, you have to face backwards. Learn from the past to live better in the present.
Her grades were in. The sun was shining. The grass was green. And in a very real way, this would be the start of a new life.
Have you ever seen a world in a grain of sand? Or a heaven in a wild flower? Can you hold infinity in the palm of your hand? Not unless you are a poet like William Blake who could see all that and more –even eternity in an hour. Leaders are taking more poetic license.
(Delay revealing key information by using the pronouns “it” or “they”) To Ben Franklin, it was an investment that pays the best interest. To Henry Ford, it was the only real security that a person can have in this world. And to Socrates, it was the one good. What was it? Knowledge.
It’s 1849. And you’re one of the thousands of gold miners in the Great Gold Rush. You can’t wait to strike it rich. Or can you? Researchers found that the vast majority of Gold Rush participants said that even if they found all the riches they would ever need, they would continue to pan for gold. After all, it is the PURSUIT of happiness not the happiness itself that our forefathers called out in the Declaration of Independence: “in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.”
13 . LYRICAL
I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter and make believe it came from you,” sang Frank Sinatra. The song captured the power a pen can wield.
Your savings account went the way of the dinosaur long ago. Your career has careened into a dead-end. And the only thing growing in your life besides your waistline is the balance on your credit cards. Now what do you do? Keep hope alive. That’s what leaders do.
Hank Aaron became baseball’s former all-time, home-run hitter with the help of a well-developed ritual that sharpened his attention span. After swinging a bat in the on-deck circle, Aaron would take off his baseball cap. Then he would stare at the pitcher through one of the small holes in his cap. The small holes helped Aaron frame his view, focus his attention and filter distractions.
16. MAGNIFYING GLASS
(Focus on a minute detail to reflect the entire picture.) The crescent-shaped scar on his right index finger seemed so small, so insignificant, and so forgotten now. But as he rubbed that scar with the fingers of his other hand, that scar seemed to get bigger and bigger. Now that scar seemed as foreboding as if it were a button that could ignite a stick of dynamite, a button that could explode with memories of his confinement as a prisoner of war, a button that could rekindle the pain of the enemy’s cold steel knife scraping his skin and threatening to shear his fingers one by one.
Once upon a time two cavemen had a difference of opinion. One picked up a rock and threw it. The other swung his club and whacked it a country mile. Baseball was born. It hasn’t yet come to that but it might if historians and researchers keep pushing back the time frame in frame in which the National Pastime was either invented or evolved. (From the Associated Press)
I was perched just inches away from an airplane’s open door. Just inches away from the engine’s roar. Just inches away from the screaming wind’s call. Just inches away from a near one-mile high fall. I looked down. My eyes blurred. My palms moistened. Fright drained the saliva from my mouth. Sweat trickled down my forehead. Wind flooded my face.