🥶 Cold Openers: The counter-intuitive technique that warms-up audiences faster

Ft. Curt Mercadante

You’ve been given 5 minutes of stage time in front of your dream audience… decision makers!

They don’t know who you are and you want to make the best possible first impression. This is the exact situation Curt Mercadante found himself in at DirsruptHR. His gambit? The Cold Opener.

The Cold Opener warms audience up…

AND helps you relax quicker.

The problem is, using them is completely counterintuitive.

Let me explain…

Most people in this situation put vast amounts of pressure on themselves to give the talk of their lives.

Everything has to be perfect 👌.
Every word scripted 📜.
Every situation planned for 🧠.

And then, they close off, get very formal and overload their talk with SO much ‘value’ that they never never manage to connect with their audience.

But not Curt Mercadante…*

Curt went for a Cold Opener and delivered it masterfully. 65 seconds later, the audience was hooked. Enjoy… 🍿

So what is a Cold Opener?

The classic definition of a Cold Opener is where you start a speech with no formal introduction or pre-amble… think TED.

My definition is slightly different.

It’s where you make a last minute decision about how you’re going to open your talk and go completely off-the-cuff.

While it can feel high risk, the rewards are extremely high. With no script to hide behind, you can’t not come across as yourself.

The result?

Instant connection and warmth with your audience.

Three failsafe Cold Openers to get you started:

  1. Remark on the room you’re presenting in… 🛋️
    I was once at an awards ceremony in this very posh, dark, oak panelled room.

    The compère invited the keynote speaker up to the podium with an introduction so over the top the room filled with tension and expectation as the speaker made their way up to the stage. 

    They looked at everyone, paused, put a huge grin on their face and said...

'Welcome to Hogwarts!'

The ice in the room melted away…. ❄️

  1. Poke fun at yourself 🤡

    Just like Curt. It’s a great hack to help you relax on stage. Especially, if you find it takes a few minutes to warm up and find your flow.

‘I’ve been diagnosed with a case of what’s called, ‘Extreme Slideophobia!’

  1. Share your takeaways from the event…
    This makes you look like a seasoned professional. Like the late Sir Ken Robinson in his TED talk…

There have been three themes running through the conference which are relevant to what I want to talk about today. The first is…

Ken Robinson, TED, 2006

Notice how he links it to the talk he’s going to give? That’s the gold standard.

I was once told by someone who knew Sir Ken personally that he would purposefully leave 20 second sections for impromptu remarks - great tip!

One more thing…

It’s not just the audience who wins when you open cold. You do too, especially when you share the snippet after the event.

See you in a fortnight (taking a week off next week 🏜️).


*Curt Mercadante is the Founder of Accelerate Media Labs. I was lucky enough to work with him a few years back when he took part in my Thought Leadership Accelerator (though, I take no credit for this talk!).

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