The Two Most Important Lines

There are two important lines in every communication; and everything else is filler!

If delivered correctly, these two lines will encapsulate your communication and call your audience to action. They are your opening and closing.

No Context

Your opening has got to wow me! It’s got to grab me by the throat and compel me to consider your argument lest I drift off and you lose me. It needs to be powerful, cut through the noise, force me to think, and make me want to listen to you. It also needs to succinctly communicate your point because your listener is going to frame everything that is to follow in terms of your opening line.

Yet, so many people feel the need to provide context. There are several problems with this approach. Firstly, your audience is going to frame your communication in terms of your opening line, and do you really want your communication to be framed in terms of context? Context isn’t even part of your point! However, once the frame is set, your audience is processing the remainder of your communication in this context, and if framed poorly your point will be lost.

But even worse, if your opening line is weak, your will run the risk that your audience won’t engage with you. In other words, they’ll switch off; or more likely, switch on their mobile device and start deleting pointless emails, and you are lost. If your communication is in a written form, your reader might scan your document, if you are lucky, or discard it after a line or two.

There are stories of a Premier of NSW shining his shoes when aides would commence a meeting with context. And if the aide did not take the message, this Premier would show them the door. While this is extreme behaviour, isn’t looking at a mobile device a sign that your message isn’t getting through?

Focus On Your Opening Line

The opening line is so important that I recommend that clients consider spending half their time budget for the comunication on developing their opening line.  I have adopted this approach to great effect. By doing so, my audience is engaged from the opening. They listen intently to every word. They follow my argument with interest. In short, I’ve grabbed their attention.

But there is another additional advantage to having a strong opening line. It sets the tone and the remainder of the communication “drops out” quickly. Why? Not only does the opening line grab attention, but it also summarises the communication that is to follow. So to be able to summarise my communication in a single sentence I have to know my subject really well. I have to have thought about my subject for some time. I have to be an “expert” in my subject. And being the expert in my subject matter means that I can distil my argument to its key points. Thereby, through knowing my subject well, my thoughts are clear and my argument forms quickly. So I can afford to spend half my time on my opening line.

Close Strongly

The last thing you communicate will leave your lasting impression. It is your chance to influence your audience. Yet most people finish flat and forget to influence. They have stated their case, presented their argument, and they think their job is done. It isn’t! By not having a strong close the problem is two-fold. Firstly your audience is left flat. They think to themselves, “well, that was nice”, and move on to the next most pressing thing, like an email that someone has left their keys in the bathroom and forget your communication. Alternatively, and this is me, they think; “that was a waste of time” because they don’t know what to do with the information you have provided to them, which in many ways is inconsiderate on your behalf. Do your audience justice and give them a purpose; a call to arms; an action that you want them to perform!

The second problem with a flat close is you have missed your opportunity to influence. Yes, influence.  Yet so few people realise that this was their purpose. I learnt this lesson when I was at University. In my final year at University my professor for Project Management would write “so” in large red letters on the final page of our assignments if we did not include an action item in our conclusion. He was correct of course. What was the purpose of undertaking a 30,000 word study of a project if there were no recommendations? There has to be a recommendation or an action item. Why else have you gone to the trouble of preparing your communication?

But many readers will say that making a recommendation or stating a call to action is not their purpose. I challenge that position. An Analyst must “sell” their idea or nobody will pay attention to their analysis. In most, if not all, communications you are providing information for a purpose. At the very least, state that purpose.

The closing statement is your opportunity to grab your audience’s attention and give them a call to action. Make it strong and deliver it with confidence. Influence your audience. Isn’t that why you prepared your communication?

I Know My Closing Line

If the closing line is so important, why don’t I advocate spending a significant amount of time preparing it? It is because you know your closing line. You know what you want your audience to do. When advising clients on their communication skills, I suggest they write down what they want their audience to do with the communication and the form is a verb. In other words, I suggest clients determine what they want their clients “to do” before they start thinking about their opening line. By opening at the close, you know your closing line before you begin.

Clarity Of Purpose

Knowing your opening and closing brings another advantage to the communicator; that is clarity of purpose. You know what you want your audience to do and you know your material. The rest is easy. It will fall out quickly because you have had to think about your subject and focus on what will captivate your audience and what you want them to do. You know where you are starting and where you are ending, you have clarity of purpose; the rest is filler!


The two most important lines in any form of communication are your opening and your closing. Spend time on your opening to make it captivating; in many instances, half as long as you are prepared to spend drafting your communication. Ensure it summarises your point and that it grabs the attention of your audience. Doing so will make the preparation of your communication a straight-forward process.

Your closing remark must be a call to action. It too must be strong and delivered with confidence because you want to influence your audience. Make it a verb because you want your audience to act. Write it down BEFORE you start drafting your opening line. Having strong opening and closing lines will bring clarity of purpose to your communication and improve the effectiveness of your communication.

For guidance on increasing your effectiveness as a communicator, contact Inspirational Leaders (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).