Stephen Cave’s 4 Stories We Tell Ourselves About Death


In my public speaking classes, I teach my students to begin their presentations with a strong hook.  Garr Reynolds uses the P.U.N.C.H. acronym to describe strategies to grab an audience’s attention.  Stephen Cave’s TEDx Talk “The 4 Stories We Tell Ourselves About Death” has one of the strongest hooks I’ve seen.  He asks the audience, “Who here remembers when they first realized they were going to die?”


The unexpected question startles us.  We weren’t expecting an in-your-face invitation to discuss a sometimes scary topic.  The question invites the audience to immediately participate in Cave’s speech; we are actively thinking about an answer to that question.  I don’t know the answer, exactly, similar to many of you.  So while they’re thinking, Cave tells a personal story which gives his answer to that very question.  And after his story about his grandfather’s death – the childhood period when he considered mortality for the first time – he says to the audience that we can use his example to uncover the answer in our own lives.

Check out Cave’s hook and story-driven introduction below:


The introduction isn’t the only great thing about this TEDxBratislava presentation!  Take some time to watch the entire speech.  Cave explains the 4 stories, 4 narratives, cultures use to answer that very same question in his hook.

His simple slides support his message in a clear, elegant way.  Check out his use of big, bold text and typography at about 4:50.  He also uses a combination of icons and pictures, so the blend of text + image is interesting from start to finish.

What is the strongest presentation hook you’ve heard?  How do you personally prepare a good attention-getter for your audience?


One thought on “Stephen Cave’s 4 Stories We Tell Ourselves About Death

  1. Joe Madley

    Great points with added benefits of a great presenter. He obviously did his research on his topic. A long-time Toastmaster.

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