Avoid this Stupid Mistake #7: Introduce Your Speech with Low Expectations

Here’s the situation:  This week I attended a presentation in which a consultant had been asked to address a group for a potential client.  The consultant had 30 minutes to say something useful and make an impression in order to be asked back for a fee.  The manager in charge introduced the consultant/speaker to the group.  Politely, the group clapped.

Here’s the stupid mistake:  The speaker responded to the applause with this statement, “It’s nice to receive applause before you start a presentation because you never know what will happen afterwards.”Good grief, what was he thinking?!  Audience members form an opinion of a speaker in the first seconds of a presentation. 

Here is the speaker announcing he might lose control of the speech.  Who would want to listen to him, let alone hire him?!

The first words out of this person’s mouth should have formed a connection or delivered some value for the client.  Once a speaker starts off on a negative foot, it’s hard to recover.

Here’s the solution:  Self-deprecating humor is fine, and sometimes it’s desirable—but NOTas you introduce your speech and NOT about your competence.  As you begin a speech, strive to do the following three things.  When you introduce your speech with each of these elements, you are off to a strong and credible start.

  1. Attract the audience’s attention with an interesting statistic, a brief and relevant story, or a provocative quote or question.     
  2.  Create a connection between you and the audience.  Touch on a value or an experience you have in common.
  3.  Establish your credibility as an expert or someone who is well-prepared to address the audience

Introduce your speech with a combination of these three elements, and you can be sure that you start off with a solid start.

For ten techniques to introduce your speech, including examples, go to http://www.incrediblemessages.com/products.htm#howtowin.

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3 Responses to Avoid this Stupid Mistake #7: Introduce Your Speech with Low Expectations

  1. Tom Volkar says:

    Bonnie, yes the start of any presentation is so critical. By reading your posts it’s obvious that you are indeed an expert. This post reminded me of what I learned from Lee Glickstein the founder of Speaking Circles. Since I heard him speak I’ve been having fun by just silently connecting with my audiences, before I open my mouth. Then I always begin with the timeline and location of a story. It works well to bring them with you from the beginning.

    I see that what I’ve been doing covers two of your recommended points and perhaps my posture has taken care of the third. Thanks so much for your expert and on point writing.

  2. technobility says:

    I could not agree more strongly. In any presentation you have about 15 seconds to grab hold of the audience. You need to say SOMETHING that raises a question in their minds. Once you do that, then they’ll pay attention until either they get an answer from you or until they give up waiting.

    Never thank the introducer, never tell an opening joke, you might use 5 of those 15 seconds in silence to force their attention on you, don’t use opening time to adjust the microphone, use those precious seconds to engage the audience in some manner.

    You’re the EXPERT until you open your mouth – make what comes out of it memorable.

  3. incrediblemessages says:

    Technobility has a great suggestion: silence is a powerful way to catch your audience member’s attention. History’s most powerful presenters udnerstood this!
    Bonnie

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