3 No-Nos for Speech Intros:
Experts say you only have 6 seconds to make a first impression. In life, we can botch a first impression but later make up for it… if given enough time. Unfortunately, a speech is typically too short, so if your audience immediately gets a negative impression of you, you may as well sit down.
Your introduction should be the most powerful portion of your speech for many reasons. Primarily, your nerves will calm down if you get through the first few minutes successfully, and, most importantly, your audience will connect with your material if your introduction is engaging. Having a poor introduction will ensure that your audience dozes off or ignores your speech completely. For some reason, many speeches begin negatively. If we know what doesn’t work, even if we’re terrified of public speaking, we can make changes in our behaviors to at least make a powerful first impression. Here are my 3 no-nos for speech introductions:
First, never, ever begin your speech with an apology. “I’m sorry that I’m late.” “I’m sorry, I haven’t been feeling well, so I’m sorry if my voice isn’t loud.” “I’m sorry I’m not wearing the right clothes.” “I’m sorry, but I’m really nervous.” An apology is a negative thing. An apology is about remorse, regret, sadness, and shame. Why in the world would an audience member want to listen to the rest of your speech if your first few minutes are heavily bogged down in all of that negativeness? You know how people don’t want to be around a Negative Nellie? Starting your speech with this bad energy makes people not like you and not want to listen to you.
If the first thing out of your mouth is negative, you’ll have to do too much overcompensating to making things positive again. Remember… 6 seconds.
Don’t ramble. Your introduction should be short, attention-grabbing, and explain the reason for the speech. Your introduction should also comprise 10% of your overall speech. Rambling may display your nervousness, as speakers who ramble often are trying to shake off their nervous energy. Rambling may also signal to your audience that you’re boring or unprepared. Losing the audience’s attention and going over on your allotted speech time due to rambling won’t make your message connect.
TED Commandment #8 says, “Thou shalt not read thy speech.” This is crucial in your introduction. Reading your speech is hiding behind a barrier (a physical barrier if your notes are in front of your face). We can all tell, even with our eyes closed, a voice that is reading versus a voice that is speaking from the heart. A reading voice is robotic; a natural voice is more human. Some notes are good… just don’t read them word for word. I would suggest phrases only on your notecards so that you have your talking points, but the order of words comes from your heart.
Reading also suggests, of course, that the speaker hasn’t practiced. Lack of practice signals to the audience that the speaker either doesn’t care or isn’t an expert on the topic.
Your introduction should be confident, assertive, and engaging. We connect with a positive and direct opening for a speech. Consider these three tips when planning your next presentation. What can you do to create an amazing introduction? Check back tomorrow for my advice on introductions that work.