Delivery Lesson Eleven: No Apologies


There’s nothing that frustrates an audience more than the apology-riddled introduction. You’ve heard it before.  It’s some version of this:

  • I’m sorry I have an accent so you may not be able to understand me
  • I’m sorry I’m not prepared
  • I’m sorry I have a cough/cold/headache/nausea/some other kind of sickness
  • I’m sorry I may read my notecards
  • I’m sorry I didn’t practice this speech
  • I’m sorry I might say “um” a lot
  • I’m sorry I didn’t dress up for my presentation
  • I’m sorry I’m nervous
Students in my class are the kings and queens of “I’m sorry” introductions, and after hearing thousands of speeches, I can tell you this.  The only person sorry if you start a speech this way is your audience… We’re sorry we have to listen to you.
Delivery lesson eleven is this: never, EVER begin your speech with an apology.

It’s been said it only takes 6 seconds for someone to make a first impression of you.  Why waste the first 6 seconds of your speech apologizing?  To create a strong introduction, the first words out of your mouth should be your hook.  Use a story, an unexpected quote or statistic, a multimedia clip, or an interactive game to encourage audience participation.  Never EVER start with an apology.

Apologies are typically presenter-centered.  They are a way for the presenter to shake off some nerves or to feel better about his or her presentation.  Too often, however, the apology backfires.  The presenter starts off on a negative foot instead of a positive one.  The presenter squanders his chance to hook the audience.  The presenter sets him or herself up for failure by revealing a flaw the audience may not have otherwise seen (in the case of the accent or the “um” confession above).

Again, and most importantly, if the apology is presenter-centered, where is the audience in this equation?  Shouldn’t the presenter’s focus be on the audience instead of himself or herself?  The audience is already feeling disrespected because the first words out of your mouth are self-centered and all about you.  Remember that a presentation is all about them!  Focus on your audience.

What are some other no-nos for speech intros?  Check out my advice here.


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