Preparing a speech can be like sculpting. You keep removing the excess clay until you have your work of art. If you want to start your presentation with a bang instead of a bust avoid these ten mistakes. These tips will show you how not to start your speech.
1. You like me, you really like me
Sally Fields did this when she accepted her academy award. Her gushing outburst was mocked because it seemed unprofessional. We all want to be liked but Sally pushed our gag button with her act. If they are giving you the award don’t insult them by pretending that you don’t deserve it.
2. Tell a joke
If you read an ancient book on public speaking that tells you to start with a joke – burn it and purge anything you read from your memory. That is a terrible way to start your speech. It’s difficult to tell a joke well in front of an audience. It usually fails – a bad way to start your speech. Don’t tell jokes.
3. How is everybody today?
You have probably seen the “motivational speaker” wannabe start his presentation with this question. Then he repeats the question only louder as if that means your first response was too weak. It looks, sounds and feels phony and it ticks people off – a very bad way to start your presentation.
4. I don’t know why I have been asked to speak
Imagine the thoughts that go through the minds of your audience when you start with this phrase. If you don’t know – why are you speaking? This is going to be a dreadful presentation. Why did I attend? How do I escape?
5. I’m really nervous
It’s okay to admit imperfection. But don’t tell your audience that you are a lousy presenter, this is your first time or that you are very nervous. That conveys lack of confidence. Often they can’t tell the state of your nerves so keep it to yourself. If you are a lousy presenter they will decide on their own soon enough. Don’t foretell your own presentation disaster.
6. I’m really not prepared
How would you feel when the speaker says this at the beginning of his speech? You might think about leaving the room, checking your email or tuning out at the least. As the presenter you want to build interest and anticipation when you start your presentation. You want your audience to perk up and think, “This could be good.”
7. I’m sorry
Don’t start your presentation with an apology. I’m sorry for starting late. I’m sorry that the coffee was cold. I’m sorry that the real speaker couldn’t be here. What a depressing way to start a speech.
8. I’m perfect you’re not
Your introduction said flattering things about you to build your credibility with the audience. But you must not start your presentation appearing to be perfect. You need to build rapport and one way to do that is by revealing a human flaw, admitting an embarrassing mistake or voicing your own dilemma.
Maybe the introducer messed up your introduction. Perhaps the conference appeared badly organized. Maybe the venue screwed up the registration and the meal. The speaker before you might have chewed into your presentation time. Don’t criticize. If you do that, the audience will tune you out. If any of those things happened you must capture their attention by taking the higher road. Offer them hope. Show them your insights to a better way.
10. Kissing up
You are the most beautiful audience to which I have ever spoken to. Yuk! You can compliment your audience but make it appropriate, sincere and factual. False flattery stinks of snake oil.
Improve the start of your presentation by removing these 10 errors so you can start your speech in the right direction. You and your audience will be amazed at the difference.