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Public Speaking Fundamentals
Illustration by Neil Webb

Handling common opening mistakes


From:

Public Speaking Fundamentals

with Laura Bergells

Video: Handling common opening mistakes

The first words out of your mouth are the most important words of your entire presentation. This is where you have the best opportunity to earn the attention and interest of your audience, right away. In another video we discussed five strong openings. In contrast, let's talk about the four worst things that often come flying out of a speaker's mouth during the all-important first few seconds of a business presentation. One of the most surprisingly taboo statements is to say a few trite sentences. Here is an example. "Hello! Thank you for the warm introduction.

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Public Speaking Fundamentals
1h 4m Appropriate for all Aug 31, 2012

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Develop the skills you need to prepare and deliver an outstanding speech or presentation with our public speaking training. Author Laura Bergells offers practical insights that can help presenters prepare, open, deliver, and close their speeches. Along the way, discover how to project confidence, storyboard a speech, take questions, respond with thoughtful answers, and develop the creative story that adds life to a speech.

Topics include:
  • Identifying your audience
  • Developing credibility
  • Introducing an agenda
  • Exploring five strong opening techniques
  • Developing great body language
  • Understanding room dynamics
  • Handling questions and answers
  • Getting feedback
Subjects:
Business Presentations Business Skills Leadership Management Communication
Author:
Laura Bergells

Handling common opening mistakes

The first words out of your mouth are the most important words of your entire presentation. This is where you have the best opportunity to earn the attention and interest of your audience, right away. In another video we discussed five strong openings. In contrast, let's talk about the four worst things that often come flying out of a speaker's mouth during the all-important first few seconds of a business presentation. One of the most surprisingly taboo statements is to say a few trite sentences. Here is an example. "Hello! Thank you for the warm introduction.

It's really great to be here." How many times have you heard a speaker say something like this? An audience tends to mentally check out during those first few awkward sentences. Instead, try this exercise. Record the first few minutes of your speech. Start by saying a few polite words and then try using a more powerful cold opening technique. Once you see, hear, and feel the difference, you'll never go back to offering your audience an awkward or insincere nicety when you can wow them with your power and confidence.

A second unfortunate way to begin a speech is with ahem, the clearing of the throat. No one wants to hear that, especially not as the first noise out of your mouth. Often people clear their throats as a sign of nervousness or as a persnickety way to get attention. Make sure your voice is warmed up before you hit the stage. A third terrible way to open your presentation is by drawing your attention to technical insecurities. "Hey, is this thing on? Can you hear me in the back? Should I use the mic? I think my voice is pretty strong. What do you think? Can you see my slides okay." These kind of opening comments are extremely disrespectful to the audience.

It signals that the speaker didn't bother to do AV checks before the presentation. Don't waste your audience's time. Make sure you've ironed out your technical issues before your presentation. The fourth and final way you'll want to avoid opening your presentation is with a joke. If your friends and colleagues often tell you that you have a great sense of humor, that's terrific. But remember, there is a big difference between having a sense of humor and telling a joke. Displaying your unique sense of humor during your speech can be great, but starting with a joke generally bombs, big time.

I have heard more groans and nervous laughter after a business presenter begins with a joke than I have ever heard genuine gut-busting laughter. And either way, it's harder to smoothly transition to a speech after your audience is either groaning or laughing hysterically. So even if you are really, truly, supremely funny please leave jokes to comedians. And remember, your first words are important. Use a strong cold open technique to immediately capture audience interest.

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