Like many articles I have written before, this one was born one day while I was listening to a speech and is based on real life. It was during a TEDx style full-day event with a variety of well educated and successful people sharing their stories. A poised, well-dressed woman walked up to the podium and began with “I was born in…”. She then began to give us milestone by milestone, every aspect of her life in detailed chronological order. You could feel her audience slowly slip way from her out of sheer boredom. That is every leader’s worst nightmare scenario. So to make sure this never happens to you, here are five of the absolute worst ways to open any speech:
“I was born in…”
This opening line always makes me sink deep into my chair and groan. I also dislike the opening line “I grew up in…”. It sounds like you’re going deliver an oral resume or biography.
“A great story should take your audience on a journey with unexpected twists and turns that eventually leads to a deep shared wisdom.” ~ Narges Nirumvala
Chronological stories are so boring and show a complete lack of originality. Learn how to tell a great story by watching other people speak, working with your communications department or an executive speech coach like me.
This is often used by professionals and executives who are giving more technical or scientific presentations or speeches. It’s still a terrible way to begin a speech. Never start with facts and figures. It also means you’re probably much more likely to rely on a detailed PowerPoint presentation with graphs and charts, something else which could lead your audience into boredom. Once you lead an audience deep into the jungle of boredom it’s very hard to get them out again.
“I didn’t prepared anything…”
How disrespectful to your audience to tell them that you didn’t prepare anything! So many people say with pride “Oh I don’t write anything down, I like to wing it…”. I completely disagree with that approach. Being able to think and speak on your feet is a great skill to have, but that’s not what we’re dealing with here.
“I advise all the executives and leaders who work with me to write down their speech and practice it’s delivery meticulously. Do not leave anything up to chance, because in leadership every speech counts.” ~ Narges Nirumvala
“Thank you for inviting me…”
I’m on the fence about this one. It’s not something I recommend, but it’s the best of the five I’ve listed here (that’s not saying much though). I still think it screams of ordinary and lacks creatively. Also paid professional speakers would never start a speech this way. Another version of this opening is “I’m so happy to be here…”. Try to avoid both.
“I hate public speaking so…”
This has to be the absolutely worst way to open any speech. Do not tell you audience what your negative inner voice is saying to you. Maybe you do hate public speaking, maybe you try to avoid it as much as possible and you’re terrified up there. Keep all that to yourself.
“Remember that public speaking is a service. You are sharing your experience and wisdom for the benefit of others and they deserve your best.” ~ Narges Nirumvala
I hope this has given you some valuable tips and strategies that you can use the next time you find yourself writing a speech. Remember that to captive your audience you need a beginning that is both powerful and original. You should plan, prepare and practice your speech like a gold-medal athlete, so when you go up on stage you make the BEST possible first impression.
Called ‘The Secret Weapon’ by one journalist, Narges Nirumvala is a world renowned leadership communication expert and international speaker. She is the CEO of ExecutiveSpeak Coaching International and author of the bestselling book “Capture the Spotlight”. Narges works with executives and leadership teams to help them find their authentic voice and speak the language of leadership. Narges has received numerous accolades; most recently she was nominated for the 2016 Wendy McDonald Awards as Community Catalyst.