Author: Pascal Heymann
Yes, saying the first words when beginning your presentation can seem terrifying, but that’s no excuse to punish your audience with useless drivel.
Being a speaker has never been as difficult as it is today. Of course, modern cameras and the internet help us spread our presentations like never before, but this same technology is also our greatest competitor. When the vast majority of your audience carries access to virtually all of human knowledge – including everything from blueprints of nuclear submarines to cute cat videos – in their pockets, you’re up against a mighty enemy.
Especially younger audiences (anyone who has taught or spoken in schools before can confirm) have the habit of escaping into their smartphones at the slightest hint of boredom. Hence, capturing and keeping your audience’s attention at the very start should be your top priority. Realistically, you’ll always lose some people along the way, but your goal should be to start the journey with everyone attentively on board.
So how do we do that? That will be the content of a different post. Today I want to give special attention to one of the most widely used ‘openers’ that brings those smartphones out faster than you can say “Siri, find me a video of cats falling down stairs.”
Imagine that this post wasn’t in written form, but a presentation I’m about to give. Instead of sitting at your computer, in the train, or (hopefully not!) staring at your phone while someone is presenting right now, imagine you are attending a conference on public speaking. One of the speakers: me, Pascal Heymann. Excited to know what I’ll be speaking about, you take a peek at the agenda. It reads as follows:
Pascal Heymann, Speaker & Trainer
Please Avoid This Phrase When Beginning Your Presentation
Do you quickly lose your audience’s interest in presentations? Bore no more! Pascal will share his expert insights into which toxic phrase to eliminate from your presentation parlance.
Cool, that sounds promising, right? But I won’t be up for another 20 min. You finish listening to the current speaker. Now it’s almost time for me to come up on stage. Shortly before it’s my turn, the MC enters the stage. Keeping it short, the MC says:
“Next on stage is a seasoned speaker and public speaking trainer from Berlin, Germany. He’s here today to teach us which phrase should be avoided when beginning your presentation. Please help me welcome PASCAL HEYMAAAAAAAAAAAN”
Thunderous applause. The applause slowly dies down. I utter my first words:
“Hi, good morning, everyone, I am Pascal Heymann, I’m a speaker and trainer and today I want to talk about one particular phrase you shouldn’t use when beginning your presentation.”
The conference centre lights up as half the audience draws their smartphones and opens Facebook. I lose. What happened here?
Nothing, actually. That’s the problem. I went up on stage and I gave you nothing of value. My introduction contained nothing of value. Nothing you hadn’t already read or heard before. It was an empty exhale of air mixed with irrelevant sounds.
Old information = boring
Your first sentences should not be a regurgitation of what the audience already knows. Bring something new to the table. We will discuss a few possible versions in a different post and provide some examples. There are many ways of beginning a presentation in an interesting manner.
For now, listen out for this phrase and make yourself aware of any time you’re tempted to start by introducing yourself and the topic. There’s a popular motivational phrase along the lines of “Work hard until you don’t have to introduce yourself anymore.” Once you’re invited to speak on a stage, that applies to you. Even if it’s just within the confinements of that one speaking slot, you’ve worked hard enough to BE introduced. Now go and shine!
For more speaking advice, check out our short videos!