The beginning of a speech is a tricky thing.
In a short amount of time, you have to gain the audience’s attention, make a connection with them, establish your credibility, and introduce your topic.
There are several good ways to begin a speech (check out How to Start a Speech), but there are three really bad ways to start one.
How NOT to Begin a Speech
1. Do Not Apologize
Beginning with an apology — “I’m really sorry I didn’t have time to prepare what I’m going to say today…” — is lame.
Such an apology doesn’t excuse your lack of preparation. It only calls attention to your lack of professionalism. And it lets the audience know they don’t have to pay attention. Why should they bother to listen when you didn’t bother to prepare?
2. Do Not Waste Time on Pleasantries
Thanking the meeting planner, the organization, or the audience for allowing you to speak is fluff. Telling them how honored you are or how happy you are to be able to speak to them is trite.
Show your appreciation by giving a great speech. Focus on one idea that will change how they think or feel or, more importantly, act. Make you idea vivid, memorable, and actionable.
3. Do Not Tell a Joke
Starting a speech with self-deprecating humor is fine. Starting with a joke invites disaster.
Unless you are a known comedian (not just in your own estimation) and unless the audience is primed to laugh, your opening joke will bomb. And it’ll be hard for you to regain your composure and the audience’s confidence.
What’s your experience with speech openings? What do you recommend not doing?