The one sentence most public speakers get wrong

And how to correct the problem.


One of the most important sentences in any speech often comes at the very beginning.

The speaker walks to the lectern, sets down his or her papers, looks up and says, “Thank you very much—I’m very excited to be here.”

But the majority of the time, the speaker utters that line without any discernible excitement. They’re saying that they’re happy to be there, but their voice and body language sends the exact opposite message.

When I mention that to our trainees after a practice speech, they’re usually surprised. They thought they had delivered the line well. I suspect that their nervousness restrained them, that their internal adrenaline rush deceived them into thinking that they were coming across more energetically.

That type of “message disconnect” is problematic because when you send your audience one message with your words and another with your voice and body language, the audience isn’t going to believe your words.

It’s not just “I’m very excited” that gets speakers in trouble; it’s any similar line, such as:

  • “I’m thrilled to announce this new product.”
  • “Thank you so much for traveling from all over the world to join us at this conference.”
  • “I’m deeply honored that you’ve selected me for this year’s award.”

And that’s not all. Speakers regularly commit yet another speaking faux pas when delivering those lines: They often read them to their audience.

Yup, their heads are down, their voices are flat, and they read, “I’m so glad you joined us at this year’s conference,” to the audience from their prepared text. If you have to read your notes to be able to tell your audience that you’re “glad” they’re there, you’re not really glad. You’re just reading. Speakers who read “sincere” greetings will have an audience full of people who doubt their sincerity.

So next time you open a speech with a warm greeting, leave the notes behind. Your specific words don’t really matter, but your tone and sincerity do. Welcome people, express gratitude, and exhibit genuine excitement without notes. And make sure your audience knows you mean it.

Visit the Mr. Media Training Blog to see the 21 Most Essential Media Training Links. Brad Phillips is the author of the Mr. Media Training Blog and president of Phillips Media Relations, which specializes in media and presentation training.

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