The worst way to open a speech—and what to do instead

Do your opening lines project your confidence and gravitas, or do they make it seem that you’re in over your head? Here’s how to start your speeches with strength and authority.

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We’ve all heard the axiom, “It’s not how you start but how you finish that matters.”

That’s probably true for most things in life. It’s not true, though, for public speaking. How you begin your talk is important.

Each year I coach hundreds of speakers, and I’m always struck at the numbing similarity of their opening lines. On their first take, more than 75 percent of my trainees use the same words, which:

If you want to look confident and boost your executive presence, don’t begin with this line:

“So, I just thought I’d kind of quickly walk you through …”

I’m sure this sounds familiar. It’s ubiquitous, because when it comes to public speaking, we primarily learn from observing others.

Ideally, it’s great to learn from others. However, we can also pick up their bad habits. Beginning a speech with the sentence above will sink your boat before you even leave the dock.

Let’s break down this ubiquitous opening line word for word to explain why you should expunge it from your presentations:


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