7 Speech Opening Sentences That Could Annoy Your Audience

Your first sentence in your next speech will either offend your listeners or attract them. To make sure you stay away from the worst opening statements I have heard, I’m sharing seven of them–words that would have audience members thinking silently, “Oh no, not that corny stuff again.”

ONE: “I’m not an expert on this topic.”
Then why should you listen to this person? If he or she downgrades credibility so brazenly, why should you grant a half-hour of your time to hear the message?

TWO: “Please bear with me, because I’m really nervous when it comes to giving speeches.”
Just imagine: What if a surgeon said “I hope my hands don’t shake too much. Haven’t done this operation before.” Or a mechanic: “Man, you’ve got me really shook up with this unusual engine problem.”
We want our speakers and every other person providing a service to display confidence. Only then will we trust them to perform effectively.

THREE: “Can those of you sitting in the back of the room hear me OK?”
Two big problems with this opener. One is that if they can’t hear you then logically they can’t respond to what you said. Second, asking that question reflects that you didn’t check out the acoustics or microphone ahead of time, which polished presenters do.

FOUR: “I appreciate that kind introduction. Wish my spouse would have been here to learn what a good guy (or lady) I am.”
What audience hasn’t heard that before? Instantly, your listeners would expect a speech packed with unoriginal thoughts and copied phrases.

FIVE: “I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to learn anything about your group.”
Reaction: Why not? Don’t you use the Internet? Couldn’t you have visited our Web site?

SIX: “Barely got here on time, I was being interviewed by the TV station downtown.”
Braggarts will not get attention after starting with ego-centered remarks.

SEVEN: “The print is pretty small on my PowerPoint slides, so raise your hand if you need me to read some of it aloud during my presentation.”
The print should not be too small. The skilled presenter gets the size right weeks before facing an audience.

In recent weeks “Clubhouse” has gained remarkable popularity as an online set of “rooms” you can visit to hear discussions about various business topics–and sometimes even participate in the discussions. On YouTube I watched a how-to video about Clubhouse. These instructions helped me get started. I believe you’ll find them useful too.



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Use the Best Method for Speech Preparation and Delivery

In preparing and delivering a speech, you can select from four methods.

The impromptu method allows the speaker only a few seconds to prepare. You might get a summons from your supervisor during a staff meeting: “Sally, tell the group what you learned at the seminar in Boston.” There’s no opportunity for her to jot down major points. She describes the seminar “off the cuff,” as we say.

Clearly, we get into situations like that where we have no choice, so impromptu has to happen. However, I can’t recommend speaking without preparation when you have head notice. Too many things can go wrong–memory loss, rambling, and confusing the facts.


The speaker writes the speech in full, then relies on the text verbatim. Especially for novices, this method seems comforting. Yet the tendency is for the speaker to rely on the text so heavily that he sounds like a reader. Predictably, the manuscript becomes a barrier between you and the audience.


A few speakers memorize their messages, rehearsing them many times until they are sure they will remember every word. Only a few people in ten thousand succeed with this method. The pressure to recite every word makes the speaker look like a mannequin with a voice.


Now we have reached the method I’ve used in hundreds of presentations, and have taught to every one of my Speech Coaching clients. The speaker researches the topic, then outlines thoroughly, jotting down key words and phrases. Rather than take a full manuscript to the lectern, she takes one small page with the main three or four points on it. In my case, I’ve found a regular size mailing envelope the right size to include the “prompts” I need. Fits nicely into a coat pocket.

The extemp (or “key word”) speaker glances down at notes only occasionally to stay on track. Relieved of the obligation to follow a text exactly–through either reading or memorization–she addresses the audience with a tone that resembles animated conversation.


Try this: envision a car salesman you’re visiting for the third time. How many pages will he turn as he makes his closing appeal? Enough said.


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For your next job interview, follow the extemporaneous method to prepare your remarks. Read to your interviewer and you’re sunk. Speak to the interviewer without worrying about your exact wording, and you’re far more likely to become a finalist for the position.


To learn how I can help your company and you communicate with “poise, persuasion–and profits,” call me:

Call 678-316-4300

Copyright 2021