Against Introductions to Introductions

Most public speakers (especially new public speakers) have a bad habit of re-introducing their speech. It usually looks something like this:

“Hi everybody. I wrote this speech on (insert topic) so, yeah….”

“Dang I am SO nervous…”

“My name is (insert name) and well here goes nothing…”

Although it’s a natural inclination I strongly recommend against the pre-introduction, introduction for a couple of reasons.

  1. It disconnects you from your audience. While telling the audience that you are nervous makes you feel relief, it sets them up to not like the speech; so alleviating your nervousness (which it won’t, by the way) comes at the expense of the audience’s interesting. You’re basically saying, “I’m not ready to do this, don’t bother listening.”
  2. It undercuts your introduction. You spend time writing an introduction, on paper, trying to think of something captivating. If you want to say your name, then put your name IN the introduction. But if everyone begins with their name, then after the first few speeches it becomes a signal that your speech is just like the speech of everyone else. So write a catchy introduction – if you want to say your name or something then say it – don’t leave it for some kind of “extra” sentence or two.
  3. It messes with your time. I’ve seen people add 30 seconds to a speech just because they rambled ahead of time. That can be the difference between ending on time and not.
  4. It gets you off track. You have a speech. You’ve practiced the speech. When you add things in the beginning that you didn’t plan it can often get the rest of the speech off track. I’ve seen people give “extra” intro-intros and then freeze and say, “crap I can’t remember the beginning of the speech.”
  5. Because great public speakers don’t do it. Martin Luther King didn’t stand up and say, “so yeah I’m MLK and I’m stressed out about this speech.” They went in, and they went in hard. Act as if. Believe in what you’re saying. If you have this urge to tell people the speech isn’t that good then….well….maybe you don’t love it and next time you should try to write something that you’re EXCITED to say.

I love this little blog from Ginger Public Speaking (a public speaking training/coaching firm) that discusses 5 great “opening lines” from various Ted Talks: