How to Craft an Introduction for Your Speaking Engagement, Part 1

“I can’t speak for you this weekend, ma’am. I don’t have anything to say, and no one wants to hear me anyway.”

“Yvonne, you do have something to say, and we do want to hear you. I’ll see you tomorrow—on stage.” And she hung up.

That conversation occurred years ago. I was scheduled to speak for a women’s event. The night before out of fear, I called the event planner to get out of it, but she wouldn’t let me. I felt sick to my stomach. The next day, as I stepped on stage, I felt like a prisoner walking the plank on a pirate’s ship. I spoke, and it was a disaster. That group never asked me to speak for them again.

When you need to speak, how do you react? 

Do your knees shake? Do your hands get clammy? Does your stomach feel uneasy? You may wonder how you’ll start. I understand.

Fast forward to today, I no longer fear speaking to an audience. 

I enjoy it and look forward to it. My heart doesn’t race anymore on stage. I don’t pace back and forth, and I can eat.

How did I move from “Fearful Frances” to “Confident Connie”? Speaker training and the investment of several thousand dollars paid off. I learned how to craft a presentation from the introduction to the conclusion. I also learned delivery techniques.

However, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on speaker training. You can learn from my mistakes, which I often mention in my speaking tips for speakers, writers, and leaders. You can attend conferences that have a speaking track, read books on speaking, and invest in individual and group speaker coaching online and in person from me or another certified speaking coach. You may decide that practice will help you, but if you practice wrong, it won’t. Think of speaker training as an investment and how much you will gain from it.

Let’s start with the introduction. 

In this article, you will receive three steps you can use to craft your introduction and speak with power, passion, and polish.

First, to draw your audience in, “Begin with a Bang.” In writing, you begin with a hook, a literary device to grab the attention of the readers. In speaking, I call it, “Begin with a Bang.” If you look at how I started, you’ll notice I jumped into the middle of my disastrous first event with dialogue. Then I gave you the back story.

Next, I involved you, the audience, as I asked how you might feel in a similar situation.

How did I grab your attention? I recognized the importance of the first seven seconds and began with a bang. The audience will decide whether they like you in the first seven seconds. You also establish credibility as a speaker in the first seven seconds. And in the first thirty seconds, the audience will decide if they want to hear more.

To begin your speech with a bang, you avoid “unpleasant pleasantries.” Here is an example of an unpleasant pleasantry: “It’s my pleasure to be here, even though the weather is very cold, and the wind is blowing.” That audience entered the building from outside, and they don’t need a weather report.

Here is another example of an unpleasant pleasantry: “I want to thank Rita, Rhonda, and Renee for inviting me to speak here.” There’s nothing wrong with gratitude for the people who invited you to speak, but don’t open your speech that way.

Unpleasant pleasantries are weak openings. 

Many speakers open their presentation that way, but it’s not effective. Sadly, the audience expects you to start that way. You capture their attention when you open in a different way.

Don’t open with a joke. Your audience probably already heard the joke. Some may think that if you used someone else’s joke, you probably also used someone else’s presentation.

To wrap up Part I of How to Craft Your Introduction for a Speaking Engagement:

  1. Begin with a bang.
  2. Avoid “unpleasant pleasantries.”
  3. Don’t open with a joke.

Follow these three tips to craft your introduction with power, passion, and polish.

Copyright © by Yvonne Ortega April 2019

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  1. Maree Dee on 2019-08-03 at 11:54 AM

    Fantastic input! Thank you! I do many times start with thanking those who invited me.

  2. Shannon on 2019-08-03 at 11:44 AM

    Great input, Yvonne! And I loved your storytelling!

  3. Carol Kent on 2019-08-03 at 9:24 AM

    What an excellent post from Yvonne Ortega about creating warmth and agreement with your audience by starting out with an excellent introduction!

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