Over the years I have attended, and presented, many speeches. I recently, and miserably, travelled to Wisconsin in order to sit through 25 minutes of the speech from hell. Ergo, I feel a responsibility to provide some tips for any of my thousands of readers/fans that may have occasion to give a speech or presentation in the future.
• ‘I’ve never done this before.’ Change to: ‘I’d like to start with the complete self-destruction of my credibility.’
• Avoid tired, worn clichés like the plague. Example: ‘avoid like the plague.’
• ‘I’ or ‘me.’ The presentation is not about you, it’s about the audience. Replace ‘I’ or ‘me’ with ‘you,’ or ‘us.’
• ‘So . . .’ Over 90 percent of the time this is the first word out of a speaker’s mouth, and yet ‘so’ is a continuation of a previous thought. So, it’s impossible to start a speech with ‘so.’
• ‘First, I’ll talk about…,’ ‘then we’ll talk about…,’ ‘then I’ll talk about…,’ then there will be a short break so that you can all walk out!
• ‘My topic is . . .’ Like the space shuttle, the launch is the most critical point in your speech. Ask a question, or better yet, lead with a compelling, attention-getting statement: ‘Every one of us in this room will one day (wish, experience, face...)’
• ‘I’ve been asked to speak about…’ Wow, you are either really important — or a pompous @$$.
• ‘Sorry for…’ Uh-oh. Definition of apology: ‘an expression of regret, remorse or sorrow.’ How can this possibly go well?
• ‘I’d like to start out with a story.’ A story is one of the best ways to open any speech. However, introducing the introduction negates the advantage of starting with a story. Just start the story.
• ‘There’s a funny joke . . .’ Hmmm — think Rainman declaring ‘I’m an excellent driver.’ Skip the stage-setting and simply start with, ‘A rabbi, a priest and a monkey walk into the bar….’
• ‘Excuse me if I seem nervous.’ Change it to ‘Excuse me if my speech is a knock-kneed, soaked-in-sweat, quavering voice failure…’ It’s much more efficient at completely destroying your credibility.
• ‘I’m not good at public speaking.’ Um, then don’t do it.
• ‘I’m not a speaker.’ Um, are you giving a presentation? Then, yes you are.
• ‘Bear with me.’ I was told in a class to always be prepared enough to give your presentation as if your laptop was lost at the airport. (Sidebar: Note that it’s not ‘bare with me,’ which would actually be much more entertaining.)
• ‘The next slide shows . . .’ Unless you’re presenting to an audience composed of sightless people, just shut-up and show the slide.
• ‘Moving right along . . .’ Translation: I will put no effort into clever or intelligent transitioning.
• ‘I think I’ve bored you enough.’ Oh please, it’s the pathetic speech equivalent of, ‘Was it good for you?’
• ‘I’m running out of time...’ Replace with ‘I am completely lacking in any time-management skills.’
• ‘That’s all I have to say.’ Replace with: ‘As opposed to giving any thought on how to end a speech brilliantly and memorably, I will simply bail out weakly and lamely!’
Speaking of which, I’m running out of space and I think I’ve bored you enough. That’s all I have to say.
Opinions offered in If I Were King are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Tri-County Times or its staff. Email the King at email@example.com. Some content adapted from the internet.