Start Strong! Use a Speech Introduction Your Audience Will Remember
Imagine you're an audience member who hears this from a speaker at the start of a sales pitch:
"Good morning. I'm Glenn Collect-More, president of Collect-More Medical Billing. Our experts help hospitals and medical groups maximize practice revenue. I'm delighted to speak to you this morning.
. . . Do you want to increase the number of patients you see while reducing your paperwork?"
Looks okay, doesn't it?
But now imagine that everything the speaker said up to that point took a total of 14 seconds. His voice wasn't inflected but flat, inhabiting a "vocal plateau." And no vocal expressiveness existed to give the words life, as though blood was singing in their veins. (To read more on how to become an exciting speaker, download our cheat sheet, "5 Ways to Captivate an Audience.")
How successful would you now say this speaker's greeting was?
How to Craft a Powerful Speech Introduction
All of us may remember from our school days that "a speech has three parts: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion." And while that may still be generally true in a broad sense, most presentations include a fourth component: the Greeting.
Your greeting is an essential part of your Introduction because it presents both you and your topic to your audience, giving your listeners a flavor of what will follow. Equally important, it opens up the channel of communication between you and your listeners. It alerts an audience to whether you're going to be interesting or not. And it starts influencing listeners when they're primed to pay maximum attention.
All pretty important considerations! As I tell my clients and trainees, your greeting is a presentation element that absolutely shouldn't be neglected.
(Just as important is grabbing your audience with an opening that will engage their interest immediately. To excel in your opening, find strategies and techniques in my e-book, How to Start a Speech .)
You Only Have 30-60 Seconds to Build Your Credibility with an Audience
You may have said at some point, "Things felt a little shaky at first. But after 2 or 3 minutes, I got on track and everything went fine after that."
But audiences judge you in the first 30 to 60 seconds! That's all the time you have to get their judgments working in your favor rather than against you. Again, your greeting is precious real estate that you must develop, not let lie fallow.
The problem may lie with your content. But it's just as likely that it's your delivery that is undermining our effectiveness. Chances are you say the same thing, so many times, to so many audiences, for instance, that you may forget that these particular listeners have never heard it before. You may then become guilty of "phoning in your performance," as actors say, instead of investing it with all the energy and passion you're capable of in service to your topic. Accomplish the latter, and you'll be well on your way to speaking with charisma and presence for leadership.
(To get off to the strongest start possible, see my article "How to Begin a Presentation: The Critical First 60 Seconds.")
Marrying Sound and Sense
The selection at the start of this article, for instance, is similar to what I heard last week when I conducted a breakfast workshop for a professional group. One of the attendees volunteered to give us the opening of his "stump pitch," and that is the content (changed with regard to industry) that I included above.
He didn't realize—and you can see it too if you re-read what he said—that there were four components to his greeting, not one. Before he asked his "grabbing" question, that is, he did the following: 1) greeted his audience with "Good morning," 2) identified himself, 3) named his company's expertise that might be of interest to prospects, and 4) told his listeners that he was delighted to be speaking to them. After that came his "hook." Before that came the elements of his greeting that he'd specifically included to begin pleasantly and professionally.
The problem was that, although he knew why those elements were there, he'd rattled them off so many times that he'd lost his own interest in the content. He was telegraphing to his audience vocally that it no longer revved his engine to say these things.
I coached this gentleman briefly, getting him to invest himself emotionally in each of the four elements of his greeting, rather than allowing them to run together. In a short time, he'd caught on and his vocal delivery skills began to match the important information he was getting across to his listeners.
His fellow workshop attendees spontaneously applauded at his last attempt. Now he had a greeting that accomplished its job, helping to launch his presentation strongly.
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