The One Sentence Most Public Speakers Get Wrong

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on March 22, 2012 – 6:12 am

One of the most important sentences in any speech often comes at the very beginning.

The speaker walks to the lectern, sets down her papers, looks up, and says, “Thank you very much – I’m very excited to be here.”

But the majority of the time, the speaker utters that line without any discernible excitement. They’re saying that they’re happy to be there, but their voice and body language sends the exact opposite message.

When I mention that to our trainees after a practice speech, they’re usually surprised. They thought they had delivered the line well. I suspect that their nervousness restrained them, that their internal adrenaline rush deceived them into thinking that they were coming across more energetically.

Yes, I know. He's very, very excited to be there.

That type of “message disconnect” is problematic because when you send your audience one message with your words and another with your voice and body language, the audience isn’t going to believe your words.

It’s not just “I’m very excited” that gets speakers in trouble; it’s any similar line, such as:

“I’m thrilled to announce this new product.”

“Thank you so much for traveling from all over the world to join us at this conference.”

“I’m deeply honored that you’ve selected me for this year’s award.”

 

And that’s not all. Speakers regularly commit yet another speaking faux-pas when delivering those lines: they often read them to their audience.

Yup, their heads are down, their voices are flat, and they read “I’m so glad you joined us at this year’s conference” to the audience from their prepared text. If you have to read your notes to be able to tell your audience that you’re “glad” they’re there, you’re not really glad. You’re just reading. Speakers who read “sincere” greetings will have an audience full of people who doubt their sincerity.

So next time you open a speech with a warm greeting, leave the notes behind. Your specific words don’t really matter, but your tone and sincerity do. Welcome people, express gratitude, and exhibit genuine excitement without notes. And make sure your audience knows you mean it.

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

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    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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