As we approach the holiday of Thanksgiving in the United States, we find ourselves giving thanks...for our family, for our good fortune, for our freedom. And that all seems like a good idea.
Where giving thanks isn't such a good idea is when we're giving a presentation.
Too many presentations open with "Thank you for inviting me to speak to you," or "I'm delighted to be here today." Yet these common, socially safe phrases miss the mark on three counts:
- You sound ordinary, boring and perhaps insincere. Do you really think your audience believes that you are thrilled, thankful or delighted to be there? When Winston Churchill was once asked why he never opened a speech with, "It gives me great pleasure to be here," he said, "There are only a few things in life that give me great pleasure and speaking isn't one of them."
- You've wasted the first few precious moments of being in front of your audience when they are registering their first impression of you and judging whether or not you're worth listening to. They likely don't even hear those overused phrases of thanks. Instead grab them with an opening that motivates them to become engaged and attentive.
- The audience doesn't care that you're happy or thankful to be there. What they really care about is whether their needs will be met and whether you'll provide value.
This may all sound like I'm advocating boorish or rude behavior. I'm not...I'm advocating effective behavior. If you feel it appropriate or necessary to thank an audience for speaking to them, do so; just don't make it the first words out of your mouth. Follow your grabber opening by offering your audience well organized content, vibrant examples and relevant applications presented in an engaging manner.
Then they'll be the ones who are giving thanks.
Flickr/The Texas Collection, Baylor University C.C. 2.0