Wake me whenRaise your hand if you have set a New Year’s Resolution that has something to do with improving your public speaking, presentation skills, or your ability to communicate effectively.

Wow, that’s a lot of hands!  Congratulations – it’s a worthy goal, and somewhere out there, hundreds – if not thousands – of people will benefit from your accomplishment.

Let me get right to the point: organizing your introduction to include why you are speaking and what your listeners will get out of it makes everyone happy. You gain much-needed credibility and attention, and your audience gets to clear their minds of daily residue, or any distraction that would decrease their ability and willingness to listen.

We coach our clients to structure their introduction so that it takes up roughly 10-15% of the entire presentation. Do the math: if you are speaking for 20 minutes, that means you have 2 to 3 minutes to grab the attention of your audience, share the road map for the journey you will take together, and make them care.

Following are two introductions heard at a recent conference. Some omissions were made to the actual delivery to protect confidentiality. All other words are verbatim.

Speaker #1:

Good morning, thanks for inviting me to this annual leadership conference [scratching back of neck, looking down at the lectern, flipping through notes]. This is my first time attending this particular event. I’m usually busy writing a book, or conducting research, so I’ve never had the time. I didn’t know it drew such a big crowd. As most of you are aware, my work focuses on strategic planning and its effect on organizational success. I think you’ll find my current research relevant to your talent management efforts.

Speaker #2:

Your mission is to attract, hire, develop, and retain the best talent money can buy.  Based on that fact, I have good news and bad news to share: your job is never done!  On the one hand, you may never experience the thrill of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but on the other hand, you have job security! [laughter]. I’m here today to help you do your job more effectively so that despite never being quite finished, you will at least be recognized and rewarded for the contribution you make to your organization’s bottom line.

Which one is better? I’ll go out on a limb and guess that you chose speaker #2.  Instead of the meandering, listless, “Wonder of Me” introduction of the first speaker (aka Mr. Important), speaker #2 got right to the heart of what matters to the audience – being more successful without having to work any harder. And it was done with humor and brevity.

Our goal over the next few months is to help you achieve your New Year’s Resolution.  What we know about resolutions is that significant progress must be made in the first quarter. That means we all have until the end of March to make tangible progress toward our goal if we are ever to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Good luck! And let us know what particular topics you would like to read about!

– Barbara

Barbara Roche