Start Strong in a Presentation

You always need to start strong in a presentation. Please, please, please do not begin with an apology

Start strong in a presentation

You always need to start strong in a presentation.

Please, please, please do not begin with an apology.

Picture the scene.
You are about to take the stage to deliver an important presentation.
You have spent weeks preparing and rehearsing.
You know what you need to say.
You know how to say what you need to say in a compelling way.
You are ready.
The audience are waiting for you to begin.
But then instead of taking to the stage with all the style and confidence of your best self, you start with an apology.
That breeze you can feel isn’t because someone has opened a window – it is the force of the collective sigh from your audience.

When you start your presentation with an apology you instantly change the mood in the room – and not in a good way.
Your audience have come to be informed, inspired, and maybe even entertained.
Apologising right out of the gate makes them feel like they may have made a mistake by showing up.
Every second of your time as a presenter is valuable.
Instead of grabbing your audience’s attention and reeling them in, you are taking the focus away from your presentation.
Starting by apologising can make you seem unsure, hesitant, or unprepared.
For example, at a recent black-tie dinner event we heard the following start:

“Sorry, this won’t be great – didn’t think I was due onstage for another 10 minutes.”

It was a chance for the speaker to shine and give a powerful impression for his business.

His slot was around 5 minutes.

He completely wasted 3 minutes with an apology at the start.

Not only did he start by saying didn’t think he was due onstage yet.

He told us when he thought he was due.

He explained how he learned that he was actually going to be onstage sooner.

He told us how he felt about the minor change, in some detail.

He told us how he would have preferred for the timings to remain the same.

Nothing he said after that made any impact.

Most people remembered him only as ‘the timing’ guy.

He sure failed to start strong in a presentation.
Think about getting on board a flight.
You are seated, your belt is on and you even found an overhead locker nearby.
Then the captain comes on the microphone for the first time.
From the way they say those first few words, you can accurately predict whether the flight is taking off on time.
A hesitant ‘good morning’ from the captain means there is a problem.
An upbeat ‘good morning’ means we are about to taxi out to the runway.  
Say goodbye to apologies – save them for the times when they are really needed.
Start on a positive note.
Capture your audience’s attention right from the start – bring them into your presentation, let them know that you are worth listening to.
A confident and engaging tone sets the tone for your entire presentation.
Even if you have a challenge when you are presenting, turn it to your advantage:
“You can probably hear I have a cold today, but there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity to speak to you today.”
This is a good example of how to start strong in a presentation.

Many speakers would do the opposite and blame the cold for a poorer performance before they get going properly.

Now let’s turn our attention to the apologies we have heard most often from presenters.
How many of these have you heard…or used?
1.  I’m really sorry, I hate speaking in public
2.  I’m sorry to have dragged you all here today in such awful weather.
3.  I have to apologise about bringing you here so early/keeping you here so late.
4.  You can probably here I have a cold, I’m sorry if I’m a bit low key.
5.  Let me start by apologising, I have been so busy lately, I’m really not prepared for this.
6.  I actually don’t know a lot about this, so I’m sorry if I tell you things you already know.
7.  Sorry folks, this is going to be really long.
8.  We all know that this is going to be quite boring, I can only apologise.
9.  Ah, apologies everyone…the tech doesn’t seem to be working.

10. The only thing between you and the bar is me…sorry about that.

Make sure you avoid these (and all other) apologies.


And just before you take the stage – make one final choice.
Are you going to sound like the pilot announcing a delay?
Or are you going to sound like you are ready for take-off?

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