“Ladies and gentlemen, I must apologize up front if my speech seems unprepared or disjointed. I have been travelling abroad most of this month and have had little time to plan for this speech. None the less, I hope you will find some nuggets of gold in my disjointed thoughts.”
This was the opening message that a highly acclaimed and publicized speaker gave last week before a crowd of busy and influential business people. Did he just tell us that we’re not important enough to prepare for? His apology was a shame, since we now questioned his credibility. Indeed, it created an “expectation” in the minds of participants that this highly acclaimed speaker might not be worthy of our time and attention, both of which are in high demand these days.
As it turned out, Mr. Speaker was very good. If he had not apologized, we would have expected that he fully prepared and we would have thoroughly appreciated his time and attention to our needs.
The general rule in public speaking is that a good speaker should not apologize unless the reason for the apology will affect how an audience understands you. For example, if you’ve recently discovered that the sound system is dead, advise the audience so they can move closer, etc. If you have laryngitis, tell the audience so and add, “I’m sorry if you have difficulty hearing me. I’ll do the best I can with the microphone.” Short of affecting how we can understand you, eliminate making apologies from your speeches.
Choosing not to prepare is a major faux pas in public speaking. Don’t draw attention to your poor judgment. When you do, the audience pays attention to your lack of preparation instead of finding key points to take from your speech.
Additionally, eliminate apologies for the lack of clear examples of evidence. If you know an example is particularly weak, don’t use it. If you simply need more or better examples, don’t call attention to it. Use the examples you have as they are likely to be fine. Make strong statements with your verifiable evidence or statistics, and move on.
Eliminate apologies for forgetting your next lines (“oh, dear, I’ve just forgotten what I was about to say.”). Move on. If a line or section that you’ve forgotten is critically important, finish your current thoughts and then say, “I should mention here that…” and go back to that important section.
Good delivery means never having to say you’re sorry. Help your audience stay focused on the strong message and beneficial information you are sharing with them. After all, it’s not about you, it’s about THEM!
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