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[Speaking-Out-Loud August 2015]How to avoid gulp and gabble speech openings
August 04, 2015

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I wish my mouth had a backspace key graphic

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Gulp, gabble, grimace

Have you ever got up to speak and got the introduction wrong?

So wrong ... your audience is stunned?

I have.

Those expressions on faces changing from polite interested attention to puzzled rolling eyeball disbelief are a bad memory, one I still feel embarrassed about.

Unlike many bad memories, I don't want to push this one into a dark closet and slam the door. I want to keep it in the open where I can see it.

The cringing, hang-my-head-in-shame error was this. I was invited to talk to real estate agents (realtors) about writing sales copy. That was all good and fitting. I'd done the research and preparation, with ONE exception. I had not prepared an opening line or introduction to lead into the body of the presentation.

Gradually the hall filled up and hushed. I was introduced and, it was my turn. I remember looking at my notes, at the audience and then announcing boldly: "Writing good sales copy is like writing poetry because they both used figurative language."


Blank stares.

The rest, as they say, was history.

It isn't masochistic perversity that keeps this memory fresh. It's the lessons I learned.

Know your audience

What did a bunch of realtors want with poetry? Not a lot. Nothing. They'd been told they were coming to a session on writing ad copy.

While the comparison was apt it was totally inappropriate. I immediately lost credibility and spent the rest of the time anxiously scrabbling to make up for the gaffe. Impossible. It didn't work but I tried anyway.

These days I KNOW whom I'm talking to. Before a presentation or speech I find out as much as I can about the audience. The questions I ask are:

  • What unites or brings this audience together?
  • Are they members of a club?
  • All male?
  • All female?
  • A similar age?
  • Do they share similar interests?
  • What are their concerns?
  • What do they think or feel about my topic?
  • What are they expecting from my presentation or speech?

Collectively these can be put in the basket called building rapport and that forms the foundation of good speech preparation.


Hard on the heels of understanding who I am talking to, I no longer trust myself to be spontaneously clever and intuitive opening a speech. I carefully consider what would be appropriate and rehearse until I have it nailed.


Of course, I realize most of you are too sensible to need these reminders but just in case ...You can learn more about what I learned by stunning my audience. You'll find them here.

  • Building rapport - tips to ensure you are in tune with your audience
  • How to write a speech - Go to Step 6 "Writing the introduction" for tips on crafting the opening hook to guarantee your audience wants to listen to what you have to share.
  • How to rehearse - a step by step guideline for getting the most out of your practice time.

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What's new

A round up of pages, either revamped with added information or new on the site.

  • Business thank you speech - a fully adaptable template! Add your personal information, delete the bits you don't want ...and get a thank you speech for your employees/colleagues in a very short time.
  • Planning your speech - a detailed step through of the background analysis required before beginning to write for a particular audience. The page is a very useful alongside this one on building rapport.

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And now some inspiration

The New Yorker - The Mouth is Mightier than the Pen. I can spend many a happy hour browsing around the New Yorker finding interesting material and this article about "the sound of intellect" is a stimulating gem!

Comment, share & connect

If you've got comments, feedback or questions you're most welcome to contact me through my about me page.

If you liked this issue of Speaking-Out-Loud, please feel free to send it on to any friends or family. The site url to forward so they can subscribe is Speaking-Out-Loud.

And I'd love to see you on's face book page too.

Until next time,
Happy speaking,


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