6 Painful Mistakes You’re Making in Your Introduction

Your first 7 seconds in front of an audience should be powerful & convey that you aren’t going to waste the audience’s time. Make a great first impression…or if you know them, then show them it’s a good day to listen up.

After 20 seconds, your audience has probably decided if they’re going to be listening or tuning out. So, don’t waste the first few seconds or longer with today’s six painful mistakes in your introduction section of any of your speeches or presentations.

By avoiding these 6 introduction mistakes, you’ll be a head of the crowd and off to a much stronger start.

[In my best 90’s cheerleader voice] “READY? …OKAY!”

Let’s do this!

Mistake 1. Making a comment or jokes about not wanting to be there

Stop saying things like:

  • “I didn’t want to speak, but Mr. X told me I had too.”
  • “I hate speaking and basically wish I was where you are today.”
  • “I hope this isn’t a waste of your time. I’d leave if I could.”

While maybe you think it’s funny…or “lowers the bar” for your talk, it really just makes your audience annoyed. They don’t want their time wasted. (If you want to be funny, take a peek at this other blog post here.)

Your audience wants you to make the topic of the presentation entertaining FOR THEM. When you say YOU wish you weren’t there, you make it about yourself…and might as well be saying, “This is a great time to reply to emails on your phone”

Mistake 2. Saying you’re nervous

So what if you’re nervous? Sorry to be harsh…but they don’t care.

The audience wants you to get on with the presentation.

Saying that your nervous wastes time and also shows your inexperience. Remember, you need to grab your audience’s attention quickly so every second counts.

Being nervous is expected…and unnecessary to say. Generally speaking, your audience wants you to succeed. It’s better for them. Show them reasons why them should listen, not point out yet another reason to start pushing back their cuticles with their keys.

Mistake 3. Saying “I want to tell you a story”

Telling a story is a teeeeerific way to start a presentation! (In fact, I talk about it what details to include in basically any story in another post.)  

BUT…where people sometimes go wrong, is actually introducing their story with the phrase “I want to tell you a story.”

This is yet ANOTHER thing that wastes time in your introduction. Rather than telling people what you’re about to do….just do it!

Just jump right into that story!

It will be better if you just cut this out. Trust me!

Mistake 4. Low Energy

Don’t be “dead on arrival”. If you walk up in front of people to speak and don’t have a enough energy, your introduction and impression will fall flat on it’s face.  

You have to BRING IT. Bring your momentum!

Wake up your audience and get them to sit up and listen.

You’ve got to do the pre-work. You need to be warmed up BEFORE you ever walk into the room.

Do you want the results? Or the reward?

Too many of you want people to clap and smile and LOVE everything you say before you ever say a thing….thinking THAT’S when you’ll have “energy”. Or maybe….last time you did a great job on a speech, so, you don’t think you have to have work for that energy the next time you go up to speak.


Ehhh! Incorrect. You’ve got to maintain your reputation of having the correct level of hype to swoop your audience into your message.

At the end, if you’re lazy, then your audience will be a lazy audience too. (I talk more about this in my blog post “How to Be a Speaker that Audiences Love”.)

Mistake 5. Randomness

Especially with young speakers, I’ve seen people get up and start doing RANDOM things or talking about random topics–unrelated to their presentation–in order to capture people’s attention.

Things like:

  • Pretending to have ice cream for everyone in the audience— getting out a bowls and spoons. Then saying, “Just kidding!”
  • Telling a funny but totally unrelated story about when they were a kid. Then stating, they just wanted to start with something interesting before getting into the boring stuff of the talk.

Don’t do this.

Sure, you think it’s funny, but if it doesn’t belong there & you can’t make a natural transition into your topic from it, then the idea shouldn’t be there.

Random behavior can feel gimicky (in a bad way), annoying, & can be perceived as manipulative to an audience.

If you were thinking of doing this, well…..please just don’t.

Mistake 6. Taking too long & rambling

Generally, your introduction should be only about 10- 15% of your whole talk/ presentation. If you take too long, it can seriously slow down your momentum and bore the people listening.

The audience wants you to get on with it already…while you’re up there thinking they need more background about you or your reason for picking the topic.

It’s okay! I know…it’s easy to ramble when you’re nervous. To avoid rambling, consider outlining your speaking points, write out a script for your intro, and rehearse those first few minutes thoughtfully

If you can get the intro nailed, then you’ll feel more prepared, your nerves will be in check, you’re audience will give you some positive feedback (like a laugh, eye contact, nodding heads, etc) & you’ll find your groove.

Just plan & prepare. Keep it short. Get to the point. Move on to the meat of the presentation!

How are you feeling about your speaking introductions now?

You want to make a good impression.

I want you to commit to the process of preparing & heeding my advice above! Believe in yourself. To get people to cheer you on, don’t throw away your intro by making a simple mistake.

No more excuses. No more unrelated nonsense. No more wasted words. Strong introductions are “your thing” now!

Leave me a comment (here or on my Facebook page) with what you are doing right now to make an impressive introduction?