Monday, December 15, 2008

Don't apologise on stage

I've seen far too many speakers who make self-denigrating opening remarks. OK, the best person to tell a story against is yourself, but don't do it right at the start of your speech. Worst of all, in my view, is the person who wanders on, looking hunched and nervous, handles the mike as though it's a poisonous snake, and then says "I'm not very good at this, and my speech isn't very well prepared"

We know you're nervous. We know you're not too confident. But we want you to do well. If you appear in front of us and start off by apologising, we'll expect the worst, and that will probably be our perception when you've finished.

So, take a few deep breaths, walk on stage with your head held high and smile. It doesn't matter if you are feeling nervous. We understand. The important thing is to do your best, and the audience will support you. If you lower our expectations by hand-wringing like Uriah Heep (no, the one in David Copperfield, not the elderly rock band), than things will only deteriorate.


Jeremy Jacobs said...

Spot on as ever Alan. You could add presenter auditions, "Powerpoint" presentations to the list.

Just the other week, a certain individual said those immortal words after he introduced himself "for my sins". Awful, bordering on the self-pitying.

Ruth Seeley said...

I never appreciated my own services (speechwriting, media coaching and prep, and accompanying clients to events where they had to speak and looking after their comfort and care) so much until I spoke myself recently to a group.

I was totally prepared in terms of my speech, but was so freaked out at the prospect of having to drive myself somewhere I'd never been (with the very real potential of getting lost), that I was well on my way to being a wreck (good thing I didn't realize my right headlight was out; I thought it was awfully dark on the drive there).

I coped by leaving a good two and a half hours early, arriving in enough time to have a nice dinner, read the paper, brush my teeth, floss, put lipstick on - and was totally calm, cool and collected by the time I had to speak. Not everyone will want to go the lipstick route though, I understand. :)

Alan said...


I think I know who you mean....but maybe not, so many do it.

Best wishes


Alan said...


Thanks for your comment. Your pre-speech routine sounds fine, but I prefer a touch of YSL Touche Eclat to the lippy (at least when I'm in a TV studio)

Best wishes


Anonymous said...

Alan: a great friend of mine once said: "Never apologize, because for your friends it's useless and your enemies won't believe in it"… From then on I never apologized again. Ever!

Adam Szymanski