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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

1 Avoid Hackneyed Openings

Hackneyed means "made commonplace by frequent use." There is no more common opening than the predictable and perfunctory "I am so happy to be here," or, "It is indeed a pleasure to be here." While that may be true, your listeners have heard hundreds, if not thousands, of presentations start the same way. The natural response for the audience is to tune out the presenter, and you lose the most valuable time you have to make a strong first impression.

In The Sir Winston Method, James C. Humes explains Winston Churchill's aversion to such phrases. Churchill once told an associate, "I never say, ‘It gives me great pleasure,’ to speak to any audience because there are only a few activities from which I derive intense pleasure and speaking is not one of them."

You may think you need to open with an acknowledgement or praise of your hosts. Humes suggests your opening is not the best place for such comments: "If you really want to say something nice about the organization or if you have to single out a few in the audience for special mention, save it for the middle of the speech, when it is believed. Churchill believed that praise in the beginning of the speech comes off as flattery; the same praise in the middle of the speech comes off as sincerity."

EXERCISE 4-1

Listen to as many introductions as you can.

Which were hackneyed, boring, and uninspiring? What effect did this have on your expectations for the rest of the presentation?

Which were original, grabbed your interest from the first seconds, and were uplifting? What made them original? What effect did this have on your expectations for the rest of the presentation?



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