She said it. Before she said anything else, she uttered this one word and it absolutely sabotaged her speech. Of course, she was nervous. We saw that by the way she uncomfortably wrung her hands as she walked up to the lectern. That’s expected. But, then she opened up her mouth and the first word that came out was…
Then she went on to give a minutes worth of reasons why we shouldn’t listen to her.
“Sorry, I didn’t have enough time…”
“Sorry, I’m just getting over a cold…”
“Sorry, I really wanted to have a better powerpoint…”
“Sorry, if I seem a little nervous…”
Sorry, sorry, sorry!!
Apology accepted…uhhhh, I guess!
Humility is a good thing. But, whether it’s a speech or conversation, the receiver is usually waiting for you to share something valuable with them. More often than not, they won’t make a judgment about what you have shared until after you have shared it.
If you start out by telling them all the reasons they should NOT pay attention to your message, then you make them work harder to listen to the actual message. If you didn’t mention the cold, they might have missed the slight cough because they were intently listening to your words. If you didn’t mention that you rushed to put this together, they would have assumed you knew what you were talking about simply because it was your job to do so.
When you begin with “sorry,” you immediately diminish your confidence factor. The audience sees you as less comfortable in your skin and more worried about their judgment.
Sometimes, you just don’t have the time. But, here is a better way to frame the talk.
“There is a lot of research or information on this topic, but for the next 5-7 minutes, I’d like us to focus on this specific area.”
“There are a few important factors I want to speak with you about. Periodically, I’ll guide you to the screen to give some detail but I really just want to have a face to face conversation. Can we do that? Great.”
The audience sees you as the expert. They’re waiting for you to succeed. They’re cheering for you. Seriously, didn’t you hear them clapping as you walked up? Clapping is more than just encouragement…it’s expectation. Don’t tell them immediately that they should expect less of you. It’s much harder to earn it back.
Is there a time to say sorry? Sure. If I’ve personally hurt you or offended you, then I’ll be the first to say I’m sorry. But I may not start my speech with it.
Here’s one of my related communication articles: 2 Words To Cut From Your Communication
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Also published on Medium.