Just Before Show Time
Rehearse Your Opening Line
Even an experienced speaker may,
on occasion, forget his or her opening words.
I was speaking at a “Your Stage”
event in early 2010, and there were many people in the
audience who were attending the event for the first
time. Many of these first-timers were there specifically
to hear me speak. I had a great presentation prepared,
and I was excited about the opportunity to present to
Since this was my own event, I
was responsible for the set-up before the event began.
When I arrived, I was busy setting up the screen, then
the projector, and finally the laptop, on top of taking
care of many little details that go along with hosting a
presentation. In addition, I had to meet, to greet and
to mingle with my guests.
Because of this, I didn’t get the
quiet time I need to refresh my thoughts before I speak,
therefore, I didn’t rehearse my opening line. Though I
had it prepared, and had rehearsed it many times before
this day, it wasn’t fresh in my mind because of all the
distractions before the session.
When the time for me to speak
came up, the Master of Ceremonies introduced me as I
stepped onto the stage. I suddenly found myself with
nothing to say. I looked into the faces of the audience,
and my opening line completely escaped me. In silence, I
tried to reach into my memory banks to find the words,
but there were none to be found.
After what seemed like a month, I
finally found some other words to open my presentation
with, and I recovered quickly after that. I built up
some momentum, and the presentation went smoothly
onward. It was, however, an awful feeling when I found
myself at a loss for words, even though it was for a few
moments only. I was nearly overwhelmed, and the longer
the words escaped me, the more the level of anxiety
rose. Of course, as professionals, we’re expected to
make it completely transparent to the audience, and I
believe I was able to do so in this case, but it could
have gone the other way. Had I not been able to generate
some other opening remark in reasonably short order, my
confidence would’ve gone south in a hurry and my
presentation along with it.
So, what’s the lesson? Always
rehearse your opening line a few minutes before you take