Here are two speech openers I have used over the years regularly with amazing success. Try it out and let me know if it worked for you.
Immediately after my introduction:
“Thank you so much for that correct introduction. These days, it is very difficult to get people to introduce correctly despite sending your profile in advance. It is like the plight of David Collins, who was introduced this way – ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome David Collins, an outstanding businessman who made a million dollars in the stock market in Pennsylvania in 1961. David Collins was a bit embarrassed and said – thank you for your kind words but I’d like to clarify-
It was not 1961 but 1971.
Not Pennsylvania but California.
Not the stock markets but the races.
Not a million dollars but ten thousand dollars.
Not me but my brother Michael Collins.
And he did not make it, he lost it !”
Compared to that intro, I thought you did a pretty decent job! thank you so much !”
I was inspired (euphemism for lifted !) by Norman Augustine, former chairman of Lockheed Martin, who used this anecdote as a speech opener upon receiving the Thayer award from the US Military Academy.
I’ve tried this out on various audiences ranging from software geeks to academics to college kids to chartered accountants to lawyers to medical doctors and it has worked for me very well (so far, at least..).
The second opener, also a top of the charts for me;
I was asked to be the Master of Ceremonies (MC) for an important Toastmasters event by my friend, Pramod. And this how I started…..
“Last week, Pramod called up the most accomplished Toastmaster of our country and asked him to be the MC for this event. He opted out saying he didn’t have the time. Pramod then called up the most popular Toastmaster of our country and he too refused. Undeterred, Pramod next called up the most handsome Toastmaster of our country and he also said it may not be possible for him. Finally, just yesterday, Pramod called me frantically and said ‘CK, I want you to be the MC for tomorrow’s event. And I thought, how can I say NO to Pramod, four times in a row and that’s how I am here ! (I adapted this from an extremely readable book “Mitch Murray’s One liners”)
The first time I used it in an auditorium with 500 people in the audience and I got a sustained applause for two minutes. After the event, a teenager came up to me and said – if only I could speak like you, I would have many, many girlfriends, uncle !”
Trust me when I say this, my ego reached a crescendo and immediately plunged to the gutters after that seemingly harmless word called “uncle”. Uncle !!! This world is unfair at times !!!Well, you can’t win all the time ! I accepted that you must learn to age gracefully !
Unfortunately, Pramod was with me when this incident happened and he coined a term “Anecdote Uncle” for me and every Toastmaster in my club Smedley Speakers Society calls me AA now !!
While using humor in public speaking, I’ve always been guided by this remarkable saying of Ethel Barrymore -” You grow up the day you have your first real laugh – at yourself.”