If you value your reputation as a professional, intend to build credibility with your audience, and want to increase personal presence, avoid making these comments in your next presentation:
“I don’t know why they asked me to do this.” Speakers often intend this opening throw-away line to show humility, as in “Aw, shucks, who am I to do this when there are so many more qualified people who could do a better job.” The intention is good, but the technique is bad. As a speaker, your first job in audience analysis is to know why you’ve been asked to speak. What is the unique perspective you bring to the topic or the group? Not knowing what you bring to the table does not instill confidence in the audience that you’re about to deliver value for them.
“The funniest thing happened to me a few years/weeks/days ago.” After such a statement, the audience will beg to differ. That is, after you tell that funny story, the likely reaction will be, “That wasn’t so funny.” Why? Because you set the group up for disappointment by telling them the story was supposed to be funny, sad, strange, shocking. Never tell an audience how they should react.
“You’ve probably heard all this before.” So why tell them what they already know? This comment is typically offered as an apology when presenters think (incorrectly), that they must give context and background information “to get a few people up to speed” before delivering their main point. Providing context does not mean repeating known information. The statement merely warns the audience to tune out for a time.
I know you can’t see this, but what it shows is …” (referring to a visual) If they can’t see it, don’t show it.
“Are there any questions?” This closed-end question implies that there may NOT be any question. When asked with closed body language and poor eye contact, many audience members actually hear it to mean, “You don’t have any questions, do you?” If you want to encourage questions, use phrasing that implies there will be some: “What questions do you have?”
“That wraps it up. That’s all I’ve got.” Your close represents your last chance to drive your message home. Never waste this point of high impact with a Donald Duck line. As I said in Speak with Confidence! more than 12 years ago, end with a wallop, not a whimper.
Count how many times you hear one of these statements in the next round of presentations in your organization. Then consider them wasted opportunities—opportunities to persuade an audience.