In Toastmasters meetings around the world, the most common opening for a speech or Table Topis response is some version of:
"Madam or Mister Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, most welcome guests..."
I always think, "Not 'all' welcome guests, just 'most' of them."
Imagine you are in an audience and a speaker begins, "Mister Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, and most welcome guests..." Is your curiosity aroused? Are you taken away from wondering about lunch, or picking up the kids from school? Are you thinking, "Wow! This is going to be fantastic. I am soooo glad I came to this event! I think it was the 'fellow Toastmasters' part that touched my heart!"
If not, why do so many Toastmasters start a speech or presentation this way? Protocol is the most common reason offered. Habit is another. It's easy. It fills time. It's a "rule?!"
After a recent workshop, someone e-mailed me, "Thank you for all the tips - still confused as to whether or not we must/should use the greeting 'M chair FTM' in a speech."
You are free to use "Mr/Madam Chair, fellow Toastmasters, welcome guests..." in a speech. Just be aware of the impact and of the habit. I once saw a Toastmaster speaking outside of Toastmasters say, "Mr Chair, fellow Toastmasters, welcome guests..." It looked pretty dumb, and I realized why the person said it - it was habit.
The second worst opening is, "Today, I will talk about..." Never talk about something. Make a point. Just say it.
Here are some more bad opening lines to a speech.
If your aim is to pique the interest of the audience and, as World Champion of Public Speaking, Ed Tate says, "Break the audience's preoccupation," then find another way:
- Alarming statistic
- Enrolling questions
"Who wants.. doesn't want... is a member of... believes...?" where the answer is a hand-raising, "Yes."
"Are you experiencing [describe the problem]?"
"Do you desire [describe the desire]?"
- Personal story
Story that relates to your subject and thesis; and ideally relates to the audience's reason for being there
A joke that relates to your theme/thesis. Best is when the joke is on you - self-deprecating - to show your vulnerability and likeability
- A prop
Simple, bold and relates to your theme/thesis.
- Sound or visual effect
- Staged event by another person
- Refer to the last speaker
If the last speaker enthralled the audience, keep it going by connecting your presentation to it, if it logically or emotionally ties in. Don't just ride on that speaker's coat tails.
- Share a statement of vision
- Tony Holland opens with "I garden therefore I am." This is a signature phrase and it CAN work.
Here is an interesting video by public speaking coach Akash Karia in Hong Kong:
What do you do if the organization at which you are speaking does observe a particular protocol? Open to bring the audience in, then precede the thesis with protocol. For example:
We face an age of incredible challenges: global warming, global economic turmoil, global overpopulation, the power of global corporations over governments, global polution poisoning our home we call Earth.
We face what seem like impossible challenges, but Your Majesty, Mr. President, Chair, ladies and gentlemen we also enter an age of opportunity. We have an opportunity to resolve these problems, not as nations, but led by a world united and actioned as individuals.