“Opening Amenities are Opening Inanities”

The title of this post is one of my favorite lines from Winston Churchill.

What does it mean?

In the context of your next Zoom meeting or presentation it means I would prefer that you not begin by saying,

“Thank you so much for making the time to be here today; in particular, I really want to thank X for organizing everybody and Y for their technical support…” Etc.

These are amenities. These are niceties.

Why are these a problem?

Because the moment when you first open your mouth is when you have everyone’s attention. Filling that precious time with a lot of blah-blah this and thank you that is not going to hook your audience into your topic or pique their interest in your idea.

What would I prefer you do instead?

Catch their attention by beginning with a story, a statistic, or a question.

Is this an easy way to begin your speech?

Many people don’t think so. Most of us have become so used to the, “Hi, I’m so-and-so/Thank you for coming” formula that leaving it out gives us the jim-jams.

When this occurs with my clients, I’ve found the easiest way around it is to record them beginning their presentation both ways. After watching, they see how much stronger it is to begin without “inanities”.

If you feel similarly anxious about this notion, I recommend you do the same. You’ll quickly see how much more compelling it is to open with your story, statistic or question.

Another reason I make this recommendation is that thanking your audience before they’ve done anything ‘reads’ as flattery; waiting to thank them until the end lands as sincerity because by then they’ve done something that merits a thank you —they have listened to you—so you have a genuine reason to offer them your thanks.


For more on the value of storytelling take a look at “Using Storytelling to Move Others to Action”