The parental prompting to say “thank you” is a common childhood experience. Most of us remember when we were young, our mothers repeating over and over: “Say thank you”; “Don’t forget to say thank you”; “Did you say thank you?” And it was for good reason: to teach us to be polite and express sincere and heartfelt gratitude when it is appropriate.
The typical error I see presenters make when saying “thank you” is to use it more as a “filler,” something a presenter says as a default, not knowing what else to say in that moment. My advice to business leaders who are about to take the main stage? When it comes to “thanking,” don’t do it. Try these three alternatives instead.
Nix saying “thank you” as your opening comment. Frequently, business leaders open their presentation saying, “Thank you for …“and then quickly proceed to what they really want to say. The truth is that, while this might be a pleasant salutation, it is something that is merely tolerated as “status quo.” This type of default opener makes your presentation feel like it’s the “same old, same ‘ole,” and while it won’t send them running it does nothing to jump-start a successful presentation.
- TIP: Audiences want — and deserve — a much stronger opening, one that grabs their attention and sets the expectation that you are a speaker worth listening to. Open your presentation with a story, startling statistic, a little known fact — something that will break the ice and engage your audience from the get go. Looking for a strong grabber? Download some ideas here, but remember — whatever approach you choose, it’s only effective if it is both attention getting and relevant to your topic.
Nix saying “thank you” following an introduction. Picture a speaker being introduced. She walks on stage, shakes hands with the emcee, turns and faces the audience, and the first words she utters are, “Thank you, John, for that gracious introduction.”
- TIP: There’s no need to express thanks to the audience as you begin your presentation. Instead, offer sincere thanks to the emcee when you shake hands and dive into your opening remarks with a strong voice, commanding presence and relevant words — now you’re off on a powerful note.
Nix concluding with “thank you.” This is one of my biggest pet peeves; Do not rely on thank you to conclude your presentation.
- TIP: Many speakers say these words because they’ve finished speaking and they feel the need to let the audience know they are done! In desperation, they blurt out “thank you” hoping that those words will clue them in. Equally important to a strong opener is a resounding conclusion. Referred to as a haymaker, your closing statement should be a knockout punch that drives home the entire presentation. The final blow reminds listeners of the core message that you want them to remember long after the presentation has ended.
Nix the thank you, I promise your mother will not disapprove!
Are there other fillers you, or people you have heard speak, fall back on?
Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication advisor specializing in high-stake presentations. She has 25-plus years experience of coaching experience and eight years teaching presentation skills for Duke University. She has provided presentation coaching to over 3,000 individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies, high-level government officials and international business executives. Learn more at ProfessionallySpeaking.net and ProfessionallySpeakingBlog.com.