Yes, Your Two-Minute Introduction Does Matter

A few years ago, Ignite CSP was working with a company on their big annual event. Several of us were coaching their speakers, and one of my clients was the person tasked with speaking for a few minutes at the very beginning. I was excited—the kickoff speaker! 

Getting the opportunity to craft the first few minutes of the whole experience is an honor, and a a big deal. All actors and directors know that you’re going to spend longer on the first couple of pages of the script than almost anything else in the play—you’re teaching the audience how to understand and relate to what you’re sharing with them. Those minutes can make or break the whole experience. 

Unfortunately, no one but me seemed to understand the importance of her task. The people in charge of allotting coaching time to the various speakers had only given us two 30-minute slots, one virtual and one in-person. And when we began our first meeting, she said, “Well, this won’t take long, I’m only talking for two minutes.”

Except this speaker’s job wasn’t to talk for two minutes. Her job was to set the tone for the entire conference, to create excitement in the room, and to set the other speakers up for success. This is a crucial role, and the length of the speech is irrelevant. The fact that she was only speaking for two minutes meant that she needed more coaching to make sure there wasn’t a single wasted moment. 

When we disregard the beginning, why should our audience pay attention to what comes afterwards? If we can’t be bothered to do our best when we’re speaking for two minutes, why would anyone want to listen to us for longer?

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