Select the right words. Say them well.

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Anyone who has agonized about an upcoming speech or a presentation knows how you can fret about saying just the right words. This Monthly Memo looks at what are often the most important words you speak: I say it’s the first five.

Why the first five? Your audience makes a lot of decisions in those initial few seconds — if it is a speech, an important phone call or a one-on-one meeting. They are thinking, “Do you know what you’re talking about?” “Are you organized?” “Is this going to be worth my time?” And most importantly they’re wondering, “What does this have to do with ME?”

Can you realistically expect them to wait around until you get to the “good stuff” in five minutes? No way. Your audience spends the rest of their life making snap decisions with a computer mouse or a remote control — they don’t have time for you to warm up.

Also, consider what else they have been hearing. Are you the fourth person to stand up and say, “Hey, it’s great to be here and thanks for your time. Let’s get started, shall we?” ZZzzzzzz. Or the phone conversation that starts with, “Hey, how are you doing? Listen I have a great opportunity I want to let you in on …” Click.

Isn’t it so much more powerful for you to engage them RIGHT AWAY with something that’s aimed right at them and the things they care about?

Using this logic you go from, “Today we’re here to talk about the Research Department budget for next year …,” to “After today you’ll never think of the Research Department in the same way.” You’ve all heard, “I know we’re all feeling the pinch from the economy.” How about, “This is a great time to grow your business.” The first five words need to have energy, an audience focus and action associated with them. Your listener immediately knows you have a plan and it’s focused on them.

So the next time you are worried over sub-point two or the statistics you’ll present in minute seven or the bar graph you are putting on slide number 10, make sure you haven’t lost sight of the first five words you speak — have a plan for your opening words and how they will be heard. Too many times the average business presentation or conversation begins with, “Well, ugh …” Anyone who starts that way needs to realize it — and know they are putting themselves at a distinct disadvantage.