Presentation Hack: "For those of you who don't know me..."

I've been to quite a few weddings. Not that I've been invited to more than any of you, but I have moonlighted in a few banquet halls over the years. As such, I've heard my fair share of toasts by Best Men and Maids of Honor. (And eaten my fair share of dinners in the back half.)

For many Best Men or Maids of Honor, the dinner toast is one (1) of the most stressful aspects of a wedding weekend for them. Public speaking causes all sorts of anxiety - magnified by the pressure of knowing your failure might ruin your best friend's most special day of his/her life! Yikes!

It doesn't take long to determine who is comfortable holding the microphone. And whether I can see the body language or not, it's sometimes the first few words that come out of their mouths that give it away.

Few public speaking phrases get me to cringe as reliably and as intensely as an introduction of 
"For those of you who don't know me..."
This introduction extends well beyond wedding toasts. It includes workplace training, charity event emcee'ing, work meetings...or any number of events were you might be addressing a group where you don't know a few of them.

Before moving on, I want to distinguish two (2) different tones of this phrase. One (1) of them is in a slightly condescending manner, as if most everyone should know the speaker. This tone helps flag the speaker as an arrogant prick (gender-neutral usage). It's as if s/he is saying, "You all should know me, but if you don't, I'm about to tell you my name and why you should listen to me."

I'm more concerned with the second tone -- as in a timid tone where the speaker almost apologizes to the audience for not personally knowing them all. Of the two (2) tones, this second one (1) is that which actually bothers me more. (Don't get me wrong, the first usage bothers me too!)

How else does this phrase get adapted? 
"As Susan said, my name is Greta." 
Why do you use "as Susan said"...? It's unnecessary.

Let me cut to the point: Not only is it's weak! It displays a lack of confidence. It's apologetic where none is appropriate.

So what to do?

A simple but great option is to simply kill those first few words.
"My name is John. I'm Peter's best friend from kindergarten."
"I'm Becky from accounting. I'm here to talk about the new expense report." 
"It's so great to see so many friends here tonight! I'm Julie and I'll be your host for what's guaranteed to be a fun evening!"  
Own it. Put it out there. Be confident and content with knowing that some know you...and some don't.

You wanna start with a joke? Fine. Wanna start with "Good evening, everyone!"...? Great. But do NOT fall back to "For those of you who don't know me..."

Strong presentations require confidence. They require ownership. They require confident language that comes off as credible and with a sense of authority.

They also require practice.

The next time you're asked to give a presentation, training, run a meeting, or make a toast...take a few moments to practice your first line. It doesn't matter whether you're admitting a drinking problem to your family, raising a glass to your recently dead grandfather at his funeral luncheon, or addressing hundreds at an industry conference that's highlighted you as their keynote.

Master your introduction. Then get into the meat of it.

Give them a reason to remember your name for next time.

It doesn't hurt to have a great wrap-up ending either. ;)


Aside from writing on a variety of topics, I publish a column of blog posts under the label Presentation Hack. Check them out for ideas, tips, and tricks to better public speaking or classroom experiences!


Lou Hayes, Jr. is a criminal investigations & intelligence unit supervisor in a suburban Chicago police department. With a passion for training, he studies human performance & decision-making, creativity, emotional intelligence, and adaptability. Follow Lou on Twitter at @LouHayesJr or on LinkedInHe also maintains a LinkedIn page for The Illinois Model.


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