Several years ago, one of our coaches attended a speech by the president of a major industry association. This industry bigwig was speaking about the state of his business. After being introduced, he spent the first five minutes of his 20 minute speech thanking people for inviting him. That’s a quarter of his speech! And it went downhill from there.

It was a nightmare.

The problem, of course, is the “Thank yous” are wasted time for the overwhelming majority of the people listening. They want to hear what you have to say, not who has helped you along your way.

We used to tell people to dump all “Thank yous.” You’re there for your audience. Give out your “thank yous” personally in private. That should be enough to show your gratitude.

But we’ve modified that advice based on the fact that so many people ignore it. The fact is that speakers want to give some “thank yous”.

So here’s what we say now: Thank people for 10 seconds. Pause. Then begin. If you can’t thank everyone in 10 seconds, you simply have too many people to thank. You pause because it gives the audience a clear sense that the real speech is about to begin. The pause says “So we’ve got that out of the way. Now let’s start.”

We love marketing guru Seth Godin’s idea on this subject. He recommends taking photos of all the people you want to thank and projecting them up on the screen in your auditorium prior to your speech. It will save you from having to formally thank them during the speech itself. As much as we love this creativity, it’s not very practical for most speakers.

Speechworks is a communication and selling skills coaching firm. We teach professionals how to craft and deliver complex messages in a simple, persuasive manner. Since 1986, through workshops and one-on-one instruction, we have helped countless individuals become better presenters and communicators. You can reach us at 404.266.0888, or on the web at

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