Before I Begin…


Have you ever heard a speaker say, “Before I start…” (or something similar) when beginning their presentation? Are they using phantom time?

Bad news – “Before I begin…” was, well, before…you…began…

That’s right, once your introduction is complete, everything you say is counted against your time. If your boss asked you to provide 1-2 minutes on a project, if you start with, “Before I begin, I just want to thank my team and…” you have used time in the 1-2 minutes she gave you.

That is, if you spend one minute with “before I begin” and two minutes about the topic, you’ve used 3 minutes of your boss’s time.

The same is true for stage speaking, and Toastmasters. Note: in Toastmasters some timers will erroneously allow “before I begin” to delay starting your clock. If you notice, the clock on the wall is still running…

So what’s the point?

1. Respect your audience. Everything you say is part of everything you say. Don’t pretend you get “bonus time” just by uttering a few magic words. You’re still using their time.

2. Be prepared. If you have “before I begin” remarks, then you’ll need to shorten your other content to stay on time. In some cases, you may be able to ask the introducer to include some informations in the introduction for you.

3. Get help. If you need to have handouts or special instructions, talk to someone in advance about getting the materials out or the instructions to the introducer.

Once you’ve taken the stage, you’re on the clock. Ask for help when you need it, be prepared and show that you respect your audience’s time. There is no phantom time, so before I conclude I just want to say, “Use the real time you have wisely.”

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