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Yes, we know you’re glad to be here.

You’d think the guy would know how to give a good speech.

There’s no telling how many times Bill Kristol has been in front of an audience in his long career spanning government, politics, and media. And yet … I’d like a word. Which may be a word to the wise for all of us.

You’ve probably seen Kristol on the news somewhere along the way, advocating for conservative causes going back to the Reagan administration. Later, he was chief of staff to the vice president—The New Republic called him “Dan Quayle’s brain.”  Then he advised John McCain’s presidential campaign. And now, he’s a Democrat opposing Donald Trump.

Kristol’s been a commentator for Fox News, ABC, CNN, and a newsstand’s worth of print and online publications.

As I said, you’d expect Bill Kristol to be a terrific speaker. And yet, there he was in Morning Shots newsletter for The Bulwark, filling us in about his appearance at a conference in Bonn on challenges to the media and democracy.

“I began my remarks by saying that it was good to be back in Bonn,” for the first time since a trip with Quayle in 1991.

“I also noted that yesterday was June 17, the anniversary of the 1953 uprising against the Soviet-backed Communist government of East Germany.”

Here’s a better idea for Bill. And for you, if you’ve ever been tempted to begin a presentation the same way.

You have seconds to engage your audience. Don’t waste them.

Think about the last time you watched Saturday Night Live. Notice that Bowen Yang or Heidi Gardner did not wander out on the stage and say, “Um, hi everybody. I’m so glad you’re here tonight. And of course I’m happy to be here myself. Nice weather we’re having. It’s Saturday. And you know, well, we’re doing the show in New York. And it’s not taped in advance.”

No. The SNL cast comes out on the set and does something funny. Or at least they hope it’s funny. (And yes, we could debate whether 49 seasons of Saturday Night Live is gracious plenty already.)

The point is, after they’ve captured our attention, drawn us in, and made us laugh … then they look straight at the camera and say in no uncertain terms, “Live. From New York. It’s Saturday Night!”

There’s no easing into it or waffling about it or trying to set it up. When they start the show, they start the show. It’s crisp, it’s clean, it’s direct.

As speakers, we can take a cue from the Saturday Night Live producers. Instead of that soft, squishy, easing-into-it approach that can help a speaker feel more comfortable, start your talk with something that gets attention. And keeps it.

Your job, right from the jump, is to give your audience a reason to listen to what you have to say.

Easing into it is tempting.

Speakers often start with polite blahblah because it feels better to them. “Nice to be here,” “Great weather we’re having,” or for that matter, “Thanks for braving the monsoon to get here.”

That’s a warm-up for the speaker. Then with the pleasantries out of the way, it feels more natural to get on with the topic at hand, whatever it might be.

It’s the equivalent of writing, “I hope you’re doing well” at the beginning of an email. And it’s just as ineffective.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Fine, Catherine, but I don’t feel comfortable just jumping right into my content.”

Sorry, but your comfort isn’t the point. Your focus needs to be on the audience and your message, and how to best bring them together. It might help to try this …

Picture the thought balloons over their heads.

Sitting in a conference room, or maybe a hotel meeting room, or at their desk in front of a Zoom screen, there are dozens of concerns on your listeners’ minds.

That tough project they’re working on; it’s due this week and it’s been a struggle so far. The argument they had at home that morning; they still think they were right. The bonus they have coming next month, and all the wonderful ways they can daydream about spending it.

And on and on and on. You’re competing with all that and more when you ask for their attention. It’s not a fair fight if you start with meaningless chatter to put yourself at ease.

Instead, you want a strong statement … or maybe a question … or a story … that erases all that clutter in their thought balloons. And replaces it with you.

If you need help sorting out how to do that, well, put me in your thought balloon.