Proficiency in introducing a speaker is a vital communication skill to be effective in one's professional and public life. Executives, corporate leaders and members of professional organizations are often called upon to introduce a keynote speaker. It is assumed that an introducer would deliver an informative introduction to attract audience's attention to the speaker, to the speech topic, and familiarize audience with the speaker.
Speaker introduction is a procedural formality that an introducer performs before a speaker delivers a speech. Speakers just cannot come up to a stage and start speaking, but have to be introduced. It is based on the premise that every speaker deserves a thoughtful and helpful introduction. Properly formulated and persuasively delivered introductions help establish a bond between the speaker and the audience, enhance speaker's authority, and expertise to motivate audience to listen.
However, not all introductions live up to this standard. Introducers may feel a bit nervous and apprehensive when they are either not prepared or not sure of what to say. A good or a bad introduction can make a big difference on audience's views about the speaker, and on the effectiveness of the speech.
America's famous author and a great lecturer, Mark Twain, refused to let anyone introduce him. In his words:
Introductions were so grossly flattering that they made me ashamed, and so I began my talk at a heavy disadvantage. It was a stupid custom. There was no occasion for the introduction; the introducer was almost always an ass, and his prepared speech a jumble of vulgar compliments and dreary effort to be funny; therefore after the first season I always introduced myself... (Mark Twain's Autobiography, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1924).
Not all introductions would justify such comments. Improper introductions happen when introducer did not take time to prepare and organize the contents. Introduction was just an afterthought, hastily thrown together at the last minute with little knowledge of the speaker, the speech and of its value to the audience.
The process and procedure to introduce a speaker can be learned and improved. The objective of this paper is to provide guidelines, tips, and techniques to prepare and deliver an effective speaker introduction.
Process To Introduce A Speaker
The vital parts of the process are:
1. Plan and organize the introduction.
2. Deliver the introduction.
3. Express Thanks.
Plan and Organize the Introduction
Proper planning and organization is required beforehand. The introducer should gather these vital facts, and verify their relevance and accuracy about the speaker.
Who is the speaker? (name, professional title)
- Learn the speaker's name and its pronunciation. Mispronouncing the name and the title would negatively affect an introducer's credibility.
- Verify the professional title of the speaker, e.g., Mr., Dr. His Royal Highness, or His Excellency.
Why this particular speaker?
- Research on speaker's background, education, experience and expertise.
- Find out why this particular speaker is invited to speak about this particular topic. What makes the speaker so special?
What is the title, main theme, and the length of the speech?
What is the significance and relevance of the speech to the audience?
Request a brief write-up from the speaker on how s/he would like to be introduced.
Check out if the function is formal or informal, how many people are expected to attend, and where the speaker will be seated.
Be familiar with the placement and use of the lectern and of microphone.
Write down the introduction. The length should be about one minute. However, for exceptional experts, and in a formal setting, it may be two to three minutes.
Rehearse, practice, and memorize the introduction for a professional delivery.
Deliver the Introduction
Writing a well-crafted introduction is only half of the job, the other half is an enthusiastic and professional delivery. An introduction is a mini-speech with the same elements as a prepared speech: Opening, Body and Conclusion.
The introducer should walk up to the lectern with enthusiasm and a smile, look at the audience, and greet them in a loud and clear voice. This is to attract the audience's attention, prompt them to listen, and to indicate that program is about to start. The introducer should project confidence, look excited, and smile frequently to make the speaker welcome. Delivery should clearly communicate that the audience is honored to have this speaker.
Greet the audience and identify who you are (For example, Good Evening! I am Lisa Smith - Director of Student Affairs at CPP).
Enunciate the full name, title and position of the speaker (I am here to introduce our Guest Speaker - Dr. James Smith - Director of Student Affairs at MIT).
State the subject of the speech so the audience will know the main theme of the presentation (Dr. Smith is an expert on...).
Give the speaker credibility by sharing his or her professional background, education, and experience.
Convince the audience that this speaker is highly qualified and provide specific citations to build the speaker's expertise.
Relate the importance and relevance of the topic to audience needs.
Welcome the speaker to the stage by saying:
- I welcome: speaker's name
- To speak on: speech title
- Speaker's Name - look at the speaker with smile - or gently point with hand gesture - an indication to the speaker to come forward. Lead the Applause. Wait at the lectern to shake hand and to give the control of the stage or lectern to the speaker.
The introducer should not leave the stage by crossing from the front of the speaker, but should go from the back of the speaker or exit from the opposite side while leaving the lectern.
At the conclusion of the speech, the introducer should go back to the lectern to shake hand with the speaker, lead applause and express audience's thanks and gratitude. The introducer may provide 30 seconds worth of summary comments. These comments should have references to the following:
The speech's main ideas.
How the speech helped or added to audience's knowledge.
Words of thanks and appreciation to the speaker from the audience, organizers, and from the sponsors of the speech.
What Not To Include In The Introduction
To deliver a relevant and trustworthy introduction an introducer should keep in view the following particulars:
The introducer should not try to outdo the speaker by bringing the audience's attention to himself or herself.
Introduction should not be a summary of the presentation.
Introduction should not be a long list of all the accomplishments, awards and experiences of the speaker. Some of these can be listed in the program handouts.
The introduction should not be a word-for-word reading of the speaker's resume.
Do not tell jokes or other amusing anecdotes.
Personal relationships or business partnerships with speaker should not be revealed, as audience will take these to be a biased opinion of the introducer.
Do not introduce the speaker by projecting slides or other forms of media.
The introducer should not give excessive compliments. Overly generous compliments may lead to unreasonable expectations from the speaker.
The introducer should not divulge any information that might embarrass or distract the speaker from the speech.
Avoid cliches such as:
- This speaker does not need any introduction...
- We have with us tonight the...
- Without further ado...
- Please help me...
The speaker's name should not be saved until the last moment; it should be mentioned in the first couple of sentences and again repeated at the end of introduction.
Delivering a professional and enthusiastic speaker introduction is a challenge, but this skill can be improved with practice, and with knowledge of the fundamentals of the introduction process. Well-crafted and articulately delivered introduction would establish the authority and leadership role of the introducer and create positive environment for the success of the function.
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