How to Introduce a Speaker Without Embarrassing Yourself

“H-e-r-e-‘s Johnny!” Ed McMahon’s introduction of Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show was probably the shortest but one of the most famous introductions in entertainment.

Do you remember the last time you introduced a speaker, or were the one being introduced? How did that go?

The first step in having a good introduction is understanding the purpose of an introduction. Introductions need to fuse 3 elements: the subject, the audience and the speaker.

The introduction brings together those elements and serves as a bridge, a transition from one part of the meeting to another. The audience may have just listened to a speaker on a totally different subject or may be mulling over a conversation they just had. An introduction gives the audience time to make a mental and emotional shift, preparing people for the speaker and heightening their sense of anticipation. Just because an audience is there doesn’t mean they are ready to listen. Let the audience know “what’s in it for me”-narrow the gap between them and the speaker and get the audience ready to “eat up” what the speaker has to say.

So, now that you understand the purpose of an introduction, how do you achieve this purpose? You achieve it with the 3 P’s of a good introduction: Preparation, Practice and Performance. Most of your time will be spent in preparation, gathering information to fuse the subject, the audience and the speaker.

Preparation

You can visit the speaker’s website, or company website for some information. You can talk to people who know the speaker. Google the speaker’s name for additional relevant information. Most likely, you will contact the speaker directly to obtain most of the information.

Subject – What is the topic? A brief description of the topic of the speech establishes a connection with the audience. Try to include an interesting and attention-getting fact or statement.

Audience – Why would the audience be interested in the topic? Get audience background information, if you don’t already know it loa toa 30w . What are the audience’s interests or concerns? How does the subject relate to the audience? Is it timely or important to them?

Speaker – Talk to the speaker in advance of the event and learn about the speaker’s experience, education, life, interests and accomplishments-whatever helps establish the speaker’s credibility on the topic. Many speakers will send you a bio or their own written introduction. Verify if you must read it as is, or if you may paraphrase. Find out what the speaker would like you to emphasize. Also verify the pronunciation of the speaker’s name. I remember once being flustered as I was about to introduce a man with the last name “Butz.” Is that Boots, Buttes or Butts? I hadn’t checked ahead of time and went with “Butts.” I was wrong.

Organize your information. The most basic information you need is summarized below:

  • Subject
  • Audience information (timely?/important?)
  • Speaker’s Credentials (education/experience)
  • Title of Speech
  • Title of Speaker
  • Speaker’s Name
  • Pronunciation

If you can personalize the introduction (indicate how you might know the speaker, share a brief story about the speaker or tell how the information has helped you), so much the better.

Writing a good introduction is only half of the job. The other half includes a relaxed, professional delivery that creates a friendly atmosphere between both the speaker and the audience. But, before you can give a great performance, you need to practice.

Practice

Yes, practice. Don’t just read the introduction; practice it ahead of time. You don’t want to be one of those people who stumbles over the introduction. Print out the introduction in a large font and highlight key words. Practice it several times.

You’ve prepared, you’ve practiced…now it is time to perform!

Perform

A few “Don’ts”

· Don’t upstage the speaker: Your task is to turn attention to the speaker-not to yourself. This means eliminating any anecdotes about your own experiences, attitudes or opinions. Remember-the speaker is the STAR.

· Don’t talk too long. Thirty seconds is long enough for an informal introduction. Most introductions can be under a minute or two.

· Don’t be too revealing-about the topic that is. An introduction should invite anticipation of the upcoming speech rather than reveal any of its details.

· Don’t surprise or embarrass the speaker: Never include information that might embarrass or in some way distract from the speaker’s message. As the introducer, you are there to support the speaker and make that person’s transition to the lectern as smooth and stress-free as possible.

· Don’t lavish praise-lavish compliments can encourage unreasonable expectations. Let the audience be the judge!

· Don’t use cliché’s such as “This speaker needs no introduction! Remember, the only speakers who need no introduction are those who fail to show up! Other worn-out phrases include: “without further ado” and “It gives me great pleasure to present.”

· Don’t look at the speaker while giving the introduction… a common mistake.

· Don’t forget your copy of the introduction! You may want to email it to yourself so you can access it should you forget to bring it with you or it is misplaced.

Although you may have already mentioned the speaker’s name, end your introduction with the speech title, speaker’s title (such as a professional title) and the speaker’s name. To add a little drama to your introduction, pause right before you say the speaker’s name.

Then, lead the applause and keep it going until you shake the speaker’s hand. Step back a little as the speaker approaches, to symbolically give them control.

Shake the speaker’s hand and leave the lectern, returning to your seat by moving away from the speaker, crossing behind if you must, but never in front of the speaker. Don’t sit too far way. Be ready to return when the speech is over.

Once the speech has concluded and control of the lectern has been returned to the introducer, it is appropriate to add about 30 seconds of summary comments. These summary comments generally include brief references to the speech’s ideas and how they have entertained, helped or enlightened the audience, as well as words of thanks and appreciation.

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