At some point in your writing and speaking life, you’ll be called to introduce a speaker for your conference, panel, networking luncheon, awards ceremony or monthly book club meeting. In the past maybe you didn’t have anything prepared and winged it or maybe your speaker didn’t give you anything beforehand. It went okay. No one made a beeline for the exits. But you knew in your heart you could do better. You are a leader and now you need to know how to introduce someone properly.
Last week, I spoke to a group and while the meeting organizer requested my bio, program write-up and photo, she didn’t introduce me—in fact, she left the meeting room altogether leaving someone else in charge to show me around. DON’T BE THIS PERSON! I had to intro myself. Not introducing me really looked bad for the guests and bad on the organization, plus it made me feel unappreciated. Did I mention this was a volunteer event?
Giving a great introduction will not only make your speaker feel valued and credible, your audience will also be grateful for your preparation. They’ll feel valued. With a strong introduction from you they’ll be mentally prepared, ready to listen and will look forward to welcoming the speaker. You’ll also look like someone who knows what they’re doing and this can lead to increased book sales, clients and opportunities for you!
I’ve introduced speakers at least twice a month for the last eight years so here are my tips:
- Have your speaker send you an intro and then you edit it and fill it in if necessary. Make sure the speaker’s topic and what it means to this audience is front and center, not how many cats they have. Don’t stray from the script and upset the speaker’s flow. She took a lot time putting that intro together! Be sure you bring it to the event and at the very least, make sure you have a back-up copy on your phone. Makes sure it’s in the third person point of view.
- Tell your audience why the speaker is qualified to give this talk (without having to say so directly). Remember to give info about their books, education and experience. You should also mention distinctive awards, cool hobbies, such as cave diving, and a funny situation if it’s appropriate. Tell your audience what’s in it for them! Why should they take up the next 30-90 minutes of their lives listening to this talk? Make sure you get your facts straight, such as the speaker’s name. You don’t want your speaker to correct you. I almost corrected the guy who introduced me as Sharon Osborn, but knew it may set the room’s energy all wrong.
- If you and speaker aren’t friends, get to know the speaker at least through Google, and at most through a phone chat. Get to know your speaker through mutual friends and through other research, so your intro won’t be a yawner. Be sure you confirm the pronunciation of the speaker’s name beforehand!
- After you’ve made the necessary changes to the speaker’s intro from what they sent you, email the new intro back to your speaker to make sure you get his/her approval and there are no surprises. She may not have a PhD and eight children!
- Prepare the intro beforehand through rigorous practice. Don’t think that introducing the speaker is a silly job so you don’t have to give it practice time. Introduce yourself if no one has introduced you before you ascend to the podium. State your name and position. Memorize your introduction if necessary so you’re not looking down at your notes and speaking in a monotone. If you choose not to use notes, you’ll lend more credibility to the job. The audience will know that you’re taking your job very seriously and they in turn will respond positively to the speaker. If you have to use notes, memorize the last line so you delivery it with punch and charisma as you turn to welcome your speaker to the podium. “Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming President Bill Clinton to the podium!” Then lead the audience by clapping your hands first.
- Make sure your sad and your happy face aren’t the same. Smile! Be excited through gestures and vocal variety. Please don’t speak in a monotone with very long sentences. Pause often. Show excitement on your face and if you can’t muster it, please fake it for the sake of your speaker and your audience.
- Don’t take up too much time with your introduction—60 to 90 seconds is plenty. And don’t say stuff like, “This will be the best speech you’ll ever hear,” or “You’ll never hear another talk as good as this one will be.” You want to give the audience reasonable expectations.
- Don’t abandon the podium before the speaker arrives. Don’t exit in front of the speaker as they start talking. Be sure to wait until the speaker has come up to podium and you’ve shaken hands before you start your march back to your seat.
Introducing a speaker places a lot of focus on you and with these tips in hand, you’ll do fine!
What other tips can you share about introducing a speaker? What intro gaffes have you witnessed and/or experienced?