How to Introduce a Speaker
Learn how to properly introduce a speaker.
What to Say When Introducing a Speaker
This week is a continuation of last’s week piece, How to Introduce a Speaker. If you haven’t yet read Part 1, you might want to do that first, because today I’m only going to cover the nitty-gritty details of what you should include in each of the three sections (beginning, middle, end) of an effective introduction.
How to Begin a Speaker Introduction
All speaker introductions should start with your name and title. The audience may not know who you are or it may just be an opportunity to put a face with a name. Also, especially if you are a last minute fill-in, the speaker may not know your name or role.
Of course, you’ll also need to include the full name of the speaker. Be sure you say it right! Find out the correct way to pronounce the speaker’s name and how they refer to themselves. If necessary, have someone record it for you or spell it phonetically. Do whatever you need to do to get it right! (It always bothers me when someone doesn’t use my middle initial even though I included it.)
If sharing the speaker’s title or position is appropriate, be sure you know what it is ahead of time. “Dr. Montgomery is Director of Planned Giving”. Don't say: “Dr. Montgomery is Director of ... what was that again?” Finally, the beginning also needs to clearly state the subject of the talk. Many people choose to share that by stating the title of the presentation, but that’s not a requirement; you just need to be sure you are telling the audience the main theme of the presentation.
What to Say in Your Speaker Introduction
Next, the middle, is the meat of this intro mini-presentation. Explain in your own words why this person was chosen to speak. Give the speaker credibility by sharing relevant information: it may be professional background, education, or just plain experience--or it might be several of those things. The idea is to convince the audience that the speaker is qualified to speak on this subject to this audience and that this speaker is different and worth listening to. Include facts that you find memorable or interesting. You don't have time to say everything, so choose carefully just a few very specific examples to build the speaker's credibility.
Tell the Audience What’s in It for Them
Next, if there is time, you might want to share why this subject should be of interest to the audience--give them the “WIFMM”--that’s the “what’s in it for me message.” It’s why this topic is timely or important to this audience.
Include Information on How You Know the Speaker
Finally, if you have known the person for many years or you know him or her really well, you may want to very briefly explain your relationship to the speaker. I like it when someone shares a favorable impression the speaker made on them. One time someone included the statistic that for several years I was consistently the highest-rated speaker of ALL the programs they offered at a very large organization. I had no idea --that was quite an endorsement. It was something I was unaware of as the speaker, but definitely met the criteria to be included in the introduction.
How to End the Speaker Introduction
To wrap up the introduction, welcome the speaker to the stage by saying the exact title of the presentation and saying his or her full name again. When announcing the title of the presentation (as you did with the speaker’s name), be sure you say exactly what was given to you by the speaker.
Typically the speaker’s name is the last thing spoken and is the signal for the speaker to come forward or assume control of the program. However, if the topic is more important because the speaker has celebrity status, then the title of the presentation goes last. Whichever you decide to deliver last should be said more slowly and very clearly. Don’t rush!
And always be sure to deliver this last part by looking directly at the audience. Try not to read, but if you must read, use the scoop and read technique. That is, look down and silently read, then look up and deliver the text aloud looking directly at your audience.
"…So, today, Lisa will present, "From Stress to Success", please help me welcome, Lisa B. Marshall." Avoid cliché phrases like, “Without further ado…” (who talks like that?) “This speaker needs no introduction.” (All speakers need an introduction!)
What Gestures Should You Use?
The final part of any introduction is to lead the applause by clapping your hands. This is also the time to smile enthusiastically; you want to look like you are honored and thrilled this person is coming to speak-even if you aren’t! Most likely there won't be an applause sign, so it's up to you to encourage the audience to warmly greet the speaker. If you look excited and interested, your audience will be too! (For more on how to use gestures, see my earlier article.)
Troubleshooting the Speaker Introduction
What if you aren’t introduced or a mistake was made in the intro? If you aren’t introduced, then you need to do it. I prefer to always start with my opening attention getter. And if I wasn’t introduced, I’ll very briefly introduce myself after my planned opening attention getter. Introductions are important for building credibility, so it still needs to be done. Similarly, if the introduction contained a mistake, you need to decide if it's worth correcting. If it impacts your credibility, you'll need to tactfully make the correction.
Quick and Dirty Tips: Delivering the Introduction
Before I wrap up this two-part article, I want to say a word about physicality. As the person doing the introduction, you are the center of attention. You need to be amplified, so most likely that means you'll deliver your introduction from behind the lectern. Don’t try to deliver an introduction without a microphone. An introduction needs to be heard.
After you have delivered your introduction, either wait until the speaker arrives at the lectern, or go shake their hand if they’re not going to present from it. A very common mistake is to leave the stage immediately. You should always remain on stage as the focus of attention until the speaker assumes control—it’s your job to pass the attention and control to the featured speaker. It’s nice to shake the speaker’s hand, but sometimes that’s not possible. In either case, once the speaker begins you should quietly slip off the stage, always taking care to walk behind the speaker (and not in front of them).
This is, Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. Passionate about communication, your success is my business.