There is an art to introducing a speaker. A great introduction can invigorate not only the audience but also the speaker and really kick off things on a high note.
Unfortunately, a poor introduction can have just the opposite effect.
I speak at a lot of conferences and I have to say that it's one of the most enjoyable things I do. But when the session starts off with a poor or lackadaisical introduction, I always feel like I’m starting off by running uphill. On the other hand, a great introduction energizes me, puts me in a great frame of mind, and I can’t wait to get going!
Here are some suggestions for speaker introductions.
- Often, the moderator will tell the speaker, “If it’s okay, I’ll just let you introduce yourself.” At least in this situation, the speaker is in complete control of the information that is shared with the audience. Unfortunately, if she has an extensive resume or qualifications, it can be very uncomfortable to stand in front of the audience and toot her own horn.
- Another strategy that events use is to have a moderator read a biography that the speaker has written for themselves. This can be done effectively, but it’s not unusual for the moderator to read the biography for the first time when they’re introducing the speaker. Watching a moderator try to stumble their way through a biography can be uncomfortable to say the least and it gets the session off to a poor start.
If you are asked to introduce a speaker, there are some things you can do to really get the presentation rolling – even if you’ve never met the speaker:
- Tone – Be upbeat. You are setting the tone for the entire speech. Be enthusiastic and positive about the upcoming presentation.
- Prepare – If you’re going to read a biography, read it ahead of time. Become familiar with it enough so that, at most, you only have to glance at it. Great presentations are not read – neither are great introductions.
- Meet the Speaker – If you have never met the speaker, arrange to meet them before the speech and find out a little about them. Ask them what they want the audience to know about them outside of the canned biography. Injecting some humor or unknown facts about the speaker – with her permission – can humanize the speaker to the audience and make them more open to hearing the message.
- Practice – If you were giving the speech, you’d practice. Practice the introduction. Make the words your own and practice delivering it with energy. If you practice, you’ll be comfortable and at ease.
Introductions can be almost as much fun as presenting – if you do it right. Do it right and the speakers you work with will love you for making their job so much easier.