Delivering the Professional Introduction
The Speech of Introduction
Introducing a speaker is a much overlooked skill. While speaking on a circuit this winter and spring, I noticed that about 1 person at every 15 speeches I gave introduced me properly. I even wrote out an introduction for every event; however, only a few tried to use it while adlibbing and 2 people actually read it. The only two introductions that set the tone properly were those same two readers.
My name is Rod Mattson; however, I have been introduced as Todd, Ron, Rob, Ned, Ted (and just about any other three letter name); also, the speaker, this guy, do you want to come up now, go ahead and finish eating—I guess I don’t have anything else so do you want to come up now? You get the idea. Most of the time, I end up introducing myself.
Most people think it so easy they can do it in their sleep and no preparation is needed or it is not important. WRONG! This is such a big part of the program that professionals practice several times before introducing a speaker. Being in an informal setting is no excuse. If you are expecting the speaker to show respect by being prepared and keeping your audience engaged, then you too should be prepared too.
It is not a hard task to master; but, it does take know how, preparation, and practice. In my experiences, it has not been the fault of the person doing the introduction because I don’t believe they were taught how, or vastly underestimate its importance.
In the following, I will show you how to systematically write a speech to introduce a speaker in 5 easy steps. It will make you look like a professional speaker—even if you simply read it—and gain the respect of the audience and the speaker. You can compose your speech using this booklet; then, you can write out your introduction speech on the inside covers of this booklet, and simply read it too the audience.
The speech of introducing a speaker sets the tone for the speaker and helps the speaker with getting the attention of the audience. It also shows you and your organization's commitment to professional excellence.
Note: It is critical to know the pronunciation of the speaker's first and family name. People's names are very important and if you can pronounce their names properly, you will gain the respect of the audience and the speaker. How many times have you heard the person introducing a speaker by saying, "I am not sure of the pronunciation of his/her name, but here she/he is." How about seeing the one introducing the speaker look over to the speaker and asking how to pronounce his/her name?
The time to ask for help in pronunciation is not in front of an audience. The speaker deserves better respect. If you think mispronouncing people's names is no big deal, then go visit any town or city and you will see streets, buildings, and hi-ways named after them. These dedicated people worked hard and spent their life building their character and reputation while contributing to their communities. Let's honor these folks starting with the proper pronunciation of their names.
The main point to learn here, is "practice" your introduction as much as you would for any speech. Practice on introductions, giving awards, or receiving awards is every bit as important as a keynote address.
The following are 5 steps for introducing a speaker. It is best to introduce a speaker in this linear fashion and be brief. Do not try to speak about the speaker's topic and steal his/her thunder. And, one more thing to remember, the audience did not come to listen to you, they are there to listen to the guest speaker.
Topic: Simply state the topic first (do not introduce yourself).
Benefit—Tell the audience the benefits of listening to this speaker: Answer this question, why is this topic important to the audience? You must relate to the audience how the speaker can help them get what they need to know or expect to learn. The speech must have something in it for the audience. Answer some or all of the following questions: How will the audience be better off after the presentation? What can the audience take back home or work after listening to this presentation?
You have to make the connection for the audience on what benefit they will receive by listening to this speech.
Note: Be very careful that you don't build up the speaker to the point that the audiences expectations will be impossible to meet. For example, if you are introducing a comedian, don’t say, “Alana is the funniest person in the world.” Who can live up to that?
Write why the topic is important to the audience here.
Present the Speaker's Credibility: Tell the audience the answers to some or all of the following questions: Why should the audience listen to the speaker? What credentials related to this topic does the speaker possess? How long has the speaker been involved in this topic? What awards, certificates, or experience does the speaker have relating to this topic?
Note: If the speaker has many credentials, do not list them all. A couple will do just fine. Have you ever listened to someone go on and on about the accomplishments of a speaker? It’s too boring to the audience and most won’t remember anyway. Two or three that relate to the occasion or the audience are fine.
Write the Speaker’s credibility here.
Welcome the Speaker by Name: You can use any of the following phrases:
Ask the audience…
· To show appreciation
· To help you welcome
· To give a warm reception
· To give an enthusiastic welcome
· To give a rousing round of applause
· To give it up
· To give a (name of organization) welcomeThen say the speaker’s name.
Make sure your language choices are appropriate for the occasion. In other words, a speaker introduction at an MTV awards show would be much different than an introduction at a business convention of accountants or at a service club.
Note: Give the Speaker's name very clearly. Look at the audience when saying the speaker's name, not the speaker. The speaker already knows her/his name. It is good to have a pause between the first and family name. One way is to look at one side of the audience when stating first name, then look to the other side and state the family name. You can also do this technique by looking at the front row of the audience for the first name, then the back of the audience the family name.
The key here is to not say the name so fast it runs together in the audiences’ minds. State first name clearly and enthusiastically, pause, look to the other side and say the last name clearly and enthusiastically.
Write the speaker’s name here and write “pause and look to the other side of the audience” between the two names to remind you.
Lead the Applause: After stating the speaker's name with correct pronunciation, you face the audience and lead the applause (hand clapping). Then, you pivot to the speaker and continue your applause for a brief few seconds. This shows respect for the speaker. You then pass the speaker in a pre-arranged fashion i.e. you shake hands, you smile at each other and pass on the right, you hug, etc. Whatever you do is fine; however, plan it ahead of time and practice it at least once. This will avoid the awkwardness of bumping into each other because one was passing on the right, and the other passing on the left.
Things that can cause awkwardness:
· One holding out a hand for a handshake, and the other is so caught up in the moment s/he does not see to accept the handshake
· One planning on a traditional business handshake, and the other going for the bumping of closed fist knuckles
· Some other cultural style of handshake the other isn’t expecting.The type of handshake or hug is not important; however, both knowing and using the same type is important. Practicing for proper performance will add to the credibility of both and avoid any awkwardness in front of an audience. The goal is for the audience not to notice any kind of mistake or awkwardness at this point.
The introduction should be written by the speaker and given to the introducer far enough in advance for the introducer to have time to practice.
Introducers, please call the speaker as far in advance of the presentation as is possible so you can get all the information you need to give a nice respectful introduction. This way you will have ample time to prepare and practice.
Speakers, please do not make it difficult for the introducer. Give the person introducing you the above information so he/she can practice. Otherwise, the audience can feel uncomfortable if the introduction is rough and clearly not practiced. It shows a lack of preparation and respect by you and the introducer towards the audience.
Write your plan here for bringing the speaker to the podium.
The following is an example of one of the introductions I send ahead of time to the person who is going to introduce me. I send an introduction for every speech and amazingly, most people do not follow it.
When done properly, it sounds smooth and sets the right tone:
Our Topic tonight is Conflict Management
It is important to all of us as we all have conflict in our lives. It causes unnecessary stress and anxiety. Conflict can be found in relationships at home, at work, in clubs, and any other social situation. All of us are interested in solid advice on how to manage conflict better
Rod Mattson is the CEO of Mattson Communication Training and an Adjunct Professor of Communication Studies at Green River Community College
Please help me welcome
Rod (pause and look to the other side) Mattson
Lead the Applause.Read my introduction out loud. You get the idea. See how easy this is to write and say. It will make you look like a great communicator.
Now, write your introduction using this booklet, and transfer your written introduction to the inside cover of this booklet after you tear out the pages. Fold it backwards and put it in your pocket.
Copyright 5/2011 Rod Mattson
Mattson Communication Training