A client recently asked me to help with a speaker introduction. As director of a non-profit, it was important to go beyond describing the organization. This executive wanted to be perceived as knowledgeable and credible, instead of a talking head. So she found some information about the speaker's topic from a scientific journal and delivered that as a lead-in to the presentation topic. The challenge was to take a scientific topic and to make it interesting. Too often public speaking introductions are written for the eye and not the ear. What reads well on paper may not sound conversational when spoken.
We rewrote the introduction by talking directly to the audience and asking them rhetorical questions. This one technique released the director's passion and she became a lot more animated. These questions primed the pump for the scientific facts that would follow. This lead to a smooth transition to turn the floor over to the guest speaker.
The introducer has an important job of setting the tone, creating interest and anticipation to build a receptive audience. In a sense, the introducer or host is the public speaker's warm-up act. Deliver a dry introduction and the speaker has to work twice as hard to gain interest. After all, if the introduction is boring, how exciting can the speech be?
A few years ago, I spoke at a women's breakfast meeting. It was 7:30 in the morning. The audience needed a dynamic public speaker along with their morning coffee. Instead, they heard a speaker introduction that was soft, stumbling, and dispassionate. The energy dissipated from the room like a deflating balloon. I could feel my enthusiasm wane. Could she have been any less passionate? It made me think about bringing my own introducer the next time. As I approached the podium I knew I had to pump it up.
Here's what I've learned. To give a knockout introduction, follow these tips:
- Write out your own introduction. Never rely on somebody else.
- Don't hand them your biography - a speaker introduction serves a different purpose.
- Grab their attention from the opening line.
- Speak to the person who will introduce you prior to the presentation. Let them know what's important to you.
- Highlight or capitalize words you want to emphasize.
- Build in humor and make sure it's delivered well.
- Double or triple space the introduction.
- Use upper and lower case letters and a larger font, preferably 16 points, to make it easier to read.
- Make notations - write in the word "pause" where you want them to pause.
- Arrive early and have the host run through the introduction.
- Keep it short-a minute or less.
- Include your credentials and something of a personal nature to capture interest.
Sometimes I cue the audience. In one of my introductions, the host asks three questions that require the audience to say, "yes!" To get the excitement going, I nod and answer with the audience. By the third question, they are responding loudly and enthusiastically. Now the energy is high and the audience is excited as I walk on.
A poor public speaking introduction can create a downward spiral. A good introduction, like a movie trailer, can entice the audience and build the speaker's momentum.
Email me if you'd like a copy of my introduction.