Episode 86: April 8, 2010
by Lisa B. Marshall
How to Introduce a Speaker
An introduction can make a HUGE difference in the outcome of a presentation. I’ve experienced good introductions, bad introductions, and one time, believe it or not, no introduction at all! So, in this two-part episode (at a reader’s request), I am going to cover how to properly create and deliver a speaker introduction.
What’s the Purpose of the Speaker Introduction?
First, I think it’s important to talk about the purpose of a speaker introduction. Every introduction has three goals:
If an introduction is done well, the audience is not only open and receptive to the speaker, they are also on the edge of their seats with excitement and anticipation.
What Should You Say When Introducing a Speaker?
In essence, the speaker introduction clearly and briefly suggests why this particular speaker is uniquely qualified to talk about this particular topic to this particular audience. It’s important to keep in mind that whatever you say must be relevant to all three criteria: the speaker, the topic, and the audience.
What Shouldn’t You Say in a Speaker Introduction?
To be crystal clear, don’t include information about the speaker that doesn’t help build credibility for this particular topic or isn’t of interest to this particular audience. The intro should not be a long list of the all of the accomplishments, awards, and experiences of the speaker. It also shouldn’t be a summary of the speaker’s presentation. And for sure, it should not be a dreadful word-for-word reading of the resume-like bio that was probably included in the program booklet!
Again, the speaker intro should be a sincere, warm, and energetic description of why this audience should be excited about this presentation from this speaker.
Who Should Write The Speaker Introduction?
So that leads to the natural question: Who then is most qualified to determine what to include in the introduction? Who would know best what information makes this speaker uniquely qualified on this particular topic, for this particular audience? No, it’s not a trick question; of course, it’s the speaker. And in fact, professional speakers spend hours crafting just the right introduction for each event--or least they should be!
So the first tip--and perhaps the most important tip today is this: As the speaker, you should write your own introduction.
The speaker intro should explain why this audience should be excited about this presentation from this speaker.
Yes, I’ll admit it seems a little strange and self-serving. And it still seems strange to me when I hear people using my own words to introduce me. However, you know yourself best and you know your material best. What you may not know the best is the audience. But as long as you take time to do an effective audience analysis, you’ll know which brief bits of information are relevant and would likely generate the most impact.
So, again, if you’re the speaker write your own introduction. But unless you specifically ask the person to deliver it exactly as you've written it, don't expect that they will. That's one of the reasons why I prefer to instead provide bulleted highlights and ask the person to pick and choose what they’re comfortable with. I prefer they talk using their own words and not mine.
What Else to Include in Your Speaker Intro
As the speaker, in addition to your suggested introduction, you should also send a longer more extensive bio. Oh and don’t forget to bring copies of both to the event. The person delivering the introduction may get changed at the last minute or worse, they might have been planning to just wing it! So having printed copies of the suggested introduction (in big bold type) and a copy of the longer bio is always a good idea.
How to Deliver the Speaker Intro
If you’re the one introducing the speaker and the speaker has given you a pre-written introduction, you'll likely want to adjust it slightly to make it your own. But, be sure to ask, because some speakers prefer the introduction to be delivered exactly as written. Even if you do have permission to make modifications, don't go too far astray. The idea is to keep the content the same or similar, but use your own words. You may also want to include your own impressions of the speaker.
How Long Should the Speaker Intro Be?
No matter how much material the speaker may have provided you, if you’re the one giving the introduction, it’s your responsibility to keep it short and sweet. An introduction should not go on and on; you just need enough to build credibility and anticipation. 30 seconds to one minute is typical. However, with an extremely accomplished professional and in a very formal setting, your intro may go a little longer (but please, two to three minutes max!) Keep in mind that typically the longer full bio is printed in the audience materials and if someone is interested to know more, they can read it. And also, the longer that YOU speak, the less time the speaker will have.
If a speaker doesn't provide you something ahead of time, call and ask! In addition, you should always do a quick run-through ahead of time with the speaker just to be certain the details are accurate and that you both are OK with what will be said. He or she may want you to focus on certain highlights or may want you NOT to share certain things.
So what exactly goes into an effective introduction? Well, like all speeches, it should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. (Remember the rule of three?) And in part 2 of this episode, I’ll give you the details of what goes into each of those sections.
This is, Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. Passionate about communication, your success is my business.
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