Friday, September 25, 2009
Introducing a speaker
An introduction for a speaker may barely be noticed if done well, but can be glaringly obvious if done poorly. This week I gave a speech at my Toastmasters club on the topic of Creating an Introduction. It is one of ten topics in The Better Speaker Series of educational speeches. I began with their prepared script, and then updated it.
An introduction is a brief speech, just a minute or two long, which should be prepared and practiced before it is given. Either the speaker or the session chairperson may prepare it. (Some professional speakers even provide a prepared introduction that must be read exactly as written).
An introduction is like a TV news bulletin, because it should include the following six elements: who, what, when, how, where, and why.
Who is he (or she)?
Begin the introduction with the speaker’s name. Start with something like” Our speaker today is…” Check with the speaker and find out how to pronounce his name correctly. End the introduction by repeating their name, like “Please welcome…”
What will he talk about?
State the speech title, and briefly describe what the speaker will talk about. In other words, give an abstract. For Toastmasters club meetings we also always announce what manual the speech is from, the name of the project, and the objectives. For example, Project #5 of the Competent Communication manual is called “Your Body Speaks,” so the audience will pay particular attention to stance, movement, gestures, facial expressions, and eye contact.
When will he take questions?
Let the audience know when the speaker plans to take questions. Will it be during the talk, or at the end? If it is at the end, then he can defuse a heckler by just pointing out that remarks will be addressed later.
How long will he talk?
Tell the audience both how long he will speak, and how much time will be set aside for answering questions (if they will be at the end).
Where is he from?
Let the audience know where the speaker is from. State the organization name, the speaker’s position in it, and describe where it is located.
Why should you listen to him?
Your introduction should establish the speaker’s credibility and authority, based on his background and qualifications. Contact him, and get his biography, resume, or curriculum vitae. Then summarize it briefly. For example, the top award in Toastmasters is Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM). Someone with a DTM has instant credibility in discussing public speaking because they have gone all the way through both the communication and leadership tracks of the educational program. Mention if the speaker has written magazine articles or books, etc. on the topic.
What should you avoid in an introduction?
Don’t recite the speaker’s biography in chronological order. If you start by saying that he was born in a “little house on the prairie”, your audience may fall asleep before you get near the present day. Don’t upstage the speaker by using video or PowerPoint in the introduction. Don’t surprise the speaker, or steal his thunder. Don’t leave his name until last. If you say that the speaker needs no introduction, then your next words just should be: “and now, here’s Johnny!”
The Toastmasters web site has a brief discussion about introducing a speaker here. There is a longer article, “Rx for a good speech introduction,” by Michael Varma, in the November 2008 issue of Toastmaster magazine, which you can find here. There is another excellent article from September 1997 by Marie Wallace, in her Guide on the Side series – “How to Introduce a Guest Speaker: Tips and Templates” here. There also are a couple of articles by John A. Kline on introductions (including examples) here and here.
Denise Graveline, in her Eloquent Woman blog, discusses - When you introduce a speaker take 5. James Feudo’s Overnight Sensation blog also discusses Speech Introductions.
Tracy Goodwin has produced a series of ten one-and-a-half minute eHow Videos on introductions which you can see on YouTube:
What are introduction speeches?
Purpose of introduction speeches
Introduction speech information
Introduction speech structures
Consulting the speaker
Biographical Information in introduction speeches
Introduction speech time limits
Praise in introduction speeches
Practicing introduction speeches
Introduction speech sample