Speech introductions are often an afterthought, hastily thrown together at the last second by someone with little knowledge of the speaker, their speech, or the value for the audience. And yet, speech introductions are critical to the success of a speech. While a strong speech opening is vital, nothing helps establish a speaker’s credibility more than a carefully-crafted and well-delivered introduction. This article gives you a series of practical tips for how to introduce a speaker to position them with the best possible chance to succeed.
When you are introducing a speaker, your primary goal is to prepare the audience and get them excited for what they are about to hear. To do this, you must answer these three core questions:
By addressing these three questions, you’ve given the audience a motivation for listening (the topic is important to them), and you’ve reinforced the speaker’s credibility.
“While a strong speech opening is vital, nothing helps establish a speaker’s credibility more than a carefully-crafted and well-delivered introduction.” At all costs, avoid thoughts such as “Oh, I don’t need to prepare… I’m just introducing a speaker.” Thoughts like that lead to stumbling, bumbling, off-the-cuff introductions which undermine your credibility and the credibility of the speaker. You should write out (and edit) the full introduction, check it with the speaker, and practice it several times.
Try to memorize the introduction; speaking without notes will add to your authority, and the audience will put more weight in your recommendation (that is, to listen to this speaker). If you are unable to memorize the entire introduction, then use as few notes as you can. Be sure you can you deliver the last sentence of your introduction without notes as this will maximize momentum for the speaker.
The audience takes cues from you. If you seem disinterested, they will be disinterested. If you are (genuinely) positive and enthusiastic, they will be too. Your choice of words, voice, gestures, and facial expressions should all convey enthusiasm. So, how do you ensure you are enthusiastic?
It is difficult to get the audience excited about the speaker if you aren’t excited yourself. If the speaker is previously unknown to you — for example, suppose you’ve volunteered to introduce speakers at a large industry event — your introduction may lack sincerity. So, get to know the speaker. Google them. Talk with them. Ask others about them. Research the speaker and their expertise until you are excited by the opportunity to introduce them.
A sure way to weaken your own credibility and that of the speaker is to mispronounce their name, the title of their presentation, or any other key terms. Luckily, this is easily avoided through practice and by confirming the correct pronunciation with the speaker well before the presentation. (Don’t wait until you are delivering the introduction to ask them — this looks amateurish.) “A sure way to undermine your own credibility and that of the speaker is to mispronounce their name, the title of their presentation, or any other key terms.”
Being accurate is as important as correct pronunciation, perhaps more so. Make sure you know the precise years, facts, or details. If you make factual errors, many speakers will feel an irresistible compulsion to correct you. This is a lousy way for them to begin their speech, and will almost certainly kill their momentum.
Many speakers craft their presentation title very carefully, and the words matter to them. The title may be a phrase they want the audience to remember, it may reflect language used on accompanying slides, or it may be a humorous play on words. Don’t change it under any circumstances. (And, of course, know how to pronounce it.)
In most circumstances, no. Your objective is to get the audience excited about the topic and the speaker, and this is not the time to tell humorous anecdotes about the speaker. Save those for a roast! There are exceptions (as there are to all public speaking advice), and you’ll have to use your judgment. If this speech is part of a longer event, and the preceding talk has been particularly sad or low on energy, then it may help to lift the spirits of the audience. If you need to do this, do it early in your introduction, and then move on to the more thought-provoking content leading to your climax.
I was once introduced by someone who had seen a longer presentation I gave on the same topic two years prior. Not only did they ignore the introduction I had written for them, but they gave a detailed outline of my whole talk, including which parts were their favorites! Unfortunately, my outline had changed substantially, and they had created unreasonable expectations and sabotaged my talk. Avoid undermining the speaker by giving too many details about the speech, telling anecdotes from their speech, or making promises about details in their presentation. It is the speaker’s job to decide how and when they reveal their outline. Keep your introduction at a high level, unless they have specifically asked you to do otherwise.
One very common mistake is to recite a lengthy list of biographical details (education, awards, former job titles, publications, etc.) which may or may not be relevant to the topic being presented. This is especially common at academic conferences.
For example, avoid introductions such as:
Our speaker grew up in Seattle and graduated at the top of her mechanical engineering class at Carnegie Mellon University. She went on to earn a Master’s Degree from Duke University, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Harvard. She is a member of the Automotive Engineers Association, and a two-time recipient of the Stone Award for Distinguished Linguistics Research. She was previously the Director of Research at Hasbro, and is currently the CEO for the Miami Dolphins. Her talk today is entitled “How to Dougie.”
A much better introduction would touch on how many years the speaker had Dougying whether she had been trained or self-taught, and that she had written a book on this topic. Okay, maybe that example was a bit extreme. But, even if the speaker has a lengthy list of biographical details that are related to her talk, there’s no need to recite them all. Pick a small number (about three) that are most relevant — usually the most recent details. Why not give all the details?
Long introductions filled with biographical details are bad for two main reasons: * Long introductions are boring. Nobody attends an event to listen to the introducer go on and on. * Long introductions are pompous. Reciting dozens of professional accolades gives the impression that the speaker cares only about himself and his ego. Keep your introduction just long enough to accomplish your goals:  what’s the topic,  why does it matter, and  why is the speaker credible? “Keep your introduction just long enough to accomplish your goals:  what’s the topic,  why does it matter, and  why is the speaker credible?” I’m a big fan of short introductions in just about all situations. Sixty or ninety seconds is usually ample time. For really long presentations, (e.g. keynote addresses lasting an hour or more) two or three minutes may be warranted.
How many times have you heard: “This speaker needs no introduction…”? While the speaker may indeed be well-known to the audience, nearly every speech benefits from a brief introduction.
Your introduction should get the audience excited about the presentation, but don’t take it too far. For example, it is reasonable to claim that the presentation will help the audience solve a business problem, save time, or understand the complexities of tax policy. But, it doesn’t help anyone to claim that “this presentation will solve all your problems“, or that it is “the best presentation you’ll ever hear“, or even that “you’ll be amazed by what you are about to hear“. Proud expectations will actually have a detrimental effect, because the audience will feel challenged to prove you wrong.
Your vocal delivery (strength and volume) should build toward the end of your introduction. (Keep it reasonable… there’s no need to yell.) By doing so, the audience will be compelled to welcome the speaker with loud applause. One effective way to do this is to end with the speaker’s name and explicitly encourage applause: Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming our guest speaker, Baby Girl!
Know where the speaker will be as you speak your last words so that you can turn in that direction to greet them. Etiquette dictates that you should wait for them to come to you (e.g. on the stage, or at the lectern) and then shake hands before you leave. Shaking hands is a symbolic gesture that indicates you are “handing the floor” to them. Occasionally, the speaker may have a special entrance planned. (e.g. entrance music, a staged stunt, something with a prop) Make sure you ask the speaker about this, and do whatever you can to support them in a successful entrance.
Follow these steps to put together and deliver a first-rate presentation.
Gather information about the subject of your oral report. List the facts and interesting information from your reading, taking notes accurately. Remember that relevant details and vivid descriptions will make your oral report more interesting, as will visual aids such as maps, charts, and pictures.
Organize your oral report in three parts.
How will you introduce your report? What will be your first line? Write a short introduction that briefly explains what your report will cover.
Organize the main points of your report. They should follow a logical order. Be sure that: all your information is accurate; you have included information from your research to support your main points; you use details and descriptive sentences to make your report interesting.
Write a short conclusion. You can use the conclusion to: wrap up and restate your main points; draw upon your main points to formulate a personal opinion concerning the topic of your report.
Practice presenting your oral report with a friend or family member. If no one is available, try practicing in front of a mirror. Keep the following points in mind when you give your report. • Hold your body upright and face your audience.
Use your notes to make a final outline of your report and put it on one index card or half-sheet of paper. Try to use this card alone when giving your report. Refer to the rest of your notes only if absolutely necessary.