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Speaker Introductions: Rousing, Rough, or Ruinous?

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 13/10/2015 Dianna Booher
LECTERN © grandeduc via Getty Images LECTERN

Sooner or later, you'll be called on to introduce someone--at an industry meeting, a client event, or a community gathering. And you don't want to be that person who confuses the crowd, disappoints the speaker, and embarrasses yourself.
In the audience at a recent conference, I watched a painful experience unfold: The introducer made no pretense of being familiar with her comments beforehand. She simply walked to the front of the room, unfolded her sheet of paper, and began to read--very slowly in "See Jane run" fashion. The introductions dragged on so long that the two co-presenters turned red-faced, then averted their eyes, then ducked their heads and began to squirm. Finally, one presenter reached up, took the mic from the introducer, gave her own name, and began her opening remarks.
Sigh of relief from the audience.
Ideally, you'll want to deliver a ROUSING introduction--one that:

  • Introduces the topic very briefly and tells why the audience should care
  • Establishes why the speaker is qualified to speak on the topic
  • Helps the audience "connect" with the speaker
  • Encourages the audience to give a warm and enthusiastic welcome
  • Clearly and correctly states the speaker's name

All too often, the crowd hears a ROUGH introduction--one that:
  • "Steals the speaker's message"
  • Sounds insincere
  • Goes on too long

Not infrequently, someone fumbles with a RUINOUS introduction--one that:
  • Gives no information at all about the topic
  • Is delivered poorly (usually read and stumbled through as if seen for the first time)
  • Lasts too long
  • Omits or mangles the speaker's name

So when you're called on to introduce a speaker, how do you accomplish the rousing introduction?
  1. Make sure you understand the topic--not just the title. Titles can be tricky. Clever titles sometimes tease but don't always tell exactly what the speaker plans to cover. But it's your job to talk with the speaker beforehand to ensure that you know the general idea and can introduce it properly.
  2. Tell the audience why they should care. What key questions will the speaker answer for the group? What takeaways will they have for investing their time for the next 30 to 45 minutes? Just be careful that you don't go on too long on the subject and "steal the thunder" from your speaker.
  3. Pave the way for your speaker by giving their credentials. Your audience wants to know that the speaker is qualified to speak on this topic. What are his or her credentials in this area? This is not the place to comment on everything the speaker has ever accomplished--but to establish the person's authority on this specific topic. Why has he or she specifically been invited to speak?
  4. Connect the speaker to the audience by tossing in something personal--if appropriate. Have they gone through a similar restructure at their organization? Are they originally from your state? Did you love their sense of humor the night before at dinner?
  5. Encourage a warm response. Depending on the occasion and format, that warm response may mean leading the audience in applause as you welcome the speaker to the stage or front of the room (if you're in a live meeting). If you're on a teleconference or in a virtual meeting, you may suggest a verbal greeting or other onscreen comment.
  6. State the speaker's name at the very end of your introduction--and pronounce it correctly. If the name is difficult, write it out for yourself phonetically. Or create a rhyme or another memory aid so you can say it correctly. (For example, when introducers ask how to pronounce my name, I give them this aid: Dianna Booher. The "h" is silent. Boo-er. It rhymes with "doer" as in "She's not a talker, she's a doer.")

Rousing, rough, or ruinous? As with many things, the result depends on the preparation.

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