On and on and on. The host endlessly reads every word of a biography submitted by the speaker or his PR Department.
Or, the introducer has done her due diligence, researching articles and books the speaker has written, his degrees, and every job he’s every held. Then she rolls them all up into an endless introduction that could easily double as the speaker’s obituary.
If you’re the speaker, or asked to introduce a speaker, don’t let that ever happen to you.
Prepare Your Own Introduction
The introduction sets the stage for your presentation. A lengthy, overly complimentary introduction will irritate the audience. It’s not a good idea to start out on a negative note. You want to get the audience involved with the very first word.
If you’re the speaker, you need to take responsibility and do more than just allow the host to read the introduction he prepared. Take charge and make changes, including shortening it. Better yet, write the introduction yourself.
Don’t be so impressed by your accomplishments that you fall into the same trap. You may feel that an overly long introduction will impress the audience with how highly qualified you are to be the featured speaker. Instead, they are apt to start checking their email messages.
What You Should Include
The point of an introduction is to get the audience warmed up and excited about the presentation. It sets the mood. So you should include:
- A brief description of the topic. Describe the topic of the presentation and why it’s important to the audience.
- A startling fact. That fact could be the result of your own proprietary research – a nugget from the speech to whet the audience’s appetite.
- The speaker’s credentials. Why the speaker (you) is uniquely qualified to discuss the topic.
- A lead-in to the speaker. No, not “without further ado,” or “a woman who needs no introduction.” Instead, say something simple like: “Please join me in welcoming our speaker.”
What You Should Leave Out
- A joke. It may be funny to you, but half the people in the room won’t laugh. Don’t take that chance. Avoid humor unless you’re a professional comedian.
- An outline of the speech. Don’t scoop yourself by giving away too much of what will follow. Keep them wanting to hear more.
- Your resume. Keep your qualifications brief and very pointed. Leave out the information that doesn’t validate your authority to speak on the subject.
- Housekeeping announcements. Don’t use the introduction to discuss where the exits are or when the buses leave for the airport. They are a distraction and will take away from the gravitas of your remarks.
If You Are the Host
We’ve been discussing the role and responsibility of the speaker but if you’re giving the introduction, it’s your responsibility to:
- Talk to the speaker. Have a conversation in advance by phone, or email. Ask if she would like to prepare her own introduction. You’ll always have a chance to ask for changes, if you feel that something is missing or the introduction is too long (speakers can get carried away with their introductions, too).
- Have a written introduction. Don’t try to wing it. You’ll end up talking too long, including unnecessary information, and possibly forgetting what’s important.
- Practice. Never memorize the introduction, but do practice it until you’re comfortable. If the speaker has a difficult or very long name, ask her how to pronounce it and then practice until it rolls off your tongue. Also, practice unfamiliar technical terms.
- Let the speaker be the center of attraction. The speaker won’t appreciate it if you try to one-up him by touting your own credentials on the subject. Focus the spotlight on the speaker, not yourself.
Limit yourself to a 60 to 90 second introduction. That will force you to be succinct and hit the highlights. You can always print copies of the introduction, including more information, and place them at everyone’s seat or place at the table.
But don’t make it too lengthy. People don’t want to feel they’re reading the speaker’s obituary.
If you’ve ever been introduced and had to suffer through someone reading your entire bio as your introduction, we’d love to hear from you in the comment box.