As a leader in your firm, you are often called upon to introduce a speaker. Whether it's a meeting of the partners, a firm-wide meeting, a client, industry or charitable event, making the introduction is an important role and one which requires appreciation for what a good introduction is meant to do and preparation for achieving that goal.
Next to the role of speaker, the person who introduces the speaker is the most important person on the program. If you are that person, charged with making the introduction, then know that your audience's interest and receptivity to the speaker's message begins with you. What you say about the speaker establishes that person as someone your audience should listen to, answering their three most important questions: why they should listen, what they should listen for and how they might use what the speaker will share with them. You are, in fact, a representative of the audience. You create the connection between the audience and the speaker. Leading the applause that welcomes the speaker and shaking the speaker's hand completes that connection. The audience is ready now to listen.
Ideally, your speaker will provide his or her own introduction. Experienced speakers usually do. If that's the case, then read that introduction over several times so you will be prepared to deliver it smoothly and easily. Practice difficult words and especially difficult names starting with the speaker's name. There is nothing worse than mispronouncing the speaker's name and/or other elements of the speaker's credentials. If the speaker does not provide an introduction, then it's up to you to build your own. This is one of those times when winging it is just not good enough. The speaker deserves a good set-up to make both the message and the event a worthwhile experience for everyone.
Build your Introduction by asking good questions
If the speaker has not provided an introduction, then ask that person to provide you with information you can use as you write what you will say. For example, your list of questions should include:
- Correct name, spelling and pronunciation
- Organization memberships
- Honors & Awards
- Special interests or abilities
In addition to the questions you will ask, be sure to let your speaker know about the audience the speaker will be addressing including size of the group, the typical attendee and what’s most important to the success of the event. The following are important points to remember, too:
- Your introduction should be brief--one to three minutes on average. (Have you ever sat through an introduction that went on and on and on?)
- Avoid clichés like, "Our speaker needs no introduction..." Your speaker certainly does need an introduction and a darn good one!
- Jokes are risky so it's best to avoid those, too.
- Include the subject of the speech, why this subject is of interest to the audience, and why this speaker was chosen to cover this important subject.
- Give the speaker a sincere buildup, but don’t embarrass him or her by overdoing it.
- Add your own experience of knowing this person. For example, my mentor Sidney Kirschner says this when introducing me, “If Robin says she will do something, consider it done and quickly. You don’t have to worry about following up with her. It is done promptly and effectively…”
- Thank the speaker after the presentation.
- Follow up with feedback on the speaker’s presentation and the impact it made on your audience.
The following is an example of a brief introduction crafted from input from the speaker as suggested by learningforlife.org in their article, How to Introduce a Speaker. When using this as a guide, be sure to add additional comments about your speaker as noted above to make your introduction more personal.
“Tonight, we are honored to have a speaker whose experience and background will highlight our focus on careers in corporate law. After graduating from the Georgetown University School of Law, our speaker was assistant U.S. attorney for Ohio for three years before joining the legal staff of the Big Deal Corporation. She belongs to the American Bar Association, Corporate Lawyers League, and United Fund Board, and chairs our County Legal Aid Society. She received the Governor’s Medal for Juvenile Justice and was elected to the Georgetown University Outstanding Alumni. Currently, she is the director of Big Deal’s legal department, serves as counsel to the board of directors, and has extensive legal experience in copyright law, patents, and product liability. Leisure time is spent with her husband and sons either restoring their Victorian home or skiing in Colorado.
“It is a pleasure to present . . . Jane Smith.”
If you are the speaker...
If you are the speaker, write your own introduction using these points as your guide. Put the entire introduction into large type and double space the text. This will help the person introducing you to easily read the document or scan down the page for key points. Send it to your introducer at least two days before the event. And, be sure to bring a copy with you--just in case.
Until next time,