Speech introductions are often mindless and ineffective—and that’s a missed opportunity.
You see them at nearly all speaking events, from casual business presentations to large conferences. In these scenarios, a featured or keynote speaker is introduced by someone else. This extends hospitality to a visiting speaker, informs the audience of the speaker’s credibility and shows a level of respect or esteem for the speaker.
If you are asked to handle this responsibility, seize the moment. These short speeches afford you valuable experience in front of an audience. If you follow these five tips, you’ll find that an introduction can be simple to prepare and deliver:
1. Get the audience’s attention. Maybe another speaker has just finished her message, or perhaps there was a meal or a meet-and-greet beforehand. Make sure your segue matches the context of the event and aligns with the next speaker’s tone. It’s not your job to be the highlight of the event or a standup comedian—especially if the incoming speaker will address a serious topic. Help the audience transition with an interesting opening statement or a gracious “thank you” to those in attendance, and then shine the spotlight on the speaker to come.
2. Communicate the speaker’s credibility. Present his or her relevant accomplishments, education or experience. It’s awkward when a speaker has to do that for him- or herself, so contact the speaker or conduct some research prior to the event. Thoughtfully select the information you will relay, and get comfortable with it. It shouldn’t sound as though you are reading from a résumé or a list. Some experts recommend personalizing the introduction if you know the speaker well.
3. Be brief. Keep it under a minute, if possible, and never more than two minutes. Though it’s short, it’s important; write great content, and practice your speech.
4. Be accurate. Make sure that what you say about the speaker is correct. You never want the speaker to have to begin her message by correcting something in your introduction. Have the speaker review your remarks and offer any revisions. Be open to her suggestions; ultimately, you are shaping the audience’s initial impression of the speaker.
5. Discuss the transition with the speaker. Talk about the segue from your speech to his. Let him know what your last line will be so he knows when to enter, and map out the physical aspects (which way you will exit, whether you will shake hands, etc.), so everything flows smoothly.
A version of this post first appeared on the Ethos3 blog.