I have sat in the audience and stood on the stage when the person introducing a guest speaker spoke longer than the speaker. It’s brutal.
The audience came to hear the speaker, not the introduction, a long, rambling discourse filled with detours of mispronunciations, stumbles, and an awkward pauses.
It doesn’t have to be so hard.
A few years ago, I spoke to a group and the individual who introduced me not only used my name a dozen times in the introduction but he also pronounced my name differently and incorrectly every time. I had to spend the first few minutes of my talk trying to smooth over the awkwardness created by someone who didn’t even bother asking me how to pronounce my name. Brutal.
Here are seven, simple steps to guide you when you have to introduce a speaker, whether you do it at a business meeting, a convention, a book club, for an audience of a few people or a stadium filled with thousands people.
- Keep it short.
- Make it personal. Tell the audience why you’re doing the introduction. For example: “I met tonight’s speaker at a convention two years ago while we both waited in a buffet line that never seemed to move an inch…”
- Tell the audience a few, brief highlights of the speakers career, not every award he has won over the past twenty years and every company he has consulted with. Highlights, just a few.
- Share with the audience how the speaker’s knowledge will benefit them. For example: “As a master communicator, he will help all of us deliver more effective presentations that increase our ability to close deals.”
- Practice. If the speaker has a tricky name, make sure you know how to pronounce it. Become comfortable with your comments. You don’t have to memorize them, but don’t stumble into an awkward pause because you can’t read your own hand writing or because you come across a word you’ve never seen before.
- Use large font type for any notes and names you have to read. That makes it far easier to look up from you notes, make eye contact with the audience, and then look back down at your notes without losing your place.
- Finally, begin with the spirit you set out with at the beginning: Keep it short.
The Gettysburg address runs 272 words. It took Abraham Lincoln about two minutes to deliver it. Use it as a guide. If you can’t introduce a speaker in less time than Lincoln delivered history, then you need to cut down your introduction.