How to Introduce a Speaker
Whether you are the emcee of a public event or overseeing a company sales meeting, you will be expected to skillfully introduce individuals who are scheduled to speak. Here is a brief overview of the topic, covering why a speaker needs to be introduced; how to prepare the introduction; and suggestions for organizing your thoughts.
Introducing the speaker serves two primary purposes. First, it functions as a transition. The individual about to speak was previously in the audience, out of the room, or otherwise unknown as a presenter to attendees at the particular event. He or she will now be stepping forward to share insight on a subject. Your introduction acknowledges this physical shift, and also helps listeners in the audience mentally move from where they were (focused either on the previous speaker or another topic, possibly even one unrelated to the proceedings!) to the upcoming speaker and the topic he or she will address.
Second, your introduction offers valuable cues to the audience as far as what they should expect from the speaker and the topic. In pursuit of this purpose, you will want to answer the following questions: Why is the topic being presented at this time? What is in it for the individual members of the audience? Why has the speaker been chosen to address this topic? What special preparation, knowledge, experience, or experience qualifies him or her to deliver these thoughts?
You will need to prepare an introduction for the speaker before the actual event to answer the aforementioned questions. Contact the speaker to secure biographical information and inquire about his or her personal objectives for the presentation, perceived value of the topic to listeners, and any other thoughts that inform the preparation and delivery of the talk.
You are now ready to write the introduction. Like any good presentation, your introduction will have an opening, body, and conclusion. The opening should grab the attention of the audience by establishing the importance of the subject the speaker is about to address. The body of your introduction needs to answer four questions, alluded to above: why this audience? why this topic? why this speaker? why now? Your conclusion should highlight the importance of the speaker to the overall proceedings and make him or her feel welcome, after which point you lead the applause and gracefully invite the speaker to the front of the room to deliver the talk. Plan on speaking for thirty seconds to two minutes, depending on the nature of the event and the celebrity of the speaker.
Your introduction is not a summary of the speech, nor should it include every detail in the professional background of the speaker. It is not typically an occasion to make a joke at the expense of the speaker or embarrass him or her. By avoiding these pitfalls, you are more likely to deliver an introduction that goes a long way to helping the speaker succeed, and at the same time contributes to the overall effectiveness of the event.
Mitchell Friedman, APR provides consulting, training, and coaching in writing, media interview preparation, presentation skills, Internet public relations, and other communication skills. For more information, see http://www.mitchellfriedman.com .