INTRODUCING A SPEAKER IS SOMETHING FEW OF US PREPARE for very well. After all, if we are not giving the presentation, why should we care? For plenty of reasons. Can you recall the last time you watched someone recite a litany of degrees earned, positions held, books written and honors achieved. Remember feeling the audience's unspoken impression at this point? Chances are good it was a unified, "Let's get on with it!"
Opening comments can play an important role in piquing the audience members' interest, warming them up to the speaker and helping to create the all-important bond between the speaker and the audience. Here are three techniques you can use to engage an audience's attention while adding life and emotion to an introduction:
The age-old advice concerning introductions for speakers has always been to keep them short. But using the "nutshell" approach without proper consideration may cause you to compromise your responsibility as introducer. Instead, carefully consider your role and your objective. Your job is not only to make the speaker's expertise known, but also to rouse interest in hearing the speaker's remarks. Listeners need and want to hear the relevant credentials and prior experiences that uniquely qualify this speaker as the best choice for addressing the topic at hand. So rather than recite a laundry list of accomplishments, point out specific connections between the speaker's past and the audience's motivations for attending the meeting.
Let's say, for example, that you are introducing a physician who will speak to a group of public health officers about domestic violence during pregnancy. When you comb through the physician's background, you find such noteworthy details as her dual residency in obstetrics and psychiatry, and her membership on the state's task force for developing legislative guidelines. These particulars reveal that this physician not only carries a strong background within the topic, but that she cares enough about the issues affecting public health to assist in government policy development. Both these points will build a critical link between the speaker and the audience, and will create positive expectations among the listeners.
It's a cruel fact that people generally find a biography that lists numerous degrees and titles to be meaningless and boring. That changes, however, if you can translate the facts into perceptible situations that mean something to the audience. You can accomplish this through a short personal story. Look for an example of how the speaker has earned respect in his field or an experience in which his actions showed knowledge and support for the topic. To find this information, before the event, ask the speaker a few simple questions, such as "How did you get started in this field?" or "What's the oddest thing that's ever happened while you were conducting research?" Simply put, people are interested in people, not degrees, and if you bring out the speaker's human side, his accomplishments will ultimately mean more to the audience.
One challenge you face during an introduction is broadening the audience's opinion of the speaker, stirring them from neutrality to anticipation - through your personal endorsement. Why was this speaker chosen for this event? If you haven't touched on it already, communicate to the audience why your organization is so pleased to have this particular individual here and willing to present. For example, statements such as "We have chosen this individual based on... " or "The speaker's experience with the topic makes us very pleased she is here today, because ... " are good ways to engender feelings of importance and value. The audience, in turn, senses your respect and admiration for the speaker before she has uttered one word. As a result, you help create excitement in both the audience and the speaker, and all you have left to do is clearly pronounce the speaker's name.
Regardless of how easy it may seem to make an introduction, it is those who exert some time and thought that transform their comments into a successful start to any presentation.