Fourteen Introduction Tips

by Speaking Tips | December 22, 2003

A good introduction should capture the audience's attention, bring them together as a group and motivate them to listen attentively to the speaker. Here are fourteen tips to help you do just that.

  1. Identify yourself by name and title, unless this has already been earlier. Remember, the speaker also needs to know who you are.
  2. Know the speaker's name and how to pronounce it. If it is an unusual name, help the audience learn it.
  3. Know the speaker's title or position.
  4. Be brief. Aim for between one and three minutes. Five minutes is too long.
  5. Do not read the introduction. It will sound flat, unenthusiastic and convey the impression that you are unfamiliar with the subject. It is acceptable to bring notes to the lectern but keep them inconspicuous.
  6. Smile and be enthusiastic in tone, gesture and choice of words.
  7. Know enough about the subject to sound knowledgeable.
  8. Announce the speech title as given to you by the speaker. If you have any questions about it, ask the speaker before the introduction. Many speakers select specific titles for a reason or for a pun. If the speaker is not using a title, make sure that your description matches the speaker's.
  9. Introductions are no place to use slides, overheads or presentation software.
  10. Anecdotes are good but should pertain to the subject and be in harmony with the mood of the presentation. Avoid using canned jokes.
  11. If the credentials of the speaker are so outstanding that they must be shared with the audience or if there are publications the audience will want to know about, insert them in the program or prepare a separate commemorative handout.
  12. Never use the old cliche that the speaker needs no introduction. If the introduction ties the speaker to the audience and the topic then each introduction is unique, plus there is always something new about every speaker.
  13. You are the catalyst, not the performer. Do not try to upstage the speaker with your knowledge of the subject. Do not dwell on your relationship with the speaker, even (or perhaps especially) if they are your boss, relative or significant other.
  14. Introduction of a panel of speakers is the same except the introducer needs to describe the structure and format of the panel (speaking order, length of time) and the various points of view and perspectives of the panelists. The introduction of the individual panelists can be done two ways: All at once or individually as the panel program progresses. Most audiences prefer a handout with the panelists' credentials so they can refer to it as the panel progresses.

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