Sooner or later it will happen to you. There you are, minding your own business, when someone calls or stops by to ask you a little favor, “Hey, it’s no big deal, but would you be willing to introduce the guest speaker for Thursday’s meeting?” There are three ways you can handle the request.
- As Nancy Regan used to tell us, “Just say, ‘No!'”
- Run for your life.
- Graciously accept the challenge and prepare to do your best.
Personally, I prefer option number two, but that doesn’t always work well, especially when the person asking for your help is your boss. In that case, option number three is your only real choice. Here’s how you can make it work for you.
First, contact the guest speaker directly and ask for him or her to provide you with one paragraph of information you can use as the introduction. Do not depend on someone else to do this for you, no matter what they promise to do. If you don’t do it yourself, you will end up with a blank sheet of paper and no idea what to say.
In that case, you can always fall back on the tried and true, “And today we have a guest speaker who needs no introduction,” followed by a brief pause and the speaker’s name. Probably not the best approach, but keep it in mind as a last resort.
Once you have the information from the speaker, check it carefully for typos and grammatical errors. Read it aloud several times. Does it sound right? If not, make the changes you feel are necessary to make the intro easy to read, something that will excite the audience, and which will take about 60 – 90 seconds to present. Then send the revised version back to the speaker for review, revision, and/or approval. In many cases, the work you’ve done will be appreciated and end up becoming the speaker’s new introduction. That really shows the value of your effort.
Make sure you know the speaker’s full name, the way he or she likes to be addressed, and how to pronounce the name correctly. Practice the pro-nunciation several times, preferably while talking with the speaker, so you can verify that you have said it properly. Consider regional pronunciations, as well. Names such as Tallifiero can be a real challenge. In Louisiana, the old-money families pronounce it “Tol-li-ver”, while new-money families tend to enunciate each syllable, exactly as the name is spelled: “Tal-li-fee-air-o”. Your job is to pronounce it the way the speaker prefers.
The structure of the introduction is very straight-forward: “Our [next / first / last] speaker is [fill in the biographical information from the speaker-provided paragraph, but do not use the speaker’s name yet]. Please join me in welcoming [pause, followed by speaker’s name].”
By inserting a pause before you give the speaker’s name, you indicate to the audience that they should be prepared to applaud. They will then be keyed to welcome the speaker with what appears to be a spontaneous round of applause when his/her name is mentioned. Be sure to hesitate long enough for the audience to start applauding before you join in. That makes it look as though you were surprised by the extent of their positive response, even though you orchestrated it.
Introducing a speaker effectively is an art form, but one that relies on very basic techniques anyone can learn: Gather the necessary information, practice what you are going to say, and then present it in such a manner as to elicit the appropriate positive response from your audience.
Our next speaker is a world-renowned motivational speaker, having presented to audiences in over fifty countries on six continents. He has written seven books on the art of remaining positive in trying times and how to survive cataclysmic changes in the work environment. He is here today to help you build your survival package for the changes we see on the horizon, and, especially, for those we haven’t yet noticed.
Please join me in welcoming . . .
Wouldn’t you love to be in the audience for that speech? Me, too.