Excellent public speaking makes those who have it appear both credible and smart and those who wish to obtain or maintain the appearance of authority and expertise are advised to cultivate the art. Public speaking not only refers to s/he who makes a featured presentation—keynote speakers, guest lecturers, panelists, moderators, or the toastmaster at a social function—but also includes s/he who introduces a speaker.
An invitation to introduce a speaker is an honor and a vote of confidence and you would be wise to prepare for the occasion. The introducer bears the responsibility of preparing the audience to respect the speaker and trust his/her information or story line. If you receive an opportunity to introduce a speaker, keep the following suggestions in mind:
Show that you have the credentials to make the introduction
S/he who introduces a speaker must earn the confidence of the audience. The leader or some other high-ranking member of the sponsoring organization usually introduces speakers, and earns that confidence by way of the authority vested in his/her position. Alternatively, a VIP speaker may be introduced by a similarly ranked colleague or guest VIP, who earns the confidence of the audience and as well conveys the importance of the speaker. The guest VIP who introduces the high profile featured speaker will merit his/her own introduction and that will be given by a member of the sponsoring group.
Direct audience attention to the speaker
A speaker introduction is in reality a sales presentation and obtaining audience buy-in for the speaker and topic is your mission. Your first order of business is to persuade the audience to be fully present in the moment. Typically, audience members are engaged in other activities in the intervening moments between speaker presentations, or as they await for the program to begin.
Some will be in conversation with those nearby, perhaps discussing the previous speaker or the program agenda. Others will be focused on electronic devices, checking email, sending texts, or posting social media updates. Your introduction must provide a bridge that transports the audience away from distractions and leads them to the subject of your introduction, the speaker.
A clever way to gain audience attention is to capture their imaginations with a rhetorical question related to the topic. Consider opening your introduction with “What if…?“, “What is it about…?“, or “Have you ever wondered how…?” The question will allow you to segue into the topic, which ideally will be perceived as compelling, to validate the audience member’s decision to attend.
Endorse the speaker
Now that you have the audience’s attention and confidence, it’s time to portray the speaker as an expert who is deserving of the audience’s time, attention and money (if admission was paid). Put them in the mood to hear the talk by saying something like… “I first heard (the speaker) about three years ago, at a reading s/he gave soon after his/her book (title) was published. I’ve been anticipating the release of this new book (title).” “I’ve heard more than one expert address our topic this afternoon, but I believe that (the speaker) gives the most comprehensive and clear representation of the facts…”
You may in addition give a build-up that precedes the above by listing awards and honors that the speaker has received, if applicable, or reading quotes about the speaker that have appeared in important publications.
Create intrigue and excitement about the topic
Tempt the audience with a smidgen of how the speaker will meet or surpass their expectations for the talk. Read a sentence or two of an early review of the book that will be discussed. Describe a useful piece of information that audience members will receive as they listen to the presentation. Make them know that a worthwhile pay-off awaits.
Continue to demonstrate that you make excellent speaker introductions by weaving the sense of anticipation into your actual introduction, perhaps in this way… “Let’s all welcome (the speaker) and let him/her give us the real story about what’s going on.” “Let’s invite (the speaker) to tell us what happens next in the ongoing saga of this character. Please join me and give him/her a warm welcome.”
Thanks for reading,