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February 2004 - How to Introduce a Speaker-Part 1

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February 2004

How to Introduce a Speaker-Part 1

Anyone can learn to do a good job introducing speakers. Unfortunately, few people do it well. Effective introducers don't simply read a biographical sketch or résumé or vita of the speaker. You've heard that type of introduction all too often.

Recently I was introduced this way: "I am really pleased to introduce our speaker tonight. Our speaker was born in Marshalltown, Iowa. He attended thirteen years of schooling before graduating from the Conrad, Iowa, High School. After he farmed for several years, he attended Iowa State University-where in 1967 he received his Bachelor's degree in English and Speech. Then he was awarded a fellowship and studied at the University of Iowa where he received a Masters degree in 1968 and PhD degree in Human Communication in 1970. Then he was a professor at the University of New Mexico from 1970 to 1971, and the University of Missouri-Columbia from 1971 to 1975 before becoming a professor at . . . "

Boring, isn't it? All I could think was "the introducer still has three decades to go." Don't read from a resume or vita. They usually provide a complete background and summary of the person's job employment, but their use as introductions can be deadly boring. So, how does one do an effective job of introducing a speaker? Here is a formula that works well.


Decide what the audience needs to know. Pick out significant information that establishes the speaker's credibility and information that sets him or her apart from others. In other words, why is this speaker speaking on this subject? What makes speakers you introduce different, unique, worth listening to? Don't tell everything about a speaker, just what will get the job done.

Another Introducer began an introduction this way: "I am pleased to introduce our speaker, Dr. John Kline. John is a native Iowan with a PhD Degree in Communication from the University of Iowa. He's been a professor at several major universities. . ." Contrast these words with those of the previous introducer. With two sentences the introducer summarized the first half of my life and established my expertise in communication. The first introducer used 111 words, this one 34-a third as many. And the first introducer didn't even mention my name. Let's look at the entire introduction the second introducer used to see how he summarized, emphasized, and synthesized.

I am pleased to introduce our speaker, Dr. John Kline. John is a native Iowan with a PhD Degree in Communication from the University of Iowa. He's been a professor at several major universities and has led large and complex organizations. Dr. Kline now teaches and directs the Institute for Leadership Development at Troy University.

He and his wife Ann live in Montgomery, which he says is about equally located between the homes of the Kline's five children and their families and it provides a good home base for his current speaking, writing, and teaching activity.

He is the author of several books including his most recent Prentice Hall publications titled, Speaking Effectively and Listening Effectively. Dr. Kline is often called upon to provide training to major corporations and military audiences on communicating and listening effectively. In the past two weeks he spoke in Seattle, San Antonio, and Frankfort, Germany. Tonight he'll be talking to us on "The Neglected Skill of Listening."

Please join me in giving a warm Texas welcome to Dr. John Kline.

This short introduction summarizes what is important for the audience to know. It emphasizes academic credentials (doctorate and professorships), current position (at Troy University), life experience (has a family and has "led large and complex organizations"), and information relative to the topic (author of book on listening). Then it synthesizes or puts it together to direct attention to the topic of the speech-listening.


During the Spanish-American War, the newspaper baron, William Randolph Hearst sent this telegram to his on-the-spot reporter, "Send juicy details, never mind the facts." Hearst, of course, overstated his case. A reporter needs facts, but Hearst knew the value of emphasizing interesting material.

You can't focus on everything about the speaker. What should you emphasize? While you want to emphasize things related to the topic, other things may also be valuable. Sometimes you will just want to provide lively and vital human-interest information as the introducer did when mentioning my family. Effective introducers often pick something memorable to set the speaker apart from others. Interesting hobbies, a distinct honor, and an amusing situation-these all serve to emphasize some distinctive aspect of the individual's life. This type of information will have the positive result of gaining the audience's attention and interest.


An effective introduction puts everything together to draw attention and focus to the speaker. This is your objective-to direct the focus to the speaker. Next month we'll tell several things to keep in mind as you synthesize or put the introduction together.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

February 2004 - How to Introduce a Speaker-Part 1
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