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March 2004 - How to Introduce a Speaker-Part 2

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March 2004

How to Introduce a Speaker-Part 2

Last month I said a good introduction summarizes important information about the speaker, emphasizes memorable information, and then synthesizes or puts everything together to draw attention and focus on the speaker. There are several things to keep in mind as you put the introduction together.

  1. Know the speaker's name. Nothing is more embarrassing to an introducer and deflating to the speaker than to give a detailed introduction only to forget the name of the person you are introducing. Know the speaker's name.
  2. Make sure you can pronounce the name. I've often heard introducers stumble over or mispronounce the name of the person being introduced. Know the correct pronunciation. The speaker will appreciate it and the audience will expect it. Practice saying the name out loud.
  3. Say the speaker's name at least two or three times during the course of the introduction-preferably more. It is good to state the name in the first sentence and again in the final sentence of the introduction. This practice will help listeners focus on the name and remember it. The introduction of me (given in last month's column) was 163 words; yet, the introducer used my name five times with some variation. In the beginning and ending sentences he used the full name with the title-Dr. John Kline, in two other places he said "Dr. Kline," and in referring to our children he said "the Kline's." In another place the introducer simply said, "John" because the introducer knew me. Also, the audience was composed of a group of adults, some as old as I, and the situation did not demand a high degree of formality. The use of the first name was appropriate in this situation. If in doubt, however, stay with the more formal address. Dr. Kline, Mr. Kline, Dr. John Kline-or even John Kline is more formal than simply "John." Whatever the case, say the speaker's name more than once-and say it clearly.
  4. If possible, talk with speakers before time to introduce them. Sometimes there is time at the event. Often there is not. Just a phone call to speakers several days ahead of the event will let them know you are looking forward to meeting them, introducing them, and listening to them speak. This contact will also give you some feeling about the speaker and perhaps suggest something to include in the introduction. But be careful in making last minute additions to the introduction. Sometimes they backfire or sound "added" rather than being part of a carefully planned and worded introduction.
  5. Practice the introduction. Good introductions do not burst forth in full bloom without careful preparation and practice. I am frequently asked to be Master of Ceremonies at dinners and banquets with important personalities present. I generally get the speakers' biographical data either from their offices or on line. I also ask if there is anything the speaker wants me to emphasize. Then I consider the audience and the occasion and prepare the introduction. I usually do this several days ahead of time so I can look it over, practice it, and decide what adjustments I should make. If I know the speakers, I may add a personal comment, something I know about them that I think the audience would react favorably to. I take the task seriously of introducing a speaker. I usually do a very good job. Consequently, I get asked to do it often.
  6. Don't read the introduction-or else read very well, giving direct and impartial eye contact to your audience. In most cases it's better to use an extemporaneous style of delivery. The same techniques and tactics discussed in my recent book on Speaking Effectively apply also to giving introductions.

Your task as introducer is to communicate effectively to the audience about the speaker. The focus should be on the speaker, not on you the introducer. Don't take the task lightly. The speaker deserves the best introduction you can give-one that summarizes, emphasizes and synthesizes important information.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

March 2004 - How to Introduce a Speaker-Part 2
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