Effective Introductions: How to Set Your Speaker Up for Success

Effective Introductions

By Brian Palmer, CMM

Introducing a speaker during your event is a pivotal moment for your program. It establishes credibility and rapport with the audience and sets the tone for the rest of the session. If the audience is lost at the outset, your speaker may have a tough time connecting with them later. You want the audience to accept your speaker as a person, to trust the information put forth in the presentation and ultimately believe the overall message of the session. All that begins with a good beginning.

Here are four tips to ensure an effective introduction:

  1. Plan in advance. Too often, the speaker introduction is scribbled on a cocktail napkin five minutes before the start of the session. Many speakers have a formal introduction already ready. Consider using that as a starting point since it often will tease some of the primary points of the presentation. Whether you use a prepared introduction word for word, or draft your own, you may want to check it with the speaker ahead of time. In doing so, you stand a better chance of getting the audience’s attention, you reduce possible surprises and you create a smooth transition.
  2. Customize it. The best introductions last no longer than two or three minutes and should include information that is relevant to the audience. Just as a presentation should custom fit the group you’re addressing, the ideal introduction also should include a degree of customization—something that immediately relates to the listeners.
  3. Choose the right person for the job. One way to ensure a powerful start is to assign the introduction to someone who knows the audience and is comfortable speaking in front of a group. Get the audience’s attention, and then give them a good taste for what’s about to come next.
  4. Make the format readable. Here is a trick Alan Parisse taught me many years ago about helping people do a good job with their introductions. People usually get a piece of paper and read the words, and they’re in paragraph forms. It’s a little difficult at times, if somebody wants to look around and make eye contact with the audience, to then look back down and find out exactly where they were. Alan’s idea was to make each sentence its own paragraph. It allows the person to read, look up, and find his or her place much more readily—making the job easier and providing your speakers with a better start to their presentation.

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