Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How to Introduce a Speaker at a Meeting or Conference

Whether you are the emcee of an event or overseeing a company sales meeting, you may be expected to skillfully introduce individuals who are scheduled to speak. Here is a brief overview of that topic, which addresses why a speaker needs to be introduced; how to prepare the introduction; and suggestions for organizing your thoughts.

Introducing the speaker serves two primary purposes. First, the introduction serves as a transition. The individual about to speak was previously in the audience, out of the room, and/or might be unknown to attendees at the particular event. This individual will now be stepping forward to share insight on a subject. Your introduction acknowledges this physical and emotional shift, and also helps listeners in the audience mentally move from where they were (i.e., focused either on the previous speaker or another topic) to the upcoming speaker and the topic he or she will address.

Second, your introduction offers valuable cues to the audience as far as what they should expect from the speaker and the topic. Thus, you want to answer the following questions: Why is the topic being presented at this time? Why should individual audience members care? Why has the speaker been chosen to address this topic? What special preparation, knowledge, or experience qualifies this person to speak?

The speaker may already have prepared an introduction for you to use. If so, practice reading it aloud several times so your presentation on the day of the event is smooth and polished.

If the speaker has not prepared an introduction, you’ll need to do so before the actual event. Contact the speaker to secure biographical information and inquire about his or her personal objectives for the presentation, perceived value of the topic to listeners, and any other thoughts that will inform the preparation and delivery of the talk.

You are now ready to write the introduction. Like any good presentation, your introduction will have an opening, body, and conclusion. The opening should grab the audience’s attention by establishing the importance of the subject the speaker is about to address. The body of your introduction needs to answer four questions, alluded to above: Why this topic? Why this audience? Why this speaker? Why now? Your conclusion should highlight the speaker’s importance to the overall proceedings and make him or her feel welcome, after which point you lead the applause and gracefully invite the speaker to the front of the room to deliver the talk. Wait for the speaker to arrive before vacating the area from which this individual will be speaking. You should plan on speaking for thirty seconds to two minutes, depending on the nature of the event and the celebrity of the speaker.

Your introduction is not a summary of the speech, nor should it include every detail in the presenter’s professional and personal background. It is not typically an occasion to make a joke at the speaker’s expense. Therefore, it’s advisable to share your written introduction with the speaker prior to the event to make sure it’s acceptable.

By avoiding these pitfalls and following the related guidelines, you are more likely to deliver an introduction that goes a long way to helping the speaker succeed. Equally important, you’ll be contributing to the overall effectiveness of the event.

1 comment:

Christiane Crawford said...

Thank you Mitchell. This is really informative. I recommend anyone who might ever be called upon to do an introduction, read this. It's very helpful.