The importance of an introduction:
drafting and delivering; plus tips on to use the lectern and the stage.
A well-crafted introduction enhances a presentation by providing the following:
- Smooth transition – An introduction defines the speaker's role and prepares the audience for a shift from previous activities by refocusing their interest.
- Proper mindset – Audience members are more likely to appreciate a speech if they are given some background information about the speaker and the topic to be discussed and the desired mood or tone is set.
- Speaker authority – A good introduction helps establish the speaker’s expertise or background in the subject.
Since a speech introduction must be brief, it should be exceptionally well planned. If you have been assigned to present an introduction, your primary consideration is to inform the audience of three essential points:
Speaker’s name – Always say the speaker’s name distinctly and clearly, especially at the very end of the introduction. If the name has a tricky pronunciation, confirm the correct way, and then write it out phonetically for yourself.
Speech topic – Relate the speaker’s background and credentials to the speech topic. Then tell how the topic will benefit the audience. Ask yourself why this subject is appropriate for this particular audience.
Speech title – The speech’s title is typically mentioned at the end of the introduction. Like the speaker’s name, it needs to be given special emphasis.
If you are introducing a fellow Toastmaster at a club meeting, your introduction should also include three crucial elements:
Speech assignment – Tell the audience if the speaker is speaking from the Competent Communication manual or from one of the manuals in the Advanced Communication Series. Announce the assignment number and the title of that assignment.
Speech objectives – State the assignment’s main objectives and the personal objectives of the speaker.
Delivery time – Mention to the audience the time the speech is meant to take. Inform the person operating the timing lights of the timing parameters.
DRAFTING THE INTRODUCTION
Introductions create a friendly environment for the speaker and a sense of anticipation for the audience. Imagine yourself in the position of the speaker.
- Approach – As a speaker, what would make you feel appreciated and welcome?
- Length – Generally, a 30- to 45-second introduction is about right; print longer introductions on the program agenda.
- Delivery – Rehearse for a polished delivery that will engage the audience’s interest and curiosity; write short sentences for "one breath" delivery.
- Clarification – Always ask the speaker what should be included in the introduction, and make an effort to use words and ideas suggested by the speaker.
Far from being a solo assignment, the creation of a good introduction is actually a two-way effort
between the speaker and the person introducing the speaker. For the benefit of the overall presentation,
the speaker has the following responsibilities:
Be available to offer speech-related information. An introducer may have pertinent questions for the speaker. Beginning speakers are often apprehensive about contributing to their own introductions for fear of being considered conceited for speaking highly of themselves. It is important that the speaker is available to answer relevant questions.
Inform the introducer of any special considerations. For example, a need for projection equipment or ADA access. If a question-and-answer period is to be included at the end of the speech, this information needs to be incorporated into the introduction.
Heed the following “don’ts”:
Don’t upstage the speaker. Your task is to turn attention to the speaker – not to yourself. This means eliminating any anecdotes about your
experiences, attitudes, and opinions.
Don’t reveal any details of the speech. An introduction should invite anticipation of the upcoming speech. The contents of a speech should never be previewed in an introduction.
Don’t surprise the speaker. Never include information that might embarrass or in some way distract from the speaker’s message. As the introducer, you are there to support the speaker and make that person’s transition to the lectern as smooth as possible.
Don’t praise the speaker’s skills. Generous compliments can encourage unreasonable expectations. Let the audience decide the skill of the speaker.
Don’t rely on clichés. Your time is much too valuable to clutter it with trite phrases, such as, “This speaker needs no introduction.” Other worn-out expressions to avoid include, “We have with us tonight…,” “Without further ado…,” and “It gives me great pleasure to present…”
Don’t save the speaker’s name until last. Unless you are introducing a mystery guest, don’t create false anticipation. Since audiences are usually aware of who will be speaking, incorporating the person’s name once or twice before pronouncing it a final time is a far more natural approach.
Writing a good introduction is only half of the job. The other half includes a relaxed, professional delivery that creates a friendly atmosphere between both speaker and audience.
Speak to the audience. Primary eye contact should be with the audience members until the speaker’s name is mentioned for the final time.
Lead the applause. When the speaker’s name is stated for the last time, begin applauding. The audience members take their cues from those who have demonstrated authority at the lectern.
Shake hands. Once the speaker has reached the lectern, the introducer shakes the speaker’s hand.
Leave the lectern. The introducer does not cross in front of or behind the speaker. Instead, return to your seat by moving in a direction away from the speaker.
Show interest. Continue to show interest and involvement throughout the speech presentation, especially if you remain in view of the audience. When the speech has concluded and the introducer is back at the lectern, the introducer may add about 30 seconds worth of summary comments on the following: The speech’s ideas; points of entertainment; how the speech helped or enlightened the audience; words of thanks and appreciation.
Presenting a complete yet to-the-point introduction can be deceptively challenging. Deciding what to leave out is just as important as what to include. Once you have mastered the art of the introduction, you will have taken your speaking abilities yet another step forward and earned the gratitude of both speaker and audience members.