Introducing a speaker is one of the shortest speeches you’ll give in Toastmasters, but still an important responsibility.
How not to introduce a speaker
Consider this scenario from a Toastmaster and what went wrong:
“I’ll never forget the time I gave a speech about a little girl about 7 years old who died in a plane crash while trying to fly across the United States with her father and her flying teacher. To establish my credibility for what I was about to say, my introduction mentioned the fact that I had been a private pilot and that I had worked with gifted children. Unfortunately, the Toastmaster chose to ignore my written introduction and gave a flowery introduction stating how witty and humorous I was. Considering the subject matter, and the fact that the speech contained absolutely no humour, the introduction was completely inappropriate. I started out by thanking the Toastmaster for the charming introduction, then went on to say that it was not the introduction I had provided. Then I gave the background information. Naturally that took the edge off my opening.”
And apparently Mark Twain felt that his introductions were so bad that he refused to let anyone introduce him. He simply walked out on stage and introduced himself.
But as Toastmasters, that should never happen, because we are passing up a golden opportunity to learn and practice a vital part of public speaking – the ability to deliver an effective introduction.
Purpose of Introductions
The purpose of an introduction is to introduce the speaker to the audience, and the audience to the speaker, so you establish a common bond between them.
It’s a mini-speech – usually about a minute long – but it contains all the elements of a full speech – an opening, a body and a conclusion.
The OPENING is when you address the audience – they are the listeners so you need to grab their attention.
Wait until the audience is quiet and expectant before you begin to speak. An introduction no-one hears is very hard on the speaker – and could jeopardise the opening of his/her speech.
The BODY of your introduction should tell the audience who the speaker is and prepare them by giving some background on the speaker’s experience, qualifications or special interest in the topic.
Learning something about the speaker helps the audience warm towards him/her – in turn the speaker senses the empathy and begins the speech with more confidence.
Weave the speaker’s name into the introduction so the audience will clearly relate the speaker to the topic.
Make sure you give accurate information to the audience – the only way to do this is to contact the speaker beforehand, by phone, fax or email. It can be embarrassing for a speaker to have to correct inaccurate facts before starting a speech.
Finally the CONCLUSION is where you welcome the speaker, lead the applause and take your seat.
Introducing a speaker – some do’s and don’ts
- DO be brief – but adequate – remember you are introducing them, not giving the speech!
- DO be accurate – make sure you have your facts about the speaker correct – the most important one being the pronunciation of their name!
- DO be sincere – you must show the speaker and the audience that you are looking forward to the talk.
- DO be aware of the occasion and the audience – eg if you want to add humour, make sure it’s appropriate.
- DO show by your manner that you are looking forward to the speech.
- DON’T go overboard in your praise.
- DON’T give the speaker’s life story.
- DON’T give the speech yourself.
Introducing a speaker – five basic guidelines
- Address the audience – grab their attention
- Refer to the speaker – tell the audience who the speaker is and prepare them by giving some background on the speaker’s experience, qualifications or special interest in the topic
- Refer to the topic – this is of great interest to the audience. It’s what they’ve come for – explain how the topic is relevant to them and how they stand to gain from listening
- Make the audience clear on what’s to follow – for example any housekeeping items such as time for questions, handouts, note-taking
- Welcome the speaker and lead the applause – indicate for the speaker to approach, step back and lead the applause, welcome the speaker (possibly with a handshake or some other form of acknowledgement), wait for acknowledgement from the speaker, then leave the speaking area and sit down
Who should introduce a speaker?
Introduction by the Chairperson
If the chairperson decides to do all the speaker introductions, this is an opportunity to complete Assignment 5 in the Specialty Speeches manual – “Introduce the Speaker”. This manual gives guidance on what to do and how to act as the MC or Toastmaster for the whole meeting. The evaluation guide covers:
- your warmup comments
- the quality and content of your introductions
Preparation is required. You need to do your research:
- find out the name of the speaker
- the manual and assignment details
- any special requirements
You also need to arrange with the General Evaluator to comment on your performance during the meeting, and complete the evaluation guide.
Introduction by the Evaluator
If your role is an evaluator, you should introduce the speaker (unless the Chairperson is completing the above assignment by arrangement).
You need to contact the speaker beforehand and find out all the details for the speech, and then compose your introduction. You can then link your evaluation with your introduction, so that the speech is the “meat in the sandwich” between your introduction and your evaluation. If the speech is 7 minutes long, then your introduction should be about one minute, and your evaluation 2-3 minutes.
Preparing your own Introduction
As we know, sometimes things don’t go as planned on the meeting night, and alternative speakers or evaluations may be required at the last minute. All speakers should always compose their own introductions regardless. Write it out on a piece of paper, practise it, and place it in your manual with your speech notes. That way, if things do change at the last minute, or your evaluator is unprepared, you can hand your introduction to the chairperson or stand-in evaluator. They then have a perfect scripted introduction to work from. This makes sure your introduction will be accurate.
You as a speaker have learnt the valuable skill of preparing your own introductions. The person introducing you learns how to introduce a speaker by working from a prepared script.