The Art of Speaking  

Mastering the introduction

By Rae Stonehouse

Have you ever heard this said? “Our next speaker needs no introduction …” Well, if that’s true mister/madam emcee, then why do we need you?

As a master of ceremonies, your role is to build excitement about each speaker or presenter on your agenda.

While developing and honing my speaking skills at countless Toastmasters meetings and introducing hundreds of speakers over the years, I have developed an appreciation for the value of an effective introduction.

Whether you are introducing a speaker/presenter, presenting an award or introducing a person who will be taking on a role in the program, a professionally written and delivered introduction can exponentially increase the effectiveness of the person that you are introducing.

As the master of ceremonies, you are the warm-up act. Your role is to build excitement so your audience can’t wait to hear what the person you are introducing has to say.

Here are some tips and techniques to ensure your next speaker introductions are delivered professionally.

Preparation is the key to success

If you are introducing professional or very experienced speakers, they may provide you with a script in advance that they want you to deliver word for word … nothing more, nothing less.

They will also likely provide you with details or instructions on how to deliver the introduction. You may be told to read it quickly with an increasing tempo or perhaps slow and whimsical.

It all depends on what they are trying to achieve in their presentation.

If you can memorize some of it without having to read your notes word for word, all the better.

As an emcee, I have often met the speaker just moments before he goes on stage with him passing me the introduction and only having a quick view of what I will be reading.

If you can contact your speaker in advance to work out the details of their introduction, do so.

But what about the nonprofessional speaker who, when asked for an introduction of their presentation, replies with “Oh, you know me. Just make something up!” What will you do then?

Using the six questions of who, what, why, when, where and how that every story requires, you would start by gathering answers to each of those vital questions.

This information gathering leads to the next step of the process that I call creating promotional copy. That is a term borrowed from the direct marketing industry to promote and sell products or services.

Selling the speaker to the audience

The most important factor we have to address from the audience’s perspective is “what’s in it for me?” Those who are awake and not texting on their smart phone that is.

Each audience member is asking the same questions: “Why should I listen to this person?” “Where is their credibility?” “What promises are they making me?”

If the person I am introducing is speaking on a topic that has been chosen for them and they have been chosen to speak because they have expertise on the subject, I would build that into my introduction.

I would mention any academic achievements or honorary awards if it adds to their credibility. I would do my best to highlight their accomplishments and promote what wisdom they will likely share with us.

Your introduction serves as the warm up act in helping your speaker to a strong start.

Sometimes as an emcee you will encounter a speaker who is lacklustre, some may call them “plain vanilla.” That probably poses the question “why are they speaking if that is true?”

Your challenge as a promotional copy writer is to work with them and dig a little to find those personal details that will “sell” the speaker.

Have you ever wondered how athletes or celebrities become motivational speakers? Their stardom enables them to springboard into other topics that brings their credibility with them. Your job is to find that hidden nugget and shine it — but review it with the speaker before presenting it live.

Your introduction should be crafted as any other speech. It should include an opening, body and conclusion. The slight difference in telling a story is that you are building the excitement as part of the speaker’s story and it is up to them to finish it.

Pitfalls to avoid:

  • You don’t want to create a promotional introduction that might embarrass the speaker.
  • Avoid making statements that the speaker couldn’t possibly live up to. Example: “You are going to absolutely love this speaker. He is the funniest man alive. He makes Robin Williams look like Richard Nixon!” If it is true … go for it! If not … don’t use it.
  • Do not steal the speaker’s thunder. Perhaps you have heard the speaker’s presentation before. Mentioning the content or paraphrasing their lines can take away the impact of the material when the speaker is presenting it. I would suggest confirming with the speaker. 
  • Don’t wing it. Practice, practice, practice. Despite how the cliché goes, practice does not make perfect. Practice with constructive feedback and acting upon the suggestions, leads to excellence. Rehearse your introductions out loud and have a partner provide you with feedback.

​Toastmasters clubs are excellent places to practise these skills and receive constructive feedback.

Rae Stonehouse is an Okanagan-based author, speaker and Toastmaster. Contact: 250-451-6564 or i[email protected].

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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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