When You Get the First Word

As leaders, we’re often asked to speak to groups, large and small. We invest many hours over the course of a year preparing for those presentations. As a frequent speaker, I’ve noticed a growing trend - introductions that leave me and the audience scratching our head.

Now, the truth is we have little control over how we’ll be introduced. One of my speaking coaches suggested that I write the intro for every talk I give and hand it to the person doing the introduction. You can decide if you want to go that far or not.
The point of this post is not what to do when you’ve been introduced poorly; maybe I’ll write about that in the future. Today, I want to share a few ideas to help you create dynamic and appropriate introductions for the men and women you introduce. What do you say when you get the first word rather than the last?
To begin with, you need to think of an introduction just like any other presentation, albeit extremely short. You need to allow time to prepare.  To begin your prep, you want to ask a few important questions.

What is the objective of this introduction?

Is this an introduction of the speaker or the topic or both?

What does the audience already know about the topic and/or the presenter?

What is the mental state of mind of the audience?  Are they tired? Anxious? Apprehensive? Excited? Apathetic?

With the answers to the previous questions in hand, here’s a simple template to consider the next time you're ask to introduce someone...
Preview the topic (as needed) – Establish the value and relevance of the topic.
Prepare the audience – Establish the value and credibility of the speaker.  Link the presenter with the topic.  Answer the question, “Why should I listen to this person?”
Personalize the presenter – Help people relate to the presenter as a person, not just a speaker.  Consider a personal story or anecdote that captures the humanity of the person.  Help them connect with the audience.
PS: Be brief - Say what needs to be said and nothing more. It’s not about you. If you do your job well, the presenter will get higher marks than they would have without your introduction.
When we have the opportunity to help a speaker be successful by introducing them well, we not only serve the speaker, we serve the audience too. Everybody wins. I love a win-win scenario!


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