October 22, 2010

An intro that jumped the gun

Photo by Todd Dailey
Andrew Dlugan wrote a great post the other day on how to introduce a speaker, and it's a definitive article on the subject with 16 right-on points (and some great additions in the comments). I recommend you read this article if you ever find yourself in the position of introducing a speaker.

I'd like to tag along on that blog post with a story I heard from a colleague today about a botched introduction. Although it seems like a no-brainer not to do this, obviously someone did it, so it bears being mentioned.

My colleague (let's call her "Sara") was one of two speakers in a class, and when she arrived, the other speaker had already begun. Sara double-checked with the instructor to make sure she had her bio, and the instructor said, "I already read the bios at the beginning of class."

So what happened next was this: The first speaker finished, and Sara had to walk up to the front of the class -- in silence -- with no introduction or announcement, and start speaking. Now, Sara is no shy wallflower, and I'm sure she launched into her presentation with her usual verve and excitement.

But boy, what a way to take the wind out of someone's sails! Not to mention the confusion the class probably felt. An experienced speaker might know to jump in and at least remind the audience of her name before she begins her talk. A less-experienced speaker might just feel really crummy and awkward.

When you are introducing a speaker, don't read her intro 20 minutes before she speaks. The introduction must precede the speaker -- the purpose is to build up to the speaker's entrance, to create a transition from whatever happened before, and let the audience know that a presentation is about to begin. The introduction is not just a bunch of information that you can insert at any place into the event.

You don't read it a half hour before your speaker takes the stage, you don't jump in and read it in the middle of the presentation, and you certainly don't read it at the end. You read it right before the speaker goes on, transferring the stage from yourself to the speaker. Period.

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3 comments. Please add yours! :

Ashwin R J said...

Hi Lisa,

I happened to stumble upon your blog while I was browsing for tips on presentation skills. Loved some of your tips, I found them both useful and practical in real life and am truly grateful to you for that.

I have seen first hand, the issues created due to a poor introduction to a speaker -

Is it proper to give a detailed introduction of the speaker or should we limit to a few details as per the context?

I have been witness to more than a couple of presentations where the introduction to the speakers were much more detailed than required and sometimes left the presenters red-faced due to the overinflated expectations of the audience.

Should presenters be allowed to give introductions about themselves rather than have the hosts do the honour ?

Ashwin Joseph,
Department of Management Studies,
Pondicherry university,

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Ashwin, thank you for your comments and questions!

Your first question is directly addressed in Andrew Dlugan's blog post, numbers 11 and 12, so I do recommend you read it.

As for introducing oneself, it's acceptable but shouldn't be necessary. There should always be an organizer of some sort who can introduce you. If the person introducing you doesn't know how, and you feel that there's an awkward space between being introduced and your presentation, I would suggest saying no more than your name and a note about your topic.

The reason for this is that the people who have come to hear you speak are there for a reason. They already know something about you or they wouldn't be there. For you to repeat your own credentials at length would most likely be redundant, and you can come across as egotistical if you're not careful.

So I say, if you have to introduce yourself, keep it to the bare minimum. If somehow they've missed who you are and why you're there, they can read your materials and visit your website later! Read more here in my blog post about stating your credentials: http://coachlisab.blogspot.com/2007/10/stating-your-credentials-yay-or-nay.html and this one about self-serving intros and butt-kissing thank yous: http://coachlisab.blogspot.com/2009/08/self-serving-introductions-and-butt.html.

Ashwin R J said...

Thanks Lisa !

I really appreciate your replying to my queries. Hoping to make much more use of your blog in future :)

Ashwin Joseph

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