The Art of Introduction

Have you ever had to introduce a speaker? Or have you ever been introduced to an audience by someone else?

If so, you’ll know that some intros are good, some are not so good, and some are cringe-making. But what lies behind this little-understood art? Let’s look at some different approaches.

Just as short farewells are said to be the best, the brief introduction is usually a smart move. For one thing, it avoids the pitfalls the longer ones can fall into. A simple, “This is Joe Bloggs, he is the CEO of Blogs-R-Us and he’s going to talk to us about how to write a successful blog” really does what it needs to do, without taking all day about it.

But some people can’t resist trying to improve on perfection, so let’s look at the other options.

The slightly extended intro can work reasonably well: talking a little about the speaker’s career, perhaps. As long as you keep it fairly short, this approach will be fine, and some of the audience may welcome the additional information.

The long player is the hallmark of someone who has researched the speaker in great depth – and can’t bear to leave any of it out. This sort of thing may be interesting to the person delivering it, but seldom is to the audience. It’s even less so to the speaker. If you’re listening to a long preamble about yourself, what do you do during that time? Should you look interested, humble, flattered? Holding any of those expressions for over a minute is a real strain.

The epic gives every detail of the speaker’s life – or so it can seem to the listeners. This vast list of information is, frankly, a bore. It’s also hard to recapture the audience’s attention after all that stodge. With this intro, and the long player, the phrase “less is more” is always worth bearing in mind (at the planning stage).

The accolade is prone to build up expectations, almost always in an unrealistic way unless you are a Nobel laureate or someone at the peak of your profession – as well as being a riveting orator. Following that with anything short of the “I have a dream” speech or the Gettysburg Address can quickly deflate the audience – and the speaker. Furthermore, accolades are often epics as well: a double whammy.

The superlative should be left well alone. Some introducers feel obliged to say (or imply) that the speaker is the best in his or her field. Again, this usually sets up expectations that will not be fulfilled. If the speaker really is the best, everyone in the audience will know this anyway. Would you introduce Bill Gates as “the best-known name in computing”? I thought not.

Misplaced humour. A touch of fun can lighten up an intro, but it needs to be really humorous, not just something the introducer thinks is. As always, testing it out on someone beforehand is a wise move. Anything insulting, coarse, overly personal or crude is likely to offend far more people than it amuses.

Avoiding the worst of these blunders will make for happier audiences. After all, they didn’t come to hear the introduction, but the talk itself.

By David Vickery


Published On: 20th Nov 2009

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  1. Not everyone has a name easy to pronounce, not even Joe Bloggs. Make sure to pronounce correctly the name of the person you are introducing! I’m not sure how Bill Gates reacts when he hears his name pronounced Bill Gets, Bill Gats, pill Cats, Bill ketsu, Bill Gate…
    The best way to do that, of course, is to get the name straight with help from the speaker.

    Jean-Luc Lebrun 30 Nov at 7:18 pm
  2. Beautiful way of first presentation

    Power Point Presentation 11 Dec at 2:00 pm
  3. i dont know how should i present myself tomorrow is my interview

    Mohsin 29 Jan at 3:48 pm
  4. confidence is what makes the audience tust wat u say to themn this builds attention in the audince

    Anna 16 Apr at 8:03 pm