Barbara Mayfield, MS, RD, LD, FAND
Preparing a speaker introduction? Here are 5 ways to make it remarkable!
Updated: Dec 2, 2022
Do you remember the first time you were asked to introduce a speaker? Maybe you were handed a 10-page resume listing hundreds of publications and awards. Panic ensues… What do you highlight? How much do you say?
Worse – have you been in the audience when a 10-page resume was read to introduce a speaker? Did you zone out? Could the introduction have been improved?
Is there a right way to introduce a speaker? You bet!
Introducing a speaker, when done well, establishes the speaker’s credibility and builds anticipation for their presentation. A great introduction is brief yet provides enough information for the audience to know the speaker is qualified to speak on the topic.
As described in Chapter 34 of Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, “Audiences like to think they are listening to a winner.”
How often have you witnessed a superior introduction? Not one that turns the spotlight on the introducer, but one that shines it brightly on the speaker. Let’s look at how to make that happen…
5 ways to make a speaker introduction remarkable
This list summarizes the content on this topic included in Chapter 34, “An Effective Presider Sets the Stage” in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide.
When Marianne Smith Edge and I wrote this chapter, there were almost no resources describing this important role. It was our goal to provide such a reference.
As you prepare for introducing a speaker, strive to accomplish all 5 of the following components of a remarkable introduction.
Extend a warm welcome
With a warm, welcoming smile, genuine eye contact, and an enthusiastic voice, welcome the audience with a hearty greeting that gains their full attention. Make it abundantly clear that there is no place you would rather be than at that podium to welcome them to the presentation.
Introduce 4 key pieces of information
The audience needs to quickly know 4 pieces of information – who you are, what you are attending, who is speaking, and what they are speaking about. This assures the audience that they showed up in the right place.
This portion of the introduction is done quickly. State your name, possibly your title or role in the organization putting on the event, the name of the session or event, the name of the speaker (pronounced correctly), and the title or topic of their presentation.
Establish speaker credibility
Provide the audience with enough background about the speaker to establish their credibility without reading their entire resume or curriculum vitae. Consider what is already known about the speaker and what might be new information.
If possible, create a connection between the speaker and the audience, or if you know the speaker personally, share that connection. Share the facts that are most relevant to the audience, the event, and the topic of the speech.
Connect the audience and speaker to the topic and build anticipation
Provide the audience with why the speaker is speaking on this topic. Additionally, connect your audience to the topic so they recognize its importance and relevance to their personal or professional life. Create a strong desire to learn what the speaker is there to say.
Be sure to discuss what you plan to say with the speaker in advance to confirm accuracy, to avoid stealing a story they plan to share, and to make certain you don’t promise something the speaker can’t deliver.
Create a feeling of gratitude
When we close our introduction (ideally within 2 minutes) with a phrase that includes the speaker’s name and invite the audience to applaud, the presider and audience are collectively showing their support and appreciation for the speaker.
Applause creates a feeling of goodwill and gratitude. It is a contagious behavior that enhances the quality of your introduction.
How common is a remarkable introduction?
At the recent Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I kept a log of how well the presiders accomplished each of the practices listed above in the sessions I attended.
I timed each intro and the only one exceeding 2 minutes was for the opening session, and that intro consisted primarily of a video created by the speaker. His lasted 5 minutes. His speech also ran overtime. Many other sessions had multiple speakers and thankfully the intros averaged less than 2 minutes per speaker. So far, so good.
Every intro started with an enthusiastic greeting, an intro of the presider and session, the speakers’ names, and the topic or title. Well done.
The introductions excelled as well in establishing speaker credibility without excessive detail. In every case, I felt the speakers were highly qualified to present on their topic. Excellent!
The last two items on the list had the most room for improvement. Speakers were connected to the topic but rarely was the audience. Going over learning objectives is supposed to connect us to the topic and build anticipation, but it falls short of this goal. We can do better.
A definite area for improvement, and one that could help build excitement, is creating a feeling of gratitude that includes applause for the speaker. This was done in less than half of the sessions I attended. Clapping was reserved for the end. Let’s begin and end with gratitude.
How are your introductions? How might they be better? Check out Chapter 34 in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide to learn more!
“Mastering introductions is mastering an art. An introduction sets the tone for the speech, and often determines the audience’s interest and response.” ~ Tips for Presiding Officers Handbook (out of print) American Dietetic Association, now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as quoted in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, page 534
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