Ding, ding! Congrats, you've been asked to introduce the guest speaker at a big meeting. Cue inside voice "hurray" followed by the nerve-wracking realization that this is the main event! Dizziness, mild nausea, and my personal favorite, rubbery legs as your elation hits the deck. 10...9...8...
Down, but not out, you pick yourself up off the mat and plan your next move. You could play it safe - speaker bio, relevant quote or story, and hand off. This is a predictable, reliable and ultimately mediocre performance. Alternately, you could take the flashy route - "Let's get ready to rumble!" Or imagine James Brown's over-the-top "Living in America" song and dance from Rocky IV. While memorable, this tactic suffers from the same shortcoming as many cringe-worthy wedding toasts - it's not about you. Don't be that guy/gal!
A great introduction has three elements that will put you in a good light while keeping the focus on the guest speaker. Here's what it takes to deliver a K.O. speaker intro.
1. GRAB THEIR ATTENTION
Losing the audience's attention is every speaker's worst nightmare. Since you will be speaking first, you set the tone and owe it to the speaker to deliver an engaged audience. The challenge is that most audiences have a limited attention span and are easily distracted. In our hyper-connected world we are bombarded by notifications that pull us away from what's right in front of us. Add to this the fact that you only have a few sentences to capture or lose the audience. Think about the last person you talked to or presentation you sat through. How many seconds did it take before you realized whether or not you were interested?
There are two opposite, but equally effective methods to immediately engage the audience. The first is waking them up with a stiff, verbal jab. Lead with a provocative, unexpected, or amazing statement. A weak jab sounds a bit like, "Today we'll hear about the importance of anti corruption compliance in protecting the reputation and bottom line of a company" fas is okl.4vnc v,cm...I'm sorry, I just put myself to sleep! Contrast this with, "Today we're going to hear about how an inaccurate expense report landed this top executive in a federal penitentiary."
The second method is pulling them in with a verbal rope-a-dope. Visualize the audience "on the edge of their seats" as they unconsciously lean in to hear more. Lead with a mysterious or curious statement that begs to be answered. Compare "Our speaker is going to tell us about their background and how they ended up in the privacy field" with "Our speaker owes their career in privacy to a border control agent, true love and a trip to Las Vegas. Not necessarily in that order."
2. ESTABLISH CREDIBILITY
Even if the speaker is well-known, it's helpful to remind the audience about the expertise or experiences the speaker possesses. What you say should answer the question, "What makes this person qualified to talk on this topic?"
The role you play also helps the speaker because you will be establishing their credibility for them. Without the proper finesse, a speaker establishing their own credibility can come off as arrogant or self-serving and turn off the audience. Imagine a boxing match where the fighter introduces themselves instead of the ring announcer. Be the ring announcer!
3. GUIDE THE MIND
The mind abhors uncertainty. If the audience doesn't have any idea where a talk is going, it makes it harder to concentrate and process what is being said. Once I feel it's getting too difficult to follow along my mind fills up with other thoughts - like my Netflix queue, did I send that email, and do we need more toilet paper.
Help the audience avoid the monkey mind by giving some signposts of what they can expect to hear. Suggest how they can get the most out of the presentation. For example, "As the speaker shares the many ethical crossroads they came to, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what you would do." Guide their focus so they can keep it and get the most benefit from the talk.
The guest speaker's talk is the main dish. Your introduction is the appetizer. And like a good appetizer, it should whet the audience's appetite and enhance their appreciation of the main dish.
You do this by delivering an attentive audience, establishing the speaker's credibility, and giving useful guidance. The audience may not remember you, but they will owe you a debt of gratitude for purposefully, but subtly enhancing their enjoyment.
If you prepare these three steps, your training will pay off. Now go for the K.O.!
P.S. I know this is just a movie and not even the best Rocky movie, but I ask you, has there EVER been a better introduction and ring entrance???!!!
- For some valuable tips on what to avoid when introducing a speaker, check out this informative and valuable article by John Warrillow on Forbes.com. My favorite is #1: Do not read their bio.
- If you are struggling with your confidence for a presentation, try this EZPZ trick to boost your performance.
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