The other night, I was at a meeting where there was a guest speaker. I knew the gentleman, but more on an acquaintance level. So my ears perked up when the meeting MC began to formally introduce him to the group, since it’s always interesting what you learn about someone from their introduction. It started becoming increasingly clear, however, that this was not what I (or the rest of the group) was expecting.
What we heard made us squirm in our seats…what we heard had us looking around at each other…what we heard was… EVERYTHING ABOUT HIS LIFE.
Ok, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic but seriously – what he prepared for the MC was more like a biography than an introduction. We learned about the companies he’d worked at over time, the results he’d delivered for his last firm (he was now retired), his adult children and the companies they now worked at…etc. etc. etc. We were squirming because we were becoming a bit impatient and we were glancing at each other as if to send a message with our eyes that said “Is he for real?”
Contrary to popular belief, your speaker introduction is not the time to give the blow by blow of your life to date. In a nutshell, the introduction is not to hype YOU up. It’s actually to hype the audience up about your presentation – it’s about them. Repeat after me: It’s about THEM.
This is your opportunity to get the audience excited about what you have to tell them. Yes, you do give information about yourself in your introduction, but the details you provide need to be relevant to your presentation. For example, if you’re speaking to a group of marketers, then it would be appropriate to mention an innovative advertising campaign you designed while working for the American Marketing Association. If you were presenting to a group of engineers, this detail would likely not be relevant for them. Only the most relevant credentials need to be included.
Here are three other tips to remember for crafting an introduction that grabs the audience’s attention:
- Start it off about them – Imagine you’re speaking to a company’s employees about how to handle change positively. Instead of beginning your introduction with “Believe it or not, Roquita used to have a hard time dealing with change,” try “Coping with change in your regular, everyday life can feel challenging. But would you agree that dealing with the unknown in the workplace is a special kind of fear?” This kind of beginning will hit home for a lot of the employees, as organizational changes are naturally unnerving for many people. You’re touching on a very real emotion for them right off the bat– fear. They’ll tune in to hear you.
- “You-Focused” – “You” is the magic word when it comes to speeches, and you also want to keep this word in your introduction. Notice in my example above that I used “You.” This little important word makes the audience feel like you’re talking directly to them, and it feels more personal. They’ll be ready to hear more of what you have to say. Sprinkle this word throughout your introduction.
- Go Big – As in, make a big promise. To maintain the audience’s excitement and curiosity, you need to state a promise of what you will deliver on. When working on the promise, think about it in terms of pain or gain. Research shows that people are motivated by either avoiding a pain or acquiring something favorable. Examples of promises: “Today, Jim will give you four proven techniques for turning difficult conversations into successful interactions” or “Beverly will discuss three strategies for building a strong financial portfolio by age 40.” Your credentials should be able to back up what you’re promising.
Here’s a bonus tip: Always provide your own introduction to the event host/MC! Don’t leave something as important as your introduction in the hands of others to create. YOU know yourself the best, and what should be included or left out. It should have your personal touch all over it and be customized to the audience you’ll be speaking in front of. Don’t adopt the “one-size-fits-all” mentality here. Again, it all goes back to relevancy.
Keep your Introduction R.E.A.L.
Less is more (no biography!)
What do you like to include in your introduction to make it stand out?