By Kelli C. Holmes
Having the right introduction when you are the featured speaker at a meeting sets the tone and atmosphere for your presentation. The purpose of an introduction is to gain the audience’s attention. The audience may have just come from listening to another speaker on a totally different topic, or they may be in the middle of an interesting conversation with a friend. The right introduction will put the focus on you!
A secondary purpose is to motivate the audience to listen. Just because the audience is there, doesn’t mean that they are ready to listen. Let them know “What’s in it for me” – narrow the gap between the audience and the stage with your introduction.
How is a good introduction organized? Introductions fuse three elements: the subject, the audience and the speaker. As the speaker, you put into your introduction what you would like to emphasize or what you think is relevant. Write out your introduction. Practice it for timing. You want it to sound natural and enthusiastic. Reduce your written introduction to a few key words and phrases, shooting for about one minute of information. Transfer it, in large font, to a sheet of paper.
- Include your name and how to pronounce it. If it is an unusual name, help the audience learn it. “It rhymes with…”
- Put in your title or position.
- Be brief, aim for about one minute. Three minutes max! Five minutes is too long.
- Include the speech title and make sure your description matches the title given.
Additionally, be sure your introduction answers these questions. Why this subject… this audience… at this time? Use the “miniskirt rule” for introductions - It should be short enough to be interesting, and long enough to cover the subject! One minute is a gracious amount of time and plenty for most people. You can qualify anyone in 60 seconds. Too much data and their attention wanders.
One way to build intimacy with an audience is to relate something of a personal nature, a little known fact, or a special talent, relationship, or community service. For example, “What you may not know about this evening’s speaker is…” The goal is to make your speaker introduction short, informative and interesting!