You’ve decided. You’re going in front of an audience to share your ideas, your story, your business.
The first information the audience will hear about you happens before you even step onto the stage. It’s the introduction to your speech or presentation. It’s the first impression your listeners will have about you.
It’s an important piece of the overall picture.
Here are six best practices to make sure that your introduction works for you, not against you.
1. Know What Your Introduction Is Supposed To Accomplish
We’ve all heard introductions that are simply reiterations of background and qualifications. While that can be impressive and even essential in some scenarios, they tell us about you. They don’t give us much information about your speech.
Best Practice: make sure your introduction contains a mix of both biographical information and a touch (but not too much) of information about your message.
2. Write It Yourself
Not to be unkind, but who knows what will be said if you leave it to someone else to write your intro?
If someone else writes it, it could be fine, or it could be confusing or distracting or boring to your audience. Or worse case scenario, there isn’t one and you’re scrambling at the last minute to come up with something.
You know you. And you know what you’re going to say in your speech. Who better to write the introduction and fine tune it for a particular audience or occasion?
In most situations, your emcee will be delighted to be handed a well-written, typed (not handwritten) easily readable script.
Best Practice: find out how long it needs to be, write the introduction yourself, type and print it out, and respectfully request that it be read as you’ve written it.
3. Read It Out Loud
Words that look fine on paper often sound awkward or stilted when read aloud. It can also be tricky to write for yourself in the third person.
Words or phrases that don’t have a flow will show up when read aloud. This will allow you to adjust anything that isn’t smooth.
Best Practice: Read your introduction aloud as though you are introducing someone else. Correct it for flow so you can hand over a script that is ready for the emcee to read verbatim.
4. Use It to Set Up Your Core Message
Your audience’s first impression begins with the introduction. The best introduction sets the feeling tone of the presentation. It’s the tip of the iceberg hinting at the depths of your core message. It leads your audience to be intrigued, to sit up and take notice, to want more.
Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you could include in your introduction to make them curious and available to listen.
Best Practice: give them a hint of your message but don’t give it away. If your speech is about why it’s important to value individuality, this could be the opening of your introduction. “Does being unconventional mean you could never fit in? Our speaker today says no.”
5. Start the Introduction Strongly
The example above is one way to start your introduction ie. use an intriguing question. Two other ways are to 1) make a bold or provocative statement and 2) use a quote (with attribution) that fits the content of your speech .
Contrast this opening;
“Our next speaker is Joe Smith.”
with this opening;
“In our culture, people who stand out from the crowd can become the target of attacks.”
Best Practice: The opening sentence of the introduction is the beginning of the set up for your whole presentation. Make it strong.
6. Create a Great Title
Often the title of the whole presentation is spoken in the last sentence of the introduction along with your name as presenter. The title is another way that you can intrigue the audience without giving away too much.
While on occasion you might have built a speech around a title, usually the title is the last thing that you decide. It sums up the speech so it needs to be strong, evocative and succinct.
It also is the lead in to the speech itself so a good place for it is in the final sentence of the introduction.
Here’s an example of a final sentence that includes the title. (It goes with the statement above in #4.)
Eg, “Please join me in welcoming Joe Smith as he presents How Joe Found His Courage.”
Best Practice: Create a strong closing sentence, possibly including the title, that is perfectly designed for the conclusion of your introduction and the beginning of your speech.
Following these practices will mean a strong start to your speech or presentation. And your emcee will really appreciate it.