Don’t be a hostage to a careless introduction

Halina St James presentation skills trainer

by Halina St James

For my first big speech to an audience of 300, I let the person who was introducing me write her own script. The person used my bio, right off my website. Very flattering – but that bio was written for the eye, not the ear.

Then she said I would talk about some of the things she found interesting on the web site. Again, flattering – but unfortunately nothing to do with my speech that day.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, something we include in all our presentation skills and public speaking training: never let someone else write your introduction.

Many good speeches have started badly because the speakers were poorly introduced. The introduction raises certain expectations. It can position the speaker to engage quickly with the audience. Or it can leave the speaker thinking ‘How do I get out of that?’

People who are picked to introduce a speaker are rarely professional speakers. Nor are they always experts on your topic. So they grab a speaker’s bio and read it verbatim. They give the audience a data dump which diminishes expectations, rather than raising them.

Make sure you get properly introduced. Find out who is going to introduce you. Tell them you’re going to write the introduction for them. They will probably be relieved.

The introduction should never be a biographical list of your achievements. It’s a springboard. It should fit seamlessly into the opening of your speech. It’s the opening act, the warm-up to the actual speech. It should promo the speech and your talent or position by teasing, enticing and arousing the audience’s curiosity.

It’s too important to leave to chance. When you are sitting down to figure out how to write a speech or build a presentation, start by crafting an introduction. It will raise the whole speech to a higher level.

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