As you build your expert status, you may be called upon to introduce speakers or panel guests. It can be a great way to build your presence without taking on the larger task of preparing an entire presentation. It’s also a good way to start building rapport with an audience and keep your name out there. For those who tend to the shyer side, if you’re not quite ready for prime time, taking the opportunity to introduce others can help you with getting comfortable in front of an audience, since it tends to be short and sweet. But while introducing a speaker involves a little less commitment, it isn’t a task you should take lightly.
How to introduce a speaker
Eyes and ears will be on you. People will pay attention to how you talk and what authority you convey. Perhaps more importantly, they’ll remember how you set the speaker up. You’re aiming to build trust with the audience, so you want to do a good job in introducing the speaker. And you want the speaker to remember you. So, if you’re not sure about the task, take some time to reflect on how to introduce a speaker.
In writing that, a quote by the late Maya Angelou pops into my head:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
So your job, in introducing the speaker, should be to aim to establish credibility, warmth and rapport – not just for yourself, but also for the person whom you’re introducing. You want to get their name right – stumbling over the speaker’s name may suggest you didn’t do your homework and that possibly the person in question isn’t exactly a household name, even in their niche. So practice, practice, practice. (I happen to have a name some people stumble over. I sometimes send a little audio recording of my name, just to help out.)
Over at The Raising the Bar Blog, Robin Hensley has a great piece on “When It’s Your Turn to Introduce the Speaker”. She notes that, as the person introducing the speaker, you make the connection between the speaker and the audience and you’re the next most important person, after the speaker. It’s an important role and Hensley lays out a great how-to guide to introducing the speaker. While her blog aims at a legal audience, the information should work for just about anyone.
Incidentally, I went through a phase where I had a fear of public speaking. I managed to overcome that fear and now I’m comfortable speaking to large audiences. So, if you find yourself sweating over introducing a speaker, take a look at my post and consider taking baby steps. It worked for me.