A recent discussion with speakers about how they are introduced spurred a lot of opinions. Some are convinced that they have to set their credibility in their “speaker introduction” and each word read by the person bringing them on stage will impact how they are seen by the audience. Other feel it is not the introduction, but that the impact of their talk stands alone.
A Long Bio Is Often Dull
As a professional Master of Ceremonies / Emcee I have read a lot of speaker introductions. Most are horrible. Bad. Painful. They are simply the bullet points from their CV lumped on the page. The message is there to show brilliance, but they are usually just BLAH. Some speakers introductions are there to show every possible credential going back to kindergarten hall monitor. One of the reasons for this is many who speak at meetings are not professional speakers. An industry expert who is just there to talk has never spent time thinking about their speaker introduction.
However, many seasoned speakers have also not given much thought to who will be delivering the introduction. As an EmCee I have had fewer than a dozen speakers ever come to me and want to customize their introduction to the particular conference we are attending. Few realize that as an EmCee my personality is unique to me. I do try to talk to all the speakers and see how we can craft a powerful (but short) speaker introduction. Some do not care what I say, while others are militant that I must read every word on their speaker introduction.
Manipulate The Audience?
One popular speaker told me that he invested in having experts in human behavior craft every word of his introduction. He said each word is positioned to “manipulate” the audience and set them up to hire him for consulting. I was partially impressed that this was a thing, and at the same time wanted to barf a little that he used the word manipulate. It is true that he has more business success than me, but his written introduction was full of things that made little difference to what he was speaking about and seemed like a puff-piece. I read it as written. My guess is he has given more credit than was due to his human behavior experts. But maybe he is right and I am wrong.
Make The Speaker Look Good
I do believe that a great event host has the responsibility to bring a speaker to the stage and get the audience excited about the person. Since most events are not hosted by professionals, you end up with a lot of people who are just saying words on paper. Those words are often too many. This combination is the problem with how speakers are introduced.
To make the speaker look good, the host must understand who the speaker is as a person, not just a guru. This is why it is important for the event emcee to have a little time with each speaker before they get on stage. I have found if I have as little as 5 minutes to talk with a speaker about their life and the purpose of their talk I can do a better job at introducing them than most pre-writen speaker introductions.
Speaker Introduction Videos
There is a trend with the famous speakers to have high quality videos produced that serve in place of a formal introduction. These usually have a “Star Power” effect, and work great with people who are actually famous on speaking at giant conferences with 1000+ participants. But this trend has come down to others who really are not guru level speakers. When a video like this is used in a more intimate setting I think it can have the opposite effect and create a distance between speaker and audience members. I am not saying these videos are not a good idea for some speakers in some venues, but I have seen them look campy.
Over the last year I have asked people what they like and do not like about how speakers are introduced. The most compelling thing is the different opinion from audience member to speaker on what makes a good introduction. Most audience members have given little thought to this, but tend to say they do not need a laundry list of credentials, as they assume the people brought to speak at events are experts. Speakers tend to think that initial credibility is key to their success on stage. I am not sure.
My Own Speaker Introduction
The speaker introduction is important, but I do not believe it is as key as some think. If a speaker is good, they will earn the attention of the audience. Thus I have began to cut down my introduction to simply be something that gets the group to lean in and want to learn more. The goal I have is for audiences to come on a journey with as a peer. My observation about meetings in the modern era is that people do not want a “Sage on the Stage” to speak at them as an expert guru, but instead want to participate in an interactive presentation with someone who understands them.
Here is my current version. I welcome input. It is cool if you are a speaker and you disagree. With thousands of association and corporate meetings everyday in the United States (and beyond), there will be many examples of how to write and deliver a speaker introduction every hour. (wow, that is a lot to think about, thousands of introductions every day… Yikes).
Thom Singer’s Speaker Introduction (2109)
Potential is great, but it does not equal performance. Many people today feel overwhelmed by busy, and admit they are not getting all the results they believe are possible in their careers and lives.
Our speaker today has become obsessed with helping people take the leap across the gap that exists between potential and results.
As the host of the popular “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast he has interviewed hundreds of business leaders about success. Through these in-depth conversations he has learned that there is no single thing that holds people back. Nor is there a single solution to reaching the top levels of business. It is unique for each person.
Our speaker has had an eclectic career in sales and marketing for Fortune 500 companies, Law Firms, and small companies. He has written 12 books and when he was 21-years-old he was a five day returning champion on the $25,000 Pyramid game show.
Please welcome Thom Singer.
5 Tips for Speaker Introductions:
Speaker Introduction Tip #1
Keep is short. More than 90 seconds is too long. A minute is better. If a speaker has a long and boring CV ask to meet with them to make it more effective. The introduction should be created between the speaker and the person who will do the introduction.
Speaker Introduction Tip #2
Tell a personal anecdote about the speaker. Not just what is written in their speaker introduction. Do you homework or talk to the speaker. Be sure to get their permission for what you add. However, when the person doing the introduction feels they have found something interesting, it connects with the crowd.
Speaker Introduction Tip # 3
Know why the speaker was invited to be on stage. When the host respects the speaker and is excited to hear their talk, this translates to the audience. Understand the reason each speaker has been invited to present. This may mean talking to the meeting planner about their selection process, and the purpose of the event.
Speaker Introduction Tip #4
Get the right pronunciation for their name. I will be honest, this has sometimes been hard for me. But if you mess up their name, it creates a wall between you and them and the room will feel it. Nobody wants to hear their name said wrong.
Speaker Introduction Tip #5
Do what the speaker wants. If the speaker really believes you have to read their speaker introduction word-for-word, then do it. I have seen many speakers get visibly angry when their introduction is changed, and this is not good for the audience experience.
Thom Singer is a funny keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies / emcee. He is the host of the popular “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast and the author of 12 books.