As someone who has presented to well over 1,000 audiences, I can say quite confidently that absolutely no audience member has ever said, “Oh boy oh boy oh boy, I can' wait until I can hear Jeff’s introduction!” Or anyone else’s introduction, for that matter. Famous people don’t need introductions, and every introduction of a person who is not famous is essentially the same: “Your next speaker has done some stuff, and we hope you like him/her. I guess we’ll find out soon!” The best introduction in the world will not make people enjoy a terrible speech or an uninspiring speaker.
However, a good introduction can get your audience excited about what they’re about to listen to. So if you’re ever in a position to introduce someone, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Don't make them introduce themselves—I’ve had to do this before, and it’s not the end of the world. But it definitely takes longer for an audience to warm up to the speaker when he has to do the boring stuff instead of diving right into the material. A formal introduction has almost no bearing on your speakers’ ability to do a good job with their presentation, but it will set a better tone for your audience than the alternative.
Keep it short—Again, audiences don't want to hear an introduction (sorry, speakers!) They want to hear what the presenter has to say. Which means a few sentences is much better than a few paragraphs. Copying and then reciting the text from a speaker’s bio is easy, but it also ensures that your audience will pass out from boredom before you’re halfway through. My typical introduction is five sentences long, but every so often people choose to read the two-paragraph description from the “About Me” page on my website. The five-sentence version is 1,000 percent better, I promise.
Throw in something unexpected—Almost every introduction is exactly the same: credentials, credentials, and more credentials. Yes, establishing credibility is important. But a single unexpected item can pique an audience's excitement more than a novel’s worth of credentials. For example, one of the five sentences in my standard introduction is that I’ve presented in over 63 states. It sometimes gets a laugh, but it always alerts my audience that this is not going to be the same thing they’ve heard a dozen times already.
Add some music—When defendants are cross-examined by lawyers, there usually isn’t a backing track. When guests are interviewed by a late-night television host, there’s always music to welcome them to the stage, and the mood is typically more energized. Which do you want, wild applause, or cold, silent staring?
Done correctly, introductions can jumpstart your audience before your speakers have even uttered a word. I hope this has been helpful. Now please read my bio and try to imagine how you wouldn’t dream of bothering if it were a couple paragraphs long.
Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with a blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, and The Wall Street Journal; and he has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, email [email protected], or visit Jeffhavens.com.