When I first started speaking in public, I had a rather lofty image of how each engagement would begin: I’d be summoned to the stage with thunderous applause as a beaming host detailed the many reasons I was perfectly qualified to be the day’s expert.
Screeeeeeeeech. That's the record player scratching as reality sets in.
As well-meaning as hosts typically are, more often than not, they fall woefully short in priming the audience for their guest speaker. If left to their own devices, most hosts will print your bio off your website and read it verbatim, boring the audience with too much unrelated detail and never mentioning information that’s actually relevant.
Not only does this kick things off in an underwhelming fashion, it deprives the audience of context they need to get the full benefit of your remarks. Worst of all, it can throw you off balance during one of your most critical moments: your open.
There’s a better way. Next time you’re invited to speak, take these preemptive steps to ensure your remarks---and your audience---get the intro they deserve:
- Well before your talk, take a few moments to write your own brief (brief is key) introduction, customized for the speech you are giving and the group to which you’re giving it.
- Don’t wait to be asked, but rather email the introduction to your host ahead of time, indicating that in the past, hosts have found it helpful to have introductory remarks prepared for them.
- Just to be safe, on the day of the event, bring with you three copies of your introduction, printed in at least 20 point font so that anyone can read it well, even on the first pass.
You’re not out the woods yet. If you arrive at your venue and realize no one plans to introduce you at all, recruit someone from the audience: your host, a friend, anyone with the slightest bit of charisma (or even a pulse) to help you out. (Here’s where those extra copies come in handy.)
Finally, if you MUST introduce yourself (yes, it happens), don’t do it right off the bat. Instead, begin your remarks exactly as you planned with the killer open you so carefully crafted and rehearsed. Then, just before you launch into the heart of your talk, pause and say “Let me take a moment to tell you about myself and why our hosts have asked me here today.”
Next go into a short version of your intro that offers just enough info to give you the credibility you need. Though not ideal, this should allow you to keep your remarks mostly intact, while earning extra points for style under pressure.
Give it a try and let us know how it works or what else might work better. For more great ideas and tips for rock solid communication, check out our blog “Let’s Be Clear," visit us at bluestoneexec.com, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @bluestoneexec.