How to Introduce a Speaker
Even an Experienced Speaker Needs Help
Introducing a Speaker
Public speakers need help, even good ones. If you are in a leadership position in an organization that includes programs, you, yes you, have a responsibility for the quality of the program. This article is about the fine art of introducing a speaker and making the person feel comfortable. Yes, it is an art, one that is often ignored. The article is intended for anyone who runs meetings as well as other officers and board members of the organization. Public speaking is a challenge, even for a skilled presenter. It's your job to help the person suceed.
It may seem counter intuitive that a speaker needs help. There are a few obvious tasks such as politely clinking a glass or shushing when your fellow members treat a speaker badly by talking during the presentation. What is not obvious is YOUR obligation to make sure that the talk is not only well received, but that the presentation gets off to a good start.
The Essential Keys To Introducing a Speaker
A few years ago I was privileged to serve as a District Governor for Rotary International. My job was to visit the 35 clubs in my district throughout the year and to motivate the club members to pitch in and help with the many charitable projects of Rotary. My job, in essence, was to be a cheer leader and public speaker. I would always give the club president my resume him to introduce me. I shall never forget a particular club meeting, in which I descended into public speaking hell. The problem started with the lunch meal - I was the last person to be served. After one or two bites, the president decided it was time to introduce me. His introduction went like this, no not like this, exactly this: "Here's Russ." That's it! Everybody pretty much knew that I was the District Governor, but no one heard about my accomplishments or what I did over the years in service to Rotary. Here's Russ! It was entirely left to me to introduce myself (always a dicey task), to try to get the audience focused on my words, and to give the members a reason to listen to me.
Laugh at the Jokes
Here are the keys to introducing and helping a speaker
· YOU, as a leader of your organization, are both part of and responsible for the quality of the program. Odd as it may sound, you actually have a large impact on how the speaker delivers. Your objective should be this: have each member of the audience lean forward in anticipation of the speech. The way to do this is to give a succinct but powerful introduction. If you are running the meeting and you don't feel comfortable giving an introduction, find someone in your organization who is. If the speaker doesn't give it to you, request a resume or information sheet prior to the meeting so that you can prepare the introduction. Don't just mouth the words from the resume, but prepare an introduction based on it. Be creative. Don't just say: "Nancy Jones graduated from the XYX university where she won the political science medal." Rather, say, "not only did Nancy Jones graduate from XYZ university, she was awarded the coveted political science medal." That's a lot better than: "Here's Nancy."
· Before the meeting. If the speaker shows up early, and good speakers do, make sure you personally introduce him to any member within earshot during the pre-meeting "milling around."
· Feed the speaker first! If there is a meal involved, alert the wait staff to bring the speaker's meal first. This is not only common courtesy, but it helps the speaker feel comfortable.
· Prior to the meeting, ask the speaker if she needs audiovisual equipment and make sure it's there for the talk.
· The art of shushing. Nothing can be more disconcerting for a speaker than to have members of the audience carrying on a conversation during the program. As leader, you should be responsible for the simple courtesy of giving the speaker your organization's attention. A fork clinking against a glass is a universally recognized signal for "please shut up."
· Laugh. Sometimes a speaker tells a lousy joke. Whether it's funny or not, laugh. Remember, you are part of the process of a successful speech. Laughing at a joke, good or bad, will help put the speaker at ease.
· Applause! At the end of the talk give a healthy round of applause. It's the right thing to do.
Coach your organization on the care of your speakers. When you have a general business meeting, known in Rotary as a Club Assembly, put the issue of handling and introducing speakers on the agenda.
The proper care of a guest speaker is critical to the health of your organization. Not only will the programs be better, but your attendance and membership development will benefit as well. Remember, the speaker is not in it alone. Think of that person as a member of your team.
Copyright © 2012 by Russell F. Moran