Of all the facets of public speaking, introductions are probably the most abused. This is because we fail to determine the objective, the purpose and the desired result.
How seldom do we hear an introduction which is really not much more than a partial biography, uninteresting, without structure, stumbled through, essentially, merely going through the motions?
Who cares whether the speaker was born 1961 in Plompton, that he went to grammar school, high school and university, that he married a class mate, has four children, a VW Polo, a bulldog, and moved to Dublin in 1991? So they are going to speak on "The future of our forests in Africa".
Exaggeration? - Perhaps. But not too far from the truth. It recalls all the boring ritual of the average introduction.
What is our duty when we have to introduce a speaker?
Obviously, to increase the interest, attention and anticipation of the audience. It is only a courtesy to the speaker to condition the audience to a pleased, happy anticipation and ensure attention.
What is a good introduction?
It consists of several things:
With a few rare exceptions, a good introduction should not go over two or three minutes. Don't hog the limited time of the speaker.
There should always be an "introduction of the introduction." Perhaps this is only a single sentence of an attention-compelling nature. An introduction is a short speech and should follow the rules for good speech making. Some apropos side remarks or comments might further increase the mood and anticipation if it is lightly humorous and in good taste.
The body of the introduction should raise the importance of the timeliness of the subject to be discussed. This is to increase the interest of the "so what" members of the audience. A short statement about the speaker should follow, restricted as far as possible to their accomplishments.
Up to this point, the title of the talk, the business or professional connection, or the title of the speaker and their name, have not been given. The conclusion of the introduction consists of these three:
title of speech
title of speaker
the speaker's name
in that order. The last words spoken are the name of the speaker.
All of this in three minutes? Yes. It takes some doing, but it is your duty. Try it and you will be surprised at the good reception it will get.
Rare indeed is the person who can give a good introduction if they are called upon only in the last few minutes before the speech. An introduction needs preparation, thought and ingenuity. The introducer needs to know the title of the speech, the slant the speaker will take, some pertinent facts about them, and the type of audience they will be addressing.
When you are the introducer, pay close attention to everything that happens prior to your part in the programme. Often events occur that throw into your lap a comment or bit of humour which, if grasped, establishes the easy liaison and happy anticipation which is priceless background for the speaker.
What about introducing more than one speaker at the same meeting?
If that is your task, pay close attention to what the first speaker says. Use your ingenuity, and as they finish, comment upon their speech. Pick out some statement or thought you can refer to, and in a logical or humorous way, connect their speech with the one which is to follow. Use such remarks as the "introduction to the introduction" for the next speaker.
As you introduce a speaker, it is your duty not to bore the audience. It is your duty to increase your audience attention and anticipation. Try it next time. Condition the audience as you introduce a speaker.
When you introduce a speaker, it's also important to be respectful, enthusiastic and when the introduction is over lead the applause and the audience will take their cue from you.