Please Join Me In Welcoming….
Is anyone else a real fan of the the art of the Introduction? I am.
I’m not talking about the "Sue, meet Bill, Bill, meet Sue" kind of introduction, but rather the kind of introduction that occurs when someone is being presented to an audience to whom they will make a speech or remarks. There is in fact an art to the introduction that does not often get discussed, but it should. A proper introduction sets the stage. It gives the person being introduced an appropriate foundation from which to excel. It gives the audience the proper foundation from which to best appreciate the speaker.
I’ve been doing more introductions of late and had the chance, again, today to introduce three people I respect when I moderated a session on blogging at Inertia Beverage Group’s Annual Symposium. On my panel that discussed blogging was Mike Duffy of Winery Web Site Report, Julie Ann Kodmur, a wine publicist from Napa and Deb Harnkess, proprietress of the Good Wine Under $20 blog.
Since I’ve been thinking about introductions, I wanted to offer some suggestions to those of you who will be called upon to make an introduction at some point.
1. INTRODUCTIONS SHOULD ALWAYS BE FLATTERING.
This should go without saying. Yet I’ve seen introductions that do not flatter the coming speaker. Flattery is not a bad thing, nor is it fake. It is an acknowledgment of your better feelings about the speaker
2. INTRODUCTIONS SHOULD PRESENT THE SPEAKER’S BONA FIDES
Why should the audience listen to the speaker? The recitation of the bona fides should answer that important question.
3. INTRODUCTIONS SHOULD EXPLAIN WHAT SUBJECT MATTER THE SPEAKER WILL ADDRESS
If anyone in the audience is surprised about the subject matter that the speaker will discuss after your introduction then you’ve given a poor introduction.
4. INTRODUCTIONS SHOULD REQUEST THE AUDIENCE WELCOME THE SPEAKER
This is a form and a tradition I like very much. I usually do it in a straightforward way: "Please join me in welcoming…"
5. INTRODUCTIONS SHOULD LEAVE THE AUDIENCE BELIEVING THE COMING SPEAKER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE ROOM
If your introduction can’t convince the audience that the person about the step up and address them is the most important person in the room at that moment, then you are introducing the wrong person.
6. IF POSSIBLE, EXPLAIN A CONNECTION BETWEEN YOURSELF AND THE PERSON YOU ARE INTRODUCING
This need not be an elaborate explanation of your relationship. In fact, it might only be a mention of how pleased you were to finally meet the person in public. It might be a simple statement that you’ve read their work or followed them for some time. Or, it might be a story about a time you and the speaker spent together. Or it might be something you learned from them. It might just be a quick note that you’ve known them for many years. The point is to try to make a connection for the audience between you and the speaker.
7. NEVER OVERSHADOW THE PERSON YOU ARE INTRODUCING BY ENCROACHING ON THEIR SUBJECT MATTER WHEN INTRODUCING THEM
Not only is this rude, it also might make a portion of their talk seem redundant.
8. ALWAYS MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH THE PERSON YOU ARE INTRODUCING AT SOME POINT
This gesture is not for the speaker’s sake, although it can be a non-verbal way of saying thank you to them as you introduce them. Rather, this gesture is for the sake of the audience. It let’s the audience know that they should feel comfortable with the speaker when they finally come to the podium.
9. LEAD THE WELCOMING APPLAUSE WHEN YOU FINISH YOUR INTRODUCTION
Applause is the kind of thing that gives every speaker more confidence and confidence is a necessary component of a good speech or talk. By leading the applause after your introduction you assure that the speaker will get a warm welcome from the audience and have just a bit more confidence as they begin their talk.
10. IF YOU ARE THANKED BY THE SPEAKER FOR YOUR INTRODUCTION, ACKNOWLEDGE THE "THANK YOU" WITH A NOD, NOT WITH ANOTHER SPEECH.
Your work is done. Leave the attention on the speaker.
An introduction can be of any length. Today at the Inertia Symposium I wanted to keep the introductions short, but hit the high points. As an example, here’s the introduction I gave to Deb Harkness (AKA Dr. Debs) at the blogging seminar I moderated. It is an example, I think, of a decent introduction that does what an introduction should do.
"Deb Harkness is the proprietor of the wine blog, “Good Wine Under $20”. She has built a sizable readership by delivering daily to her readers insights and reviews on every-day wine and the culture of wine drinking. In 2008 she won two American Wine Blog Awards, one for best Wine Review Blog and another for Best Single Subject wine blog. In her spare time she is a Professor of History at University of Southern California where she shapes young minds inclined toward European History, the History of Science and the History of Medicine. She has received numerous awards and grants from an assortment of prestigious institutions including the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Commission, the Renaissance Society of America, and the History of Science Society. Deb is one of my all time favorite wine bloggers and is well equipped to discuss with you what it takes to be a great wine blogger. Please join me in welcoming, Deb Harkness.
I’m not a greatest person to have on stage to give an introduction. But I do know that when done well the introduction can set a pretty stage for the speaker. I also know that a great introduction is something that takes a good bit of thought about the person, the audience they will be addressing and the topic under consideration. Next time you are witness to an introduction, take note of it. It can be a beautiful thing.