The introductory remarks by which a speaker is presented to his audience are an important aspect of public speaking. Introductions typically are so bad that one of America's greatest lecturers, Mark Twain, refused to let anyone introduce him; he simply walked out on the stage alone and introduced himself. There are, however, important reasons a speaker ought to be introduced; and there are guidelines for both the speaker and the introducer that should be honored.
Why should a speaker be introduced to an audience which already knows him/her well? There are several reasons, each of which is important:
1. No matter how fully speakers are members of the group - well-acquainted, well-liked, well-known - when they speak, they separate themselves from the listeners. They stand and talk, while the audience sits and listens. If, for no other reason, there should be an introduction of speakers as a brief ritual or ceremony, marking the significance of the speakers' transition from being in the group to stepping forth in front to lead its thinking.
2. Listeners will be a more perceptive and appreciative audience if they understand what the speaker is undertaking. If the project is to clarify an idea, that is quite different than if he or she is trying to persuade them to accept his or her point of view. One function of the introduction is to establish the proper "mental set," so the group will know what to look for.
3. Even when the speaker is well-known, the audience might not know what special reason he or she has for speaking about the chosen topic, or about his or her special experience or expertness concerning it. A good introduction contributes to the speaker's authority by making it clear that he or she speaks from special preparation, knowledge, or experience.
4. Whatever is happening in the meeting before a speaker is introduced - whether a preceding speech, a Table Topics discussion, a brief social break, or something else - the atmosphere relates to what has been occurring, not to what will occur. A function of the speech of introduction is to "build a bridge" from where the thoughts of the group are at the moment to where the speaker wants them to be. Thus, the introducer might say, "We have been engaged in serious discussion (or in relaxed conversation, or in listening to an explanation of a new tax law); now I invite your attention to something quite new and different. Henry Jones will speak to us about..."
As these four functions of the speech of introduction are considered, it becomes apparent that this is not merely a perfunctory task, to be tossed off hastily and casually. A good introduction is as important to a speech as an attractive waiting room is for a business or professional person, or as the front yard is for a home. When you have the opportunity to present a speech of introduction, undertake the job seriously. It is an occasion for additional speaking experience, fully as valuable in its own way as the special projects which feature you as the speaker.
Speeches of introduction should not be flat or stereotyped. They should be graceful, witty, and fun... fun to hear and fun to give. Here is a set of guidelines that will serve as a handy system in organizing facts that have been collected about the speaker. It is the "T-I-S formula" as presented by Dale Carnegie in his book, Effective Speaking:
1. T stands for Topic. Start your introduction by giving the exact title of your speaker's talk.
2. I stands for Importance. In this step you bridge over the area between the topic and the particular interest of the group.
3. S stands for Speaker. Here you list the speaker's outstanding qualifications, particularly those that relate to his/her topic. Finally, you give the speaker's name, distinctly and clearly.
From this point you can use your imagination. Tying the formula to the information that you have gathered, take no more than 30 to 45 seconds to introduce your speaker. Make it short and make it count.
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Composed with care by Peter Bunce, DTM, ATM-S
Updated: Tuesday, March 31, 2009