Wednesday, September 5, 2012

10 secret advantages of the person who introduces the speaker

Especially around the time of political conventions, when coveted roles like the keynote are awarded to signal the future prospects of the speaker, I hear people say, "Oh, she only got to do the introduction." People think that in everyday conferences and meetings, too. But the person who introduces the main speaker isn't just an also-ran or second-best in the lineup. I'd vote any day for these secret advantages you get when you do the introduction:
  1. It's a great stepping stone in public speaking: If you're not ready for the keynote yourself, introducing the main speaker offers an easy way to get experience as a speaker. 
  2. You have the business end of the talk: From how to pronounce the speaker's name to what we should really know about her, some of the most vital facts to be conveyed are the most basic--and they are on your to-do list as the introducer. If you make sure we get them straight, the talk's already off to a good start.
  3. You can frame how we view the speech: If you choose to do so, your introduction can shape how we think about not just the speaker, but the significance of her words. Think of yourself as the Chief Context Setter, and you'll have the right idea. Does this come at an important time? Is there something we'll want to do immediately following this presentation? Can you help us see beyond her bio?
  4. You can say things the speaker can't: Has the speaker come under attack for what she's about to tell us? Has she gone unsung for her philanthropy or was she just hired by the most powerful firm in town? It's easier for the introducer to tell us those things than for the speaker to do so.
  5. You'll have the audience's attention at its peak: Speakers know that the audience's attention is as high as it will ever be at the very start--that's why speakers need a strong, fast start to hang on to that attention. But you, introducer, have the floor and the peak-level attention first.
  6. It's short: The longer the talk, the more that can go wrong, and the more experience you need to pull it off. Introductions, on the other hand, need to be short, and that's sweet. What's not to like about that?
  7. You can surprise the audience: Audiences have grown used to, and tired of, the standard "I'm just going to read the bio" introductions. You can take advantage of their low expectations and spice up the task of introducing the speaker, so that no one will be looking at her smartphone until you're done. 
  8. You can become the speaker's favorite person: Speakers yearn for a great introduction. Ideally, it warms up the audience better than any joke or cartoon, gets people to focus, and shares the best there is to know about her. If you pull off a great intro, you'll have that speaker's undying gratitude.
  9. The organizers will love you: They got the people here, but now someone needs to remind the audience why that was a worthwhile effort. A good, strong introduction can raise the audience's anticipation level, and make it feel from the start as if this is going to be a great speech. That's priceless at the box office and the back office.
  10. You can get the tweeting started: Don't forget that second audience outside the room and on Twitter. Live-tweeters in the audience use introduction time to set up what will follow. If you share little-known facts about the speaker or thoughts especially pertinent to today's talk when you do your introduction, you'll feature in the Twitterstream more prominently. And please: Don't forget the hashtag!