I suspect most Toastmasters would agree on the three main components of a speech: an opening, a body, and a close. Yet many of us miss a fourth element: the speaker introduction.
That’s right, the speaker introduction is a vital part of every speech, yet its value is often underplayed. Whether you’re writing your own introduction for a club or community speech, or preparing one to introduce another speaker, these tips may help.
The Pathways Piece
When you’re giving a club speech in Pathways, your evaluator should note the path and level you’re working on, as well as any personal or speech objectives. For instance, is there something you are trying to improve that you would like feedback on, such as vocal variety or speech structure? Or do you have a specific objective, something you want your audience to think, feel, or do as a result of your speech?
An introduction is also an excellent opportunity to convey information to your audience that otherwise would take up valuable speaking time during your actual speech.
“I once delivered a speech that involved a fairly lengthy explanation of the role the audience would be playing,” explains Dianne Yungblut, DTM, of Rose City Toastmasters in Welland, Ontario, Canada. “My evaluator suggested using those details in my introduction instead, which would have given me another couple of valuable minutes for my speech. It was a brilliant suggestion.”
Write your introduction immediately after writing the speech. All the information you need is fresh in your mind. Send it to the person who will be introducing you (usually your evaluator) well in advance of the meeting. This allows them time to practice reading it and ask any questions they may have regarding content or pronunciation of certain words or names.
And here’s a general tip: Bring an extra copy of your introduction to in-person meetings and have an electronic version handy for online meetings, just in case your original gets misplaced.
An Introduction for Non-Toastmasters
If you speak to a community group, someone will likely ask you for a biography to use as an introduction. However, they may not realize the importance of a speaker introduction and assume the biography is all they need.
But simply reciting a speaker’s history does little to excite the audience and, in some cases, can be a negative if it’s too lengthy. It helps to prepare an introduction that you’ve written—one that incorporates key elements about you and your expertise but doesn’t read like a resume.
Write your own speaker introduction just as you would for a Toastmasters meeting. Research the organization and your audience to understand their interests. Include this in your introduction to build rapport.
Engage and Inform
When speaking outside the club, the introduction literally sets the stage for the coming comments—and includes information that establishes the speaker’s credibility on the topic.
Every audience wants a reason to listen, and to know what’s in it for them. Darren LaCroix, the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking, suggests using “you” phrases when introducing another speaker. For example: Have you ever wondered how to use hand gestures effectively in a speech? Well, you are in luck, as our next speaker is an expert in the area of body language and will share some of her best tips with us.
In addition to priming audience interest, introductions are key in establishing the speaker as a subject matter expert on a certain topic or series of topics. Subject credibility is vital—without it, why should listeners believe a speaker? Credibility is especially important when speaking to a new audience or offering advice and tips.
For example, if the speaker is talking about financial management, let listeners know the individual has advanced degrees in business and finance, in addition to 15 years of banking experience, helping hundreds of clients realize their financial goals. That’s credibility!
Introducing a Colleague
Ideally, the speaker should write their own introduction. However, if you are introducing the speaker and this doesn’t happen, contact them and get the information you need. Write the introduction as if you were the one giving the speech. This approach can also be helpful when you receive an introduction from a less experienced Toastmaster who may not be fully versed in writing a proper introduction. You can offer some tips to help them improve that skill.
Set Up for Success
The speaker introduction is the first of the four key speech parts. Be sure to give it the time and attention it deserves. When you do, it sets you and everyone else up for success!
Greg Lewis, DTM is a retired marketing and management professional with years of experience giving speeches and speech introductions. He is Vice President Education of the Rose City Toastmasters in Welland, Ontario, Canada.