Creative Leadership

How To Introduce A Speaker

As a speaker, I’ve been introduced a thousand times, and I can confidently say that most didn’t really help. Usually they simply print out my bio from philcooke.com and read it. Trust me, a bio on a website isn’t meant to be a live introduction, so it comes off slow and boring. The worst don’t do any homework at all, and make embarrassing mistakes that are hard to fix. So after being subjected to so many horrible speaker intros, here’s a few tips that will help your introduction be as interesting as the speaker:

1. Don’t read a printed speaker biography. Printed bios are long and too detailed to be used in a live event. Plus, reading a bio tells the audience you don’t know the speaker, and don’t care enough to do your homework.

2. Keep perspective. People have come to hear the speaker, not the introduction. Chances are, they already know him or her, so you don’t need to tell the speaker’s life story. Plus, if the speaker’s biography is printed in the conference program, that’s another reason you don’t need to rehash it.

3. Understand the context. Why is this speaker the perfect fit for THIS conference?

4. Prepare. A great introduction is done from memory, not read off a card.

5. Be careful with humor. Everyone loves a good joke, but never forget how often humor can backfire and make you look like an idiot.

6. Avoid hype. People who introduce speakers often feel the need to generate excitement and enthusiasm. That’s the speaker’s job. People see through hype, so don’t be a cheerleader – just introduce the speaker.

7. Keep it short. There are really only a few points a good introduction needs to answer: 1) The topic or issue for today. 2) The importance of the issue. 3) Why is this speaker the person to bring insight on this issue?

In my experience, the vast percentage of introductions actually hurt the speaker instead of helping. If you’re introducing a speaker, give the audience just enough information to make them want to pay attention.

The speaker – and the audience – will be remarkably grateful.  What’s the worst introduction you’ve ever experienced?  

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15 Comments

  1. Excellent tips. All of them.

    And for gosh sakes, don’t ever say, “I’ll let him introduce himself…”, leaving the speaker to uncomfortably share his credentials so the audience will pay attention. Try doing THAT in a humble fashion.

  2. Thanks, good advice. Unfortunately, I’ve blundered intros too often.
    Worst one I received, the host completely forgot my name and took a blind stab with “Rev. Herf”. The meeting still went well, or least, it improved from there.

  3. Today I was a guest on a TV program. The host introduced me as David King. I politely reintroduced myself with my real name, “Daniel King.” Within seconds, the host called me David King again. I decided not to correct him again and for the rest of the program he called me by the wrong name. Oh well…

  4. Good points Phil. Have you thought about re-writing your online bio so that it can be read as an introduction!?! …or is that just enabling the bad behaviour?? 😉

  5. One of the funniest intros was shared by nationally known speaker, Guy Doud. He said he was introduced one time by someone very unfamiliar with him. He called him Gay Dude.

  6. I recently spoke at Grace Bible College’s student chapel service. After being introduced, I thanked the college’s President Kemper for inviting me, but I called him “President Kuiper” (the name of a competitor Christian college nearby). Oops! My bad!

  7. In Toastmasters, we are taught to write our own introduction and send it to the person introducing us. Is that not the habit of professional speakers?

    1. Good idea sometimes, but it depends. If the person introducing me knows me, then I’d rather they share from their heart about our personal relationship. But yes – if you’re in a situation where they don’t know you, it’s often safer to write your own intro and give it to them…

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