When you are properly introduced for your speech as a professional speaker, you feel energized and excited like you want to RUN to the speaking area like you were just announced onto the floor for the big game! Anything less and your speech begins with you feeling like something is missing.
The Curse of the Undervalued Speaker Intro
Unfortunately, the Master of Ceremonies (or MC or EMCEE depending on who you listen to) will almost never craft a quality intro for you and will usually not ask you for a formally written intro either.
If you’re new to the pro speaking world, you will be amazed how few MCs even think about introducing the speakers until ten minutes before the introduction occurs.
If you’re hired to speak at a large conference, the person in charge of speakers will typically ask you to email a PDF document featuring your prepared introduction. Sadly, the intro you send in usually does not get to the hands of the MC.
Then, somewhere in the midst of the 10-minute break between speakers, right before your session, while the sound tech has his hand in your chest rigging your wireless mic and the IT guy frantically asks you where your PowerPoint file is on your jump drive, the MC taps you on the shoulder and says something like…
“Hey buddy….What can I say about you when I call you to the stage?”
Those few minutes are typically the worst time to attempt to verbally supply your background information to the person who’s about to introduce you.
Whether speaker introductions are cursed or not is not the important thing to consider here. What is important is that speaker intros are severely neglected and often forgotten about by live event organizers. It’s up to YOU, the professional speaker, to carefully and thoughtfully provide the MC with exactly how you want to be introduced.
Some speakers consider a written introduction produced by the speaker and read to the audience by the MC to be so important, that it’s added to the speaker contract as a requirement. So, let’s take a deeper look at speech introductions for professional speakers.
The Importance of a Solid Speech Introduction
Where so many professional speakers neglect taking the time to create an impactful introduction, my hope is that you will come to understand the true potential for a great speech introduction. A stellar speech introduction:
- Sets the tone for the audience of what’s to come.
- Provides a smooth transition from whatever the audience was thinking about a minute ago to now focusing on the first minute of your speech.
- Assures the audience their time invested will not be wasted by listening to you.
- Gets them excited for your arrival.
Simply put, a solid speech introduction tells the audience you’ve done this before and that they are in for a real treat! It provides a moment of suspense and whets their appetite for the content you are about to present. Here are 10 steps to do just that.
10 Steps to Writing a Speech Introduction
One of my speaker mentoring clients was giving his first speech to a 1MillionCups business networking group. We talked about writing out and printing an introduction beforehand. But, when I showed up at the venue to support my client and asked to see his intro, he said, “Oh no! I forgot to write one!”
Fortunately, he had about 15 minutes while the speaker in front of him was speaking. So, I produced a quick template for him to use so that he could write his own introduction. I’d like to supply that template here so that any of my speaking mentoring clients, or other speakers who might come across it, might have a resource to go to for writing a solid speech intro if even at the last minute at the speaking venue.
First, I’ll describe the process with some detail using an introduction from one of my own speeches as the ongoing example, line by line, sentence by sentence. Then, I’ll provide a summary of the template at the bottom for quick reference.
Speech Intro Step #1: Understand the Position of the Master of Ceremonies (MC)
If you ever want to test your capability to multi-task, try running an event! For the prototype Speaker Theater event in December, 2019, I figure I was thinking of about 50 things at the same time as I kicked-off the event hoping it would all run smoothly.
A good MC will attempt to spend pre-event time assuring everything is in place for the big show. When creating your speech intro, consider the environment and surroundings for the event. How can you develop your introduction to make introducing you easy for the MC?
One thing you can anticipate is that your MC might not get the chance to read your intro before actually introducing you to the stage. So, always type your speech intro, print it, and bring a copy with you to the event. Use a 16- to 20-point font size and provide two line spaces after each full sentence. Keep your speech intro to a single side of one page.
Speech Intro Step #2: Begin with "Our Speaker"
If you are the keynoter, you will likely be the first speaker on the program. So, you can use “Our keynote today…” or “Our first speaker this morning…”
If you are new to speaking, you have a good chance of not knowing where you will be in the lineup until you check-in at the registration table. So, prepare your speech intro ahead of time with “Our first speaker today (or tonight for a night event)…” and then cross out the word “first” on your printed speech intro and change it to either “next” or “last” depending on where you are in the order.
I used to suggest that the first sentence of an intro should ask a question or an attention grabbing statistic and then have the second sentence begin with “Our speaker.” But, I’ve changed my tune on that because I’ve seen too many MCs do a poor job of setting up the audience to listen for the first sentence. Or, the mic was not turned up initially. So, half the audience misses the question or statistic anyway and misses the rest of the intro trying to figure out what that first sentence was.
You can even write your introductory sentence in a way that leads the MC to get the attention of the audience before finishing the sentence. For example:
“Our next speaker…………………..(PAUSE)…”
The “Our next speaker” portion tells the audience to listen up and the (PAUSE) instructs the MC to wait for a second before continuing.
Speech Intro Step #3: Provide Your Credentials
Citing credentials is a tricky bird. So, we need to spend a bit of time on it here. Sure, you want to supply enough of your history so that your audience believes you are an authority on your topic and are worth listening to. But, there is a fine line between doing this correctly and crossing over into coming across as pompous. No one wants to listen to a speaker who thinks (s)he is “all that and more” showcased by the last 25 years of job titles and progression of certifications and undergrad double majors attained from college 40 years ago.
In fact, the opposite is true. A professional speaker exists in the business because of her or his knowledge and expertise on a topic….TODAY! Speakers in demand are those ready and eager to share their vulnerability of incompetence from the past and then their big discovery path to success so that the audience can do the same or similar feats and enjoy a better life. The audience wants to know you were just like them at one point (or even worse off) and how you turned things around for the better.
Continuing with the ongoing example, here’s what I use in my intro as a credibility builder:
“Our next speaker…………………..(PAUSE)…had reached a plateau.
“He was a web marketing company with one employee—himself.
“He had already been in business for eight years and was still working one project at a time with no real hopes for growth.
“It was a job, not a business.
“One day changed all of that.
“Six months later, and a sales revenue influx of $250,000, he was finally able to hire staff and grow his agency to serve clients around the country.
“What ignited so many sales within such a short amount of time?
“The launch of his first self-published non-fiction book.”
As you can imagine, I’ve heard several thousands of speeches over the years. The best speech introductions—the ones that really get the audience excited and generate a huge round of applause to welcome the speaker—supply a turning point such as the one described above.
You might need to slip in some acronyms to your credentials section if you’re speaking in the medical or health industry, computer security or identity theft field, or some other professional area where people only listen to speakers with specific certifications. But, your introduction will have far more impact if you supply before and after content in addition to (if not instead of) your credentials list.
My point: It’s up to you to research your audience ahead of time to determine what credentials will be important to your audience. But, always provide a turning point.
Speech Intro Step #4: Stake Your Claim
Your audience needs to understand your speech premise early in your speech intro. For celebrity speakers, this step might not be as critical because the audience is there to see the celebrity speaker regardless of topic.
For most new and emerging speakers, however, the audience is skeptical as to why they are even sitting in their seats about to hear a speaker they’ve never heard before where they could be out in the lobby reconnecting with joint venture partners or checking their phones for text messages. Help your MC to help you to grab the audience before you even take the stage.
“The good news for you is that he believes anyone can develop their best non-fiction book content in under a week without ever typing a word of their manuscript.”
In a single sentence, the audience understands my claim to involve high quality, it applies to everyone in the audience and it’s quantifiable.
Those three components are good models to follow for whetting the appetite of the audience. Draft something that speaks to the entire audience, provides hope and makes a successful, measurable, outcome possible.
Speech Intro Step #5: Add a Twist to the Claim
Like a good movie, the human brain responds to contrasts and elements of surprise. This part is typically the secret sauce that got you booked as a speaker in the first place because it separates you from the many other speakers who make similar claims.
“…without ever typing a word of their manuscript.”
Speech Intro Step #6: Consider Adding Slight Humor
A good MC will constantly be looking for opportunities to entertain the audience using humor. The slightest offer of humor in your introduction can be a welcome release to the audience for a dull MC and keep the audience in their laughing mood for an MC who has properly kept the event going with humor along the way.
“He promises you’re still going to have to use your brain though.”
If you choose to use humor in your introduction, it needs to be very quick. Avoid providing long stories in your speech intro that attempt humor because this tactic rarely works. You will need to experiment with this single line of humor over a period of time and probably a dozen or more speeches before arriving at the one-liner that generates the most appropriate and predictable amount of humor desired. You don’t want the humor to be *too good* so that the MC becomes the star of the show. But, you don’t want to continue using something that falls flat with your audience either.
Speech Intro Step #7: Clearly State Your Objective
Your objective is different than your premise. Your objective should announce the form in which your solution to the premise will be provided. Some choices could be:
- Walk you through 5 steps.
- Demonstrate a new software.
- Reveal a secret.
“In this session, he will reveal all four steps of a new book publishing method he calls the DONE Method, that’s revolutionizing the writing industry.”
This sentence is a key component of your intro. So, a few key points need to be explained here:
- The phrase “all four steps” was used because so many speakers promise the audience will learn an entire process and then switch to a sales pitch half way through. I want the audience to know up front that I am not that kind of speaker.
- The word “new” was used because audiences pay attention to new ways of doing things. Speaker hiring agents are also looking for new faces with new ways of doing things. So, not only should you be using that word to get the speaking gig but in your intro that you’re going to reveal the new way also.
- The biggest challenge people have with book writing is getting the book actually done. So, I used that as a four step acronym that is related to the content they’ll learn. Using a four letter associated acronym is easy to remember.
- People like to be on the cutting edge of new processes that are making old ways obsolete. If your area of expertise is changing your industry, be sure to include it in your introduction.
Speech Intro Step #8: State Your Speech Title
Finally, you’ve built-up momentum with your turning point, credentials, and premise that it’s time to unveil your speech title.
“With his speech titled, Book Espresso: How to Fill Your Business to the Brim without Staining Your Shirt, please help me welcome Marty Dickinson.”
Speech titles are extremely important for that final burst of anticipation just before the main event (your speech) takes over.
If you are a musician, think of your speech title as the crescendo right before the guitar solo.
If you enjoy skiing, think of the moment just before your skis hit the snow at the top of the chairlift.
If you consider your last travel vacation, think of the moment where you locked your front door and you are walking to your car with your suitcases in-hand!
Feel free to get creative with with your speech title. Experiment and test. The title I described above I’m still testing. I’m not convinced it’s perfect yet. But, it at least suggests fun, is a topic close to my heart that I can use in my opening (coffee) and has a definite objective for the audience to expect I’m going to fulfill (fill your business).
Be careful not to go too far into the creative zone for your speech title that it confuses your audience. It needs to make sense. If you’re new to writing speech titles, I’d suggest sticking with something easy, clean and understandable by everyone. “How to….” or “3 Steps to…” are easy go-to speech titles especially for last-minute introduction writing.
Speech Intro Step #9: Ask for Applause
The MC wants the audience to get excited for your speech. The MC wants to do a good job introducing you. By being specific and asking the audience to properly welcome you, you are actually helping the MC to do a good job. Keep that in mind as you write your introduction.
Stop yourself from thinking the headline for this step is self-centered. It’s not meant to be at all. Getting welcoming applause before you begin speaking is not meant to boost your ego but to give you the best possible platform to do YOUR job well as the speaker.
“Please help me welcome …”
Speech Intro Step #10: End with Your Name
Possibly the most important part of the State Your Speech Title component of your speech intro is to end with your name. You may have noticed that the speakers name has not been mentioned yet until this point. That is intentional. Leave your name for the last word of the last sentence of your intro. Your goal is to be welcomed by the audience so that your audience has mentally opened their minds to receive your message.
“Please help me welcome, [Your Name Here].”
Always Print Your Speech Introduction
As mentioned earlier, always print your speech introduction if at all possible. After you print it, deliver it immediately to your car and set it on the front seat so that you absolutely, positively, do not forget it on the way to the venue.
If you’re in the hotel already where your speaking event will be held, remember that almost all hotels have a business center where you can print from a computer. After printing, place your printed introduction into your computer bag or purse to make sure it comes with you to the event room.
To sum all of this up, consider your introduction to be one of the most important parts of your speech. It can either set a positive and fun tone for the speech or a poorly-written one can set a negative and dull mood as well. Build excitement throughout the progression of the speech intro. Let the audience know your objective. Then, open them up by asking for a warm welcome. Follow these steps and watch your audience provide you with a favorable and enthusiastic welcoming every time you step on the stage. Best of all, you will have captured their complete focus.
Bonus Tip: Stay Put Until You are Fully Introduced
Keep away from the speaking area until you are fully introduced. If possible, stay seated. If you’re just too nervous or energized to sit, stand in the back of the room or at least far enough off to the side where the majority of the audience cannot see you while your intro is being read.
Why is your absence so important during the reading of your speech introduction? The most important reason people shouldn’t see you until the completion of your intro is so that they focus on the words of the intro.
If you are already on-stage, or walking toward the speaking area, while your intro is being read, the audience is distracted from the introduction and looking at you instead. They’re only going to partially pay attention to the words of your intro.
From an experienced speaker’s standpoint, when I see a speaker not waiting for the intro to be complete before taking the speaking position at the front of the room, I am immediately swayed toward thinking the speaker is either inexperienced or just really nervous. In both cases, I have already formed an opinion of the speaker in a less favorable light than what the speaker would want for his audience before uttering his first word.
In any speaking environment, you will undoubtedly have a percentage of people who have experience speaking. If nothing else, demonstrate to them that you know the game. Wait until your speaking introduction is concluded before moving toward the speaking area and showcase yourself as the true professional speaker that you are.
Professional Speaker Speech Template Condensed
- Understand the Position of the MC – Write to make their job of introducing you an easy one.
- Begin with “Our First Speaker……..(PAUSE)” – Change first to next or last when you find out the lineup.
- Provide Your Credentials – Describe your turnaround in 10 one-liners or less.
- Stake Your Claim – “…believes everyone can…” Be specific with your premise.
- Add a Twist to the Claim – “…without ever having to…”
- Consider Adding Slight Humor – But only if it fits.
- Clearly State Your Objective – “In this session, he will reveal…”
- State Your Speech Title – “With his speech titled [insert title]…”
- Ask for Applause – “Please help me welcome…”
- Leave Your Name for Last – Build anticipation for your name being announced at the end of the intro.
How to Gain Confidence that Your Speech Intro is Solid
Why wait until you’re booked for a speech to develop your speech introduction? Write one out now, print it, and read it to a few people in your network and ask for their feedback. If you are a Toastmaster, use your professional speech introduction in a standard Toastmasters speech. Of course, you will probably have to present only a part of your professional speech since most Toastmasters clubs limit your speech time.
Personally, I insist prepared speech intros are used when my speaking mentoring clients are presenting their speeches to me during my one-on-one or group speaker mentoring sessions. So, if you have a speaking mentor or coach, be sure to include your speech intro during your practice sessions.
My point: Speech introductions are important enough that they are worth taking the time to prepare them well in advance of your professional speaking gig day. Start now.