One of my recent LinkedIn posts touched a nerve (4,000+ views) when I urged my followers to stop saying without further ado when introducing someone or starting a program. There was unanimous feedback that the cringe-worthy phrase is useless and archaic.
People commented that introductions should be no more than two sentences. Others proposed eliminating the phrase I’d like to introduce, and the ceremonial thank you to everyone responsible for the event.
Short attention spans in person and online compel us to do better when we want to engage people when we speak or set the stage for the featured guest who will follow. The introduction is the on-ramp for a powerful opening.
Have you ever been introduced by a conference emcee who mispronounced your name? Perhaps they also read your entire two-page biography and put your audience to sleep before you stepped on the stage.
It’s time to take a close look at introductions. Here are tips for both main stage speakers and emcees.
1. Write your own introduction.
Your biography is not one size fits all. Adapt your biographical details to the context of the event and the people in the room. Will they care about your academic degrees or the job you held 10 years ago? Use common sense. Write your own brief intro—50 words at most. Make the job easier for the conference organizers. Include a phonetic pronunciation of your name. Add some personal details to humanize your profile and set the stage for a warm reception.
2. Stop beginning your speech with trite phrases.
Good morning and I am happy to be here are widely overused. We could assume you’re happy to be there, or you would have made other plans. It’s your job to make sure the audience is happy to be there to listen to you. Similarly, don’t front load your speech with a string of thank yous. Save the formalities for the end where it makes more sense to display appreciation for the audience’s attention.
3. Don’t pepper your opening with foreign phrases.
Refrain from the temptation to speak the few words you know en español or the host language. Avoid gratuitous attempts to show a connection to the local culture. I love arroz con pollo. You may hear polite laughter but miss the eyes rolling.
4. Command the room in the first 20 seconds.
Get to the point, even if you choose to start with a story or anecdote. Make it relevant, captivating and on-topic. The first impression is often what the audience will remember about you and little else.
5. Resist asking, can you see my screen?
If you’re speaking online, resist the temptation to ask: Can you see my screen? Do a technical check-in before the virtual event to ensure that the streaming platform features and your equipment are working optimally.
1. Avoid using without further ado, and I would like to introduce.
Use your imagination. An alternative would be: Our next speaker is…. and say the person’s name and topic. Or I am pleased to present our next speaker.
Very early in my public relations career, I had an embarrassing moment with the word introduce in Spanish. I used the direct translation in Spanglish (quiero introducir) when presenting a TV superstar at a press conference. As she stepped to the microphone, she gave me a look of disapproval that shook me to the core. I learned afterwards that the usage of introducir is closer to the placement of one object inside of another. In other words, best not to use it in this setting ever again.
2. If the speaker needs no introduction, then don’t.
The cliché phrase: Our next speaker needs no introduction, is meant to flatter the speaker. She is so well known you should know who she is. But, if that’s the case, why does the emcee still offer up an introduction? Stop it.
3. Stay in your lane as the host.
Remember that your role is to guide the agenda. You’re not the show. Keep your words brief and functional. Adhere to the allotted times and follow the run-of-show. Your job is to welcome and thank the audience and all participants on behalf of the organizers. Make it gracious and elegant. Double check the pronunciation of the speakers’ names and the way they want to be presented before you get on the stage.
4. Cut the serial introductions.
Don’t have another speaker introduce you to the audience. Professional conferences and fundraising events are often front-loaded with serial introductions ad nauseum. An off-stage “voice of God” is a good way to bring you to the microphone efficiently.
5. Be impeccable online.
Online hosts and facilitators should look and sound impeccable. You set the tone for the program to follow, including the speakers you will bring to the virtual stage. Remember that video conferences are immersive and every detail matters. Start as you wish the program to unfold.
And one last note about the use of the term emcee. The role is also referenced as host, MC, master(s) of ceremonies, and mistress(es) of ceremonies. The latter sounds clumsy and old fashioned. I recommend short gender-neutral terms. Whether you’re the speaker or the emcee, establish your command of the room the moment you step to the microphone and begin to speak. Thoughtful introductions will invite your audience to listen and set you up for success.