Every speaker deserves a thoughtful and helpful Introduction. The best introductions help the speaker and the audience establish a common bond.
An Introduction is a small speech—less than a minute in your Toastmasters club—which contains all the elements of a full speech. It has an opening, which grabs the audience's attention and makes them aware of the importance of the upcoming subject. It has a body, which explains why the subject was chosen, why the speaker is qualified to address it, why it is appropriate for this audience, and why this time is appropriate to discuss it. It has a conclusion, which in this case allows the speaker to begin the presentation.
Your introduction should tell the audience about the speaker’s expertise and give relevant background information. You should set the mood of the audience for this particular speech, an especially challenging task if there is a marked change from the mood of the preceding talk.
While covering these points, be careful not to give the speaker’s speech. Allusions to the topic will arouse audience interest without taking away from the speaker’s impact. Build expectation, and end your introduction when interest peaks. Weave the speaker’s name into the introduction as much as possible, so the audience will clearly relate this speaker with this topic. Above all, don’t overdo it. Say what needs to be said, then conclude.
An Introduction requires almost as much preparation as a full speech. You will need to contact the speaker in advance and discuss the relevant information about the speech and speaker. You should then make an outline of your introduction and rehearse it. Good preparation will clearly show, and both the audience and the speaker will appreciate it.
Two Introductions ContrastedEdit
Consider this example of a poorly prepared introduction:
- Our presenter has been a Toastmaster for two years and is currently the vice president membership of our club. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Linh Sing, who will tell us about teenage drivers.
Then compare it with this example of a proper introduction:
- Two years ago Linh Singh's seventeen-year old son died in a traffic accident. What Linh learned after the accident stunned him: one in five teenage drivers has a crash in their first year of driving, and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20 year-olds. In the two years since his son’s death, Linh has worked with our state’s motor vehicle department to develop a program for teenagers about safe driving and advocates more effective training for teenage drivers. Many of us have children who are learning to drive or who will be driving in the next few years. Tonight Linh presents his Competent Communication manual project 10, striving to inspire us, his audience, to a higher awareness and activism, by appealing to our reason as well as our emotions, and by providing an example. In his speech entitled “Help Them Arrive Alive,” Linh will tell us what we must do as parents to ensure our children drive safely. Please welcome club Vice President Membership, Linh Singh.
Take a moment to think about the differences between the two introductions.
The former introduction keeps the speaker's name a mystery until the very end, and does not quote the speech title at all. It includes information not pertinent to the speech itself, and fails to establish the speaker’s credibility.
The latter mentions the speaker’s name right away, while simultaneously establishing a sympathetic connection with the audience. The body deepens our understanding of the context of the speech and hooks us in to listening with attention. At the same time, it establishes the speaker's credentials. The closing identifies manual and project with a statement of the speech title, gives the speaker’s name with title, and calls the audience to begin their applause.
Three Pillars of the IntroductionEdit
Content A well-crafted and executed Introduction can strongly enhance a speech’s effect.
- Makes a transition—It defines the speaker’s role and prepares the audience for the new focus in the meeting.
- Sets the tone—It provides background information for the speech topic and the speaker’s treatment thereof.
- Lends authority—It establishes the speaker’s credentials for treating this topic.
Requirements for the introduction:
- Speaker's name—Give name at the beginning and, formally, at the end. If the speaker’s name is unfamiliar to the audience, this repetition helps the audience be conscious of who is addressing them: it makes the speaker more personal.
- Speech title—Mentioned typically at the end, just ahead of the speaker’s name and title.
- Speech topic—Establish a context for the speech topic, relating it to the speaker and the audience.
For a speech at a Toastmasters meeting:
- Project—Identify the speech project by manual and project title
- Objectives—Give the project objectives along with the speaker’s personal objectives
- Questions—If a question-and-answer period is part of the speech project, mention this to the audience and be prepared to act as Q&A moderator on behalf of the speaker.
Focus on the speaker, not on yourself
- Everything you do and say in the introduction is for the benefit of the speaker. Your job is to make them look good to the audience.
- Make the introduction into a ceremony that settles the audience and prepares them mentally for the speaker.
- Be brief. The audience interest should build during your introduction and come to a peak just as you present the speaker. Sometimes all that is needed is to present the speaker by announcing their name.
You will command the audience's attention, then transfer that attention to the speaker.
- Keep the audience's attention on the stage at all times. Never leave the stage empty and bare.
- While performing your introduction, focus on the audience. (Do not glance at the speaker: the audience's attention will shift prematurely.) Then, as you announce the speaker's name, you turn your attention to the speaker (and lead the applause), and the audience's attention follows the speaker as he begins his walk to the stage.
- Remain on stage, leading the audience in applause, until the speaker reaches you and you shake hands. Then exit away from the speaker (so you do not cross either in front or behind him). (Having a seat on each side of the stage will help you do this with aplomb.)
- Upstaging the speaker: Remember that the speaker is the star: turn the audience's attention to the speaker, not yourself.
- Revealing content: Remember that it is up to the speaker to paint the picture for the audience.
- Straying from the script. If the speaker has prepared an introduction script for you, stick to it meticulously; do not ad lib.
- Surprising the speaker: do not extemporize embarrassing or extraneous information.
- Praise: Lavish or gushing comments are counterproductive in warming an audience to a speaker.
- Mystery: Unless the speaker is absolutely familiar to the entire audience beforehand, state the speaker’s name at the outset.
- Prolixity: Keep the introduction succinct; one minute is a good rule of thumb for a Toastmasters meeting.
- Face the audience until you mention the speaker’s name for the final time in your introduction.
- Lead the audience in applause, then greet the speaker at the lectern with a handshake.
- Leave the lectern without crossing either in front or behind the speaker.
- At the end of the speech, lead the applause, shake hands with the speaker again, and resume your place at the lectern.
- Give a short (30 second) wrap-up of the speech, indicating how the speech entertained, informed, persuaded, or inspired the audience. End with thanks and appreciation.
Pro forma IntroductionEdit
At a Toastmasters Speech Contest, the introduction of a speech is prescribed: Speech title, speaker name. Speaker name, speech title. No variation is allowed from this formula.
- How I Would Like to be Introduced—Form for new member; a component of the New Member Orientation Kit Item 1162
- Introducing the Speaker (Item 111, $0.15)—Explains why speakers need to be introduced and how to make a speech introduction.
- When You're The Introducer (Item 1167E, 1 pp, $0.15)—Includes tips on preparing and delivering an introduction. A component of Toastmasters and You (Item 1167).
- Creating An Introduction (Catalog No. 277)—A module in the Better Speaker Series
- Introduce the Speaker, in Specialty Speeches from the Advanced Communication Series—An advanced speech project
- Introducing the Speaker—Teri Mansur of Ventura Sunrise Toastmasters, Jan. 21, 2004
- Introducing a Speaker—Toastmasters New Zealand, District 72