How to Write Your Own Speech Introduction
Comic and actress Bette Midler once quipped, “Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”
Most of us don’t want to come off as self-focused as the punch line in her joke – and, to avoid such a fate, we carry ourselves with humility and avoid talking too much about ourselves. In that context, it’s easy to understand why it might seem uncomfortable to draft and send a copy of the introduction you wrote about yourself to the person responsible for introducing you to an audience.
Do it anyway.
As any experienced speaker will tell you, they’ve heard their name pronounced incorrectly, their company name mangled beyond recognition, and their professional experience botched.
They’ve heard the opening speaker give away their talk’s punch line.
They’ve seen their opener wear down the audience and deflate the room’s energy with a painfully long introduction.
They’ve watched helplessly as the introducer reads – for the first time, apparently – the online bio they printed last-minute that contains little more than a laundry list of your educational and professional roles and no direct relevance to your talk’s specific topic.
When sending your introduction to the person presenting you, you can tell them you’re offering it as a suggestion, not with an expectation that they stick to it verbatim. In my experience, many do, and the people I’ve sent it to appreciate that they have one less task to accomplish. (They’re still free to supplement your version if they prefer.) And, since they’re the ones introducing you, they’re the ones saying nice things about you that you might be reluctant to say about yourself.
Set yourself up for the win by composing an introduction that does three things: demonstrate your credibility, establish relevance for the audience, and build excitement for the talk you’re about to deliver.
Aim for Success from the Start
1. Demonstrate Credibility
Your introduction should highlight the expertise that would persuade an audience to believe you are credible and knowledgeable about the topic. Consider the parts of your background that would help demonstrate your credibility, such as your work history, awards and accomplishments, significant contributions to your field or industry, professional affiliations, or former and current clients. Keep it concise and essential. One to three “proofs” should suffice.
2. Establish Relevance
How is your topic relevant to the audience? Have you developed a novel approach to help ease their daily challenges? Do you have technical knowledge that will make them more proficient in their job? Are you offering a better way to run a business? Are you making them aware of a problem they can help solve? Frame your core idea, or ABSO (audience-focused bright shiny object), through the eyes of your audience.
3. Build Excitement
By the end of your introduction, the audience should be primed and ready to hear you speak. You can help build excitement by framing your topic in a compelling manner by:
- Offering up a bold statement to hook the audience’s attention. “Over the next 10 years, it is estimated that robots will replace 20 million jobs around the world. Do you have the job skills to weather the wave of automation?”
- Sharing a story. “When our presenter lost his tenth client because of a repeat glitch in his software management system, he didn’t just get frustrated. He created a better system.”
- Posing a rhetorical or thought-provoking question. “What if you could nearly eliminate the threat of data breaches?”
- Creating suspense or tension. “The best employees constantly change and adjust their skills to meet customer demand. If you want them to continue to grow, however, there’s one thing they should never change.”
Here’s an example of a winning introduction:
“Over the next 10 years, it is estimated that robots will replace 20 million jobs around the world. Do you have the job skills to weather the wave of automation? Our next presenter will outline the industries that still need hands-on – as in human – expertise and provide the top three talents you’ll need to survive and thrive in an AI-world. After spending 25 years as an AI engineer, Dr. Wakefield transitioned to becoming a career specialist with a focus on helping job seekers navigate the technological advancements that are changing the way we work. She’s a big believer, by the way, that robots and humans can co-exist – and she has multiple real-life examples to prove it. Please welcome Dr. Sarah Wakefield.”
A few final points about your introduction:
- Keep it short. A minute or two is usually sufficient. Aim for a conversational tone.
- To make it easy to read, use a larger-than-usual font size and double spacing. Add the phonetic spelling of your name, if necessary.
- Depending on the topic, you might draw a personal connection with the audience by mentioning an interesting hobby, unexpected talent, your city of birth or residence, your family, etc.
- The final words should be your name, which serves as a cue for the audience to applaud.
- Your talk begins, in earnest, while you’re listening to the introduction. Maintain eye contact with the speaker while looking occasionally toward the audience. Immediately after being introduced, walk with confidence and purpose to stage. Extend your arm to shake hands or nod warmly toward the person who introduced you. Before speaking, pause, set your materials, and establish your presence for a beat before beginning to speak.