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The importance of a proper introduction

How to enjoy being installed

How often have you stood backstage before a presentation and cringed when the person who introduced you inadvertently misrepresented the focus of your talk, distracted the audience with off-the-cuff comments, or recited your full biography verbatim?

If you’re guilty of leaving this critical component of your presentation to chance, raise your hand. Rest assured, you are not alone. However, I can’t help but wonder, with all the time and effort we put into our performances, why we spend so little time and effort planning and rehearsing our performances.

Why is a good introduction so important?

It doesn’t matter if you’re presenting to two people, 200 or 2000 – what’s said about you right before you start literally sets the stage for you and your listeners. The presenter creates a win-win situation by establishing the audience and connecting your message to their goals and interests.

Depending on your topic, the presenter can also help build anticipation for what you have to say or minimize any resistance you may encounter.

What is usually in an introduction?

The typical presentation of the speaker is a mini version of his biography. Does anyone really care where you live, your hobbies, or your nickname? You’d be surprised how often these same examples are included in an introduction.

How can you do better?

Prepare your own presentation, whether asked or not, and give it to your sponsor or presenter in plenty of time for feedback if necessary. Most of the time, your presenter will be quite happy to use it as it is.

I have been training many of the speakers I work with to use the STAT method to prepare their own introductions. STAT is an acronym for four questions that, when answered and elaborated in an introduction, will increase your audience’s level of interest and build anticipation for what you have to say:

  • Speaker – Why this speaker?
  • Topic – Why is this topic being discussed?
  • Audience: Why is this topic important to this audience?
  • Time – Why this topic at this time?

Since no one knows your topic better than you do, the answers will come easily. Try this and you will have your audience “eating out of the palm of your hand”, as the saying goes.

Are the roles reversed?

If you’re the presenter, you have the power to get a presentation off to a great start. Try these tips for success:

  • Lead the applause: After the introduction, lead the applause spontaneously and enthusiastically as the speaker approaches the platform. The audience will follow your lead and quickly join in.
  • Greet the speaker: Don’t have the speaker go up to an empty or “cold” podium. Remain on the platform, shake hands to greet the speaker, and exit quietly.
  • Practice: Take a few minutes to rehearse not only the introduction, but also the mechanics behind handing the stage to the speaker. A quick tour will make you and your presenter feel much more confident going on stage.

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