Ignite your Audience with your Introduction
By Craig Valentine
Here is a traditional introduction speakers use:
Do yourself a favor and read the following paragraph out loud as if you are using it to introduce the next speaker for an event.
Our Next Speaker is the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking. With more than 175,000 Toastmasters in 68 countries, and over 25,000 contestants, he came home with the first prize trophy and a significant amount of national and international recognition. In addition, our speaker is absolutely oblivious to the fact that we could care less what he has done and that we are much more interested in what we will be able to do after hearing him. Moreover, our speaker seems to have no idea that we are simply hoping for his autobiographical introduction to end so we can start clapping as if we are interested. Finally, he does not realize that we are beginning to say to ourselves, “His entire introduction is about him; therefore I bet his entire speech is about him also. Why did I even come here today?” So, with that said, please help me welcome to the stage, the person who would have the least effective introduction in history if it were not for the thousands of other presenters who have introductions just like his; the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, Craig Valentine.
What’s Wrong with that Introduction?
Do you get the point? How similar is your introduction to my old one that you read above? Is it about you or is it about what your audience will get out of your speech? Everything you do should be about the audience, including your introduction.
Your introduction flavors your entire speech. You can use it to get the audience fired up and excited about what they are going to hear, or you can use it to boost yourself up in their eyes. You can use it to whet their appetite with the valuable tools they are sure to get from your presentation, or, again, you can use it to boost yourself up in their eyes. Here is one thing I know for sure; once I changed my introduction from me-focused to you-focused, I gave myself an extreme advantage before I even said one word.
5 Guideposts to Fire Up Your Audience with your Introduction
An effective introduction is the difference between starting off in a hole or on solid ground. Here are some nuts and bolts tools you can use in your introduction to get off to a great start with your very next speech. Do not go into your next speech without them.
1. Start it off about them. Make your very first sentence about them. Instead of starting off with “Our next speaker today is the 1999 World Champion…” start with something like the following:
There is a definite process for keeping your audiences on the edge of their seats. It is not easy to come by and it is not easy to use. However, once you master it, you WILL find doors opening for you that you never even knew existed.
You might have noticed there were 5 you (or your) words used in those two sentences. Make it you-focused first. Start with them not with yourself. How many you-related words are in your introduction? Count them and make sure there are many more you-related words than there are I-related words.
2. Make a promise. Let them know not only what they will get, but also what those tools will empower them to do and to receive. In the example above, I tell them they will get a process that empowers them to keep their audiences on the edge of their seats and rewards them with more open doors and opportunities. That is a pretty compelling promise. What compelling promise do you make with your introduction?
3. Build your credibility but only with your relevant credentials – For example, I have a specific introduction for my teambuilding workshops. This specific introduction includes a piece that mentions how I won 3 consecutive East Coast Conference Championships and played in 2 NCAA March Madness tournaments as a college basketball player. Because this part of my history relates to teams, it belongs in this introduction on teambuilding.
However, as proud as I am about those basketball accomplishments, do you think they belong in my introduction if the speech is about presentation skills? If I was sitting in the audience and I heard the introducer say, “Our presentation coach today was also a college basketball player,” I know I would be thinking, “Well, while he was dribbling up and down the court, was he giving speeches? If not, why do I care about his basketball past?” Only use the relevant information no matter how well-rounded you are. Even if you are extremely proud of something, if it does not fit, do not force it. Instead, leave it out. Is all the information in your introduction relevant to the subject at hand?
4. Use the introduction to set up something in your speech – For example, when I begin speaking, I often call back to my introduction by saying the following:“Do you know, that even with all those accolades, people still do not like me? Do you know why they do not like me?”
Then I go into a humorous story about why they do not like me, but it all is set up by the accolades (relevant ones) in my introduction. Find ways to make your introduction seamlessly feed into your speech. How do you currently tie your speech back into your introduction
5. Take everything about you and turn it into everything for them. If you do this, your audience will be ready and excited to receive your message. For example, instead of stating “Craig Valentine is the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking” I could make that actually matter to them by saying, “The process you will pick up today helped our speaker become the 1999 World Champion and you can use it to become a speaker in high-demand.” Do you get it? Turn everything about you into something for them. Doing this will get them fired up to hear your message. It tickles me now because when the introducer gets to the end up my introduction, he or she usually says, “Are you ready for the process?” At this point people actually begin yelling out, “Yes!” That is some great energy to walk into for a speech. Are you turning everything about you into everything for them?
Follow the 5 guideposts listed here and watch as your audience leans forward in their seats and anxiously awaits your presentation. That is how you ignite your audience with your introduction.
Craig Valentine, the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, is an internationally-known professional speaker, author, and speech coach. Do you want to increase your number of speaking opportunities, maximize each engagement, and become a speaker in high demand? Great! Visit http://www.52SpeakingTips.com and get a year’s worth of speaking lessons for free.