Here’s To Brevity: 6 Tips For An Effective Intro Speech
You don’t want to be that person. The one who goes on and on and on when they have the mic. At a recent wedding, the best man went on and on and on for 25 minutes in his toast to the couple, and it was all about himself.
At work, a conference, awards ceremony, meeting or networking event, you may be called upon to give an introduction of someone.
Perhaps it is your boss, a colleague, a teammate, or an award recipient you are meeting for the first time. How do you make the most of the intro to highlight not just your ease with public speaking, but your knowledge and effective leadership?
Take The Lead offers six tips to making the best intro speech ever.
It’s not about you. Neuroscience shows us that the fear of public speaking systems from a programmed fear of attention on ourselves. So convince yourself to concentrate on the audience and the person you are introducing. “The key to calming the amygdala and disarming our organic panic button is to turn the focus away from ourselves — away from whether we will mess up or whether the audience will like us — and toward helping the audience,” writes Sarah Gershman, President of Green Room Speakers, and professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, in Harvard Business Review. “Studies have shown that an increase in generosity leads to a decrease in amygdala activity. Showing kindness and generosity to others has been shown to activate the vagus nerve, which has the power to calm the fight-or-flight response. When we are kind to others, we feel calmer and less stressed. The same principle applies in public speaking. When we approach speaking with a spirit of generosity, we counteract the sensation of being under attack and start to feel less nervous.”
Practice. In addition to switching the focus from you to the audience and the person you are introducing, a great antidote to fear is preparation. Do your research on what you will say and practice, practice, practice. This intro should be no longer than five minutes, so make sure it is clear and to the point. Own that you are initially nervous and use that energy to excel. “Often it's not the actual public speaking that makes people scared of these kinds of opportunities, it's the potential of being embarrassed or humiliated that's nerve-wracking,” explains Josephine Lee, third-place winner in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking,” according to Refinery 29.
One main idea, one story. You may have several anecdotes or information to convey, but tell one story with one main takeaway. It can be when you met the person, it can be the most important part of this person’s career or research but do not recite a CV or give a long list of accomplishments. Refer the audience to the program or the bio of the person. Chances are you will only be speaking, and you may or may not have a visual of a slide behind you and the podium. “To keep your audience tuned in, keep your presentation focused on one main message. Each slide, each word, should be carefully chosen to convey that message,” writes Mathilde His in Science.
Use metaphor. Even if you are only speaking a few paragraphs or a page of text, you want to use language that is eloquent and memorable. Perhaps the person you are introducing accomplished something that can be described in metaphor—not cliché. Scott Mautz writes in Inc., “A good metaphor illuminates the point you're trying to make in a way 1,000 words can't match. In one of my keynotes, to illuminate the power of a leader choosing to be liberal in granting autonomy to employees, I compare it to the process by which power flows through a light bulb (a light bulb will flicker at best if you give it only a bit of power, as will a high-wattage employee). People remember metaphors.”
Be energetic in your tone. You want to come across as enthusiastic and engaging. Do not strictly read from the prepared text. “Vary the volume, tone, and speed of your voice, and throw in a brief aside or two—maybe even a quick joke—so your audience stays alert to find out what surprises might be coming next,” writes Anne Fisher in Fortune.
Stay strong. Literally, stand in one place. This is an intro, not a TED talk where you can traverse the stage for 20 minutes, or 18 to be exact. “When speakers get nervous, they often sway from side to side. This makes their bodies seem unweighted, fragile, like a vase on a table tipping from side to side and about to fall over,” writes Anett Grant, CEO of Executive Speaking, Inc. and author of CEO Speaking: The 6-Minute Guide, in Fast Company. “To avoid this impression, put one foot slightly ahead of the other–shoulder width apart. Now, take a knee bend. As you come up, feel the connection with the floor and stand solid. Of course, you can move from time to time–but make sure you remain solid. This allows you to project outer strength, no matter how weak-kneed you feel on the inside.”
When in doubt, wrap it up. Perhaps you got a little carried away and everyone in the audience had been right with you and hanging on every word. And now they are looking at their phones and wondering when you are going to get to the point and stop already. So stop already. You can say, “Without further delay, let me get right to introducing you to the reason we are here.” Done.