In formal gatherings or larger meetings it’s often necessary — and helpful — to introduce the main speaker. With the right preparation, you can make the event more successful and establish your own professionalism.

An introduction serves two purposes:

  1. It acts as a bridge, a transition from one part of a meeting to another. It gives the audience time to make a mental and emotional shift.
  2. It prepares people for the speaker, heightening their sense of openness and anticipation.

Your task is to introduce the speaker, not to take center stage. The spotlight is on you only for a moment so that you can shine it where it belongs: on the speaker.

Keep it brief. For informal gatherings 30 seconds is plenty. For larger events, aim for no longer than a minute. Under certain conditions — a very formal event with a very important speaker — you may need to speak for up to two minutes.

1. Research.

Talk to the speaker in advance of the event. Find out what he or she is talking about and why it has relevance to the audience. Then learn as much as you can about the speaker’s experience, education, life, interests, and accomplishments — whatever helps establish the speaker’s credibility on the topic he or she is addressing.

Many speakers will send you a resume or their own written introduction. Use it to help you prepare your remarks, but do not read it verbatim. (It is usually too long and self-aggrandizing.)

Make sure you know how to pronounce the speaker’s name.

2. Prepare a 3-part outline.

A good introduction tells people why this speaker is talking about this subject at this event.

The first part of your introduction states a common problem or concern the audience shares.

The second part briefly (in a sentence or two) states how today’s speech will help them solve that problem or address that concern.

And the final part of your introduction establishes the speaker’s credentials — convinces the audience that the speaker knows what he or she is talking about.

3. Perform.

Walk to the podium with confidence. Arrange your notes and adjust the microphone. Take a breath. Look at the audience and smile.

Speak your introduction. Conclude with the speaker’s name, which is her or his cue to come forward.

Wait at the podium until the speaker arrives. Shake his or her hand and step back from the podium, handing it over symbolically to the speaker.

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See also How to Give a Speech.

Chris Witt, a coach based in San Diego, works with executives and with technical experts who want to give more effective presentations. If you’re interested in learning more about how you could benefit from his coaching, contact him for a complimentary call.