In our July newsletter we shared a tip about speech introductions, and it’s a question I get a lot: “How should I introduce myself?” If I hear another speaker open with “Well, let me tell you a little about myself…“, I may scream. And usually in the audiences I’m in, screaming is NOT appropriate. But this could be the second worst opening of all time (Worst, closely related: “Hi, my name is ___, and I’m here to talk about…“
I’ve heard speakers couch this as “you need to know who you’re listening to” or “this should give you the background to understand where I’m coming from” or even “I’d want to know this if I was in your shoes.” All that sounds wonderful and altruistic and helpful. Which it may very well be. But it should not come from the speaker, and it should not open a speech.
I say this a lot and it shocks (and probably offends) some people. Either:
- Your audience already knows who you are, or
- They don’t care.
OK, they may care a little. But they’re in their seats and they (likely) have to stay and listen to you talk until the end. So telling them all about yourself isn’t all that important, is it? They came because of your content or because of the event (forced meeting attendance, conference of interest, a larger program they happened upon, or maybe even because of you). In each case, they’re committed, and they want to know – QUCKLY – what’s in it for them. Skip the formalities and get to it.
Which is Rule #1, again. Make this about the audience, not the speaker. If you have to convince me through your resume that you are worthy of talking to me, then you probably aren’t.
“But Alan, shouldn’t the audience know something about me, the speaker?” Yes, and it should either be given:
- By you, but worked in through credible and appropriate stories and experiences.
- By someone else introducing you – BRIEFLY. My all-time favorite line about introductions came from a speaker after an almost 5-minute introduction by an admiring host: “I could listen to an introduction like that all day…” (pause for a tittering of awkward laughter). “And for a moment, I thought I was going to have to!” — HUGE laughter, and the stage was set for content that mattered to the audience.
What should your speech introductions include? I don’t think there’s a hard and fast rule, but there needs to be something that connects with the audience. I am partial to personal introductions along the lines of, “I’ve known Fred for 6 years, and one thing I appreciate about him is…” or a mission statement that works in credibility, “Alan is 11 years into his journey to rid the world of bad presentations…” or a fact I can’t get off Wikipedia or your web page, “Susie is an avid college football fan and grows award-winning flowers.“
The worst offender of speech introductions is a speaker I’ve heard live three times. He’s a household name that has a following of millions. I watched him introduce himself at a conference for eight minutes… in a ten-minute speech. I’ve come to find out that the one topic he loves to talk about… is himself. While some audiences may share that love, it’s too big a risk to take. Others want to hear what you have to say. Get to it, quickly, and skip the introductory fluff.
I can’t remember the last time I opened a speech with anything about myself other than a story, which related to the audience demographic (e.g. parenting for middle-agers, sports for coaches) and set up the main purpose of the talk. Jump right in. The audience won’t even notice you skipped talking about yourself. And if your content meets their needs, they won’t care.
Check out this past video from our What NOT to Say video series that takes a look at the most mundane of all speech introductions, your name. Watch video.
Communication matters. What are YOU saying?
This article was published in the September 2016 edition of our monthly speaking tips email, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today and receive our FREE download, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.” You can unsubscribe at any time.
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