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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ladies & Gentlemen: How to introduce a speaker like a pro

You’ve been asked to introduce a speaker or entertainer at a seminar, convention, trade show or fundraising dinner. And yes, it would be fun to talk about when you first met the speaker or entertainer – or to show off your eloquence as you mention the main attraction's successes. But the audience is there to hear the speaker, not a speech about the speaker (I’ve even heard introductions that were almost as long as the actual speech).

So just how short should your introduction be?

As a rule of thumb, about 5 to 15 words long – which usually takes no more than 5 seconds.

This is how the pros have always done it. Here are just three examples:

“Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.”
- The standard network radio introduction since the 1930s (nine words, two-and-a-half seconds)

"And now, Mr. Tambourine Man with The Byrds"
- Ed Sullivan, 1965 (eight words, four seconds)

“Could you welcome please one of the great, great, great sounds. The Beach Boys.”
- Bill Graham, 1971, The Fillmore East (14 words, four seconds)
The pros make the assumption that the audience already knows who the speaker is. So there’s no need to inconvenience the audience for more than a few seconds.


Jay D. Homnick said...

Surely you are not precluding the option of the witty intro, as practiced most notably in introducing the groom to say a few words at his own wedding.

Let's see if we can offer some acceptable ones.

"Ladies and gentlemen - well, ladies love him and gentlemen want to be him - I give you Frank Sinatra."

"Ladies and gentlemen, our next speaker has kindly given us a few minutes before he goes out to face the process server - Mickey Rooney."

"Ladies and Gentlemen, from Washington D. C. by way of Leavenworth, I give you - G. Gordon Liddy."

Eric Henning said...

This is great advice IF and ONLY if the person being introduced is already famous and the audience is likely to have heard of them. For many corporate, social and charity events this is simply not the case.

There is a whole layer of high-quality entertainers who are booked solid and work conferences, trade shows, banquets, cruise ships, but who are virtually unknown to the general public.

For these entertainers, it is important to establish some credibility, usually with a very short line or two of resume highlights; viz.: "You may have seen him on Jay Leno or his Comedy Central special - please welcome the comedy of [NAME]."