Introducing…

The other week a new member gave a speech. She engaged the audience, she was passionate about the topic and she educated us on something we knew very little about. There was just one problem: the introduction was short and she spent at least another minute on (additional) introductions before she really got into the meat of the talk. In my opinion, that was a minute she could have spent engaging and showing her passion, rather than on introductions.

To most of the Toastmasters’ meetings I’ve attended, the intro often holds great potential, but more often than not the potential is never fully realized. It wasn’t until I attended Darren LaCroix’s workshop where he taught us about the power of using the introduction to our advantage that I saw the light, so to speak.

Do you feel like introductions are a necessary evil or do you recognize them as a (largely) untapped opportunity? For many years, it was the former for me. Every time I was scheduled to speak the Toastmaster would dutifully email me asking for a short introduction. I always wanted to respond, “I don’t know! Can you read my mind and magically create an introduction for me? It would be a lot easier!” I had spent countless hours writing, rehearsing, and perfecting my speech. I didn’t have additional energy to write an introduction to go along with my crafted work.

I’ve come to learn a great introduction can make or break an audience’s reception. Take the EPIC Event with Ryan Avery at the Vancouver General Hospital back in February of this year. Paula Howley was the emcee and she had the audience PUMPED and ready to go before the speakers even left their seats. She had contact me (a speaker) ahead of time and asked me very simple questions and I gave her simple responses. That night, I was impressed with how she took my simple answers and wove them into a magical introduction. She must have spent an insane number of hours crafting every word. The effort showed, and the audience was abuzz with energy even before I opened my mouth.

Am I able to craft a strong introduction now? Not always, not often. In turn when I’m the Toastmaster, I often feel like I’m floundering trying to come up with some sort of introduction that will get the audience pumped up. Recently I have felt very proud of myself for making small strides: the last two humorous speeches I’ve done I have also included jokes in the introduction I gave to the Toastmaster. It sure felt great to hear those jokes got a few good laughs from the club, even before I stepped in front of the lectern.

One step at a time.

How do you help the Toastmaster craft and introduction that will pump up the audience? All tips/comments/stories will be much appreciated.

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4 thoughts on “Introducing…

  1. Interesting. In my club only 1 member does introductions, when she’s TM, so usually we don’t have an intro (other than the title and speaker’s name, preceded by the speech objectives from the evaluator).

    Because of that, I’ve never really thought about intros. I put a lot of emphasis into working out my opening line, but having a “metaphorical drum-roll” before that sounds a cool idea! (Mind you, as you say, if the speaker’s already feeling exasperated, it’s one more thing to come up with. Maybe for a speech for which the speaker’s feeling pumped, the intro’s another opportunity to shine, and for a hard speech, it’s more difficulty!)

    On my blog, easily the most visited posts are the ones about opening lines, so those seem to be a hot topic.

    Having Paula emceeing sounds like a speaker’s dream. And well done on coming up with some jokes for the TM before your recent talks. Sounds very professional!

    With musicians and comedians, there’s often a support act of course. So it does make sense to warm up the audience as much as you can, even at Toastmasters. I suppose one way to look at it is that the TM introducing you can take some of the “heat” and pressure off you as speaker.

    No tips from me today I’m afraid!

    • Hi Craig, thanks for your comment! It is always interesting to hear about how other clubs run their meeting. All the clubs I have been a part of/visited all try to do more background introductions so it is definitely an eye-opener to hear your introductions are more of the technical listing of “title, objectives, etc.”

      I agree with your point regarding a strong opening line, helps a lot to build off of that strong opening (if available).

      Of course on the flipside you can also craft a strong introduction for yourself, and then the Toastmaster can bumble that too (as what kind of happened to me today…ahem).

      P.S. Wish I had a videotape of that event. Paula was on fire with her intros!

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