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What to Do When Being Introduced

Sharon Ferrier

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Following are the responses I received to my question “When I get introduced to an audience I never know what to do — do I remain incognito until the final ‘Please welcome....”? Do I stand up and smile at the audience trying not to look self conscious? Should it be different depending on the group size?”

— Robert Skoglund

I always start greeting people as soon as I arrive at a meeting. Greet as many as possible at supper the night before, work the tradeshow. I stand at the door before the banquet/show and shake each hand as they go in and thank them for coming. Someone at NSA must have told me to do this. I’m often sitting on the edge of the stage when I’m introduced. I was told by someone at NSA that as the speaker, I’m the host of the event and people appreciate being personally greeted and thanked by the host.

Who am I to hide out back like a superstar and then roar in on a motorcycle upon being introduced?

After my shows I run to the exit and shake every hand that leaves and thank them for coming.

I wash my hands as soon as I can. We're talking about 300 chances to catch every disease known to man.

Find out from the meeting planner what is expected. I did a stage show last week. Have been to that theater half a dozen times in as many years. But I was wandering about on the stage at 8 and the fellow who was going to introduce me got upset because he couldn’t handle anything different from what he’d always done. He always entered from the back door and strode purposefully down the aisle to the stage where he introduced the acts. Because I was wandering around on the stage chatting with people in the front row he ran around outside and came on stage from the back, very angry, and said that he wanted to make his grand entrance from the back but couldn't until I got off the stage.

My fault. It had never in 25 years had happened to me before but now I know I should have asked the introducer what he had planned.

— Claude Stein

Stand simple and straight ... and receive the eyes that will be on you while being introduced.

— Marilyn Snyder

While I’m being introduced, there is a PowerPoint show running on the screen. I’m clicking the remote in time with the introduction as I’m standing in the back of the room (I make a grand entrance). Instead of being focused on the introducer, who may not be a very good speaker, the audience is watching the PowerPoint show. What’s in it? Pictures of me, the NSA and ASTD logos as s/he mentions my board activities, a picture of Tommy Trojan (USC grad), pictures of my products when they are listed, always a chuckle built in, my company logo, and pictures of people who are members of that audience/group/association who are also my clients. It’s a great time to establish a relationship with the audience.

The last slide/s in the PowerPoint introduction are what I call Splash Slides(c) — very wow slides that are animated to set the audience up that they’re going to enjoy a great speaker. It may show, one after the other, three words that describe me. Or my topic may be revealed on the screen. Or my picture. Or all of the above. And now it doesn’t matter where you are, because the audience isn’t looking at you and you aren’t standing there self-consciously wondering what to do next. As your last click reveals the Splash Slides(c), and the audience is clapping, you walk to the platform and begin.

— Jim Brown

I like to have fun so sometimes I’ll sit in the back next to a participant with my mike on and say something during the introduction, just to play with everybody. To me playing is important. Sometimes they’ll say do you know your mike is on. It’s fun to watch the reaction of the introducer too. They tend to be serious even though I have written the introduction.

— Linda Thompson

I try to have everything set up before people enter the room. As they are coming in I try to meet as many as possible. That way we have already established a relationship before I begin speaking. If it’s a large audience, I stand off to the side and toward the back of the room as my introduction is being made. If it’s a small group and I’ve met most of the audience, I will stand off to the side of the person introducing me, looking directly at him/her as they are speaking. They have my full, undivided attention until they say my name, at which time I come forward, shake their hand and thank them.

— Glenn Brandon Burke

What works best for me is to tell the person introducing me how I would like it handled.

Also, most planners have asked me how I want them to handle it? The setting determines how I want to do it.

Usually, most people doing your intro., and for lack of a better word, suck! They do not have the proper energy, enthusiasm, excitement to do you justice. When that happens to me, I reintroduce myself the way I like it. Remember, you’re the STAR! They want you! They want you to be awesome! Take control and have fun!

I have a gig next week and though they asked how I want to be introduced, I have come up with something new (also depends on the setting/client, etc.) I experimented with a couple of weeks back and it worked beautifully. It is a 6min 20sec comedy video sketch. When it ends, I come out from the wings (or wherever I am) and make a fun reference to the video and introduce myself my way! This way I already have the audience laughing and feeling great!

— Nancy Hightshoe

My background is that I was a police officer — one of the first women in America to ride a beat car, then became a detective investigating felony sex crimes. I learned the importance of letting the jury stare at me when I was testifying, and have carried that experience forward into my speaking career.

The American Bar Association did a study indicating that people decide if you are believable and if they like you in the first 90 seconds. I always stand at the front of the room or on the stage but off to the side of the introducer. I look both at the introducer and at the audience, but am careful not to notice anyone staring. So my audience gets to stare at me without feeling rude and they can make up their minds about how they feel about me.

Then, when my program begins, they’re ready to participate.

— Janie Jasin

I stand at an angle and smile and act quite steady and kind-looking. At one place in the intro the person reading it says, “Jasin has been speaking for 31 years and been in front of three million people.” At this point I droop my shoulders and give a worn out exhausted look. They all laugh. It was an indication to me that they were looking at me and I best be looking good for the whole intro.

— Nancy Lininger

While I have a general preference, there may be times that I would deviate.

I believe it is professional to be near the front of the room/stage, and as the introduction is beginning I stand up and off to the side corner. (Not too close to the introducer, avoiding an awkwardness if the intro goes on long or the introducer goes off on a tangent ... like housekeeping.) This allows me to look at the introducer and/or the audience and smile confidently to either one as certain remarks are made. The audience sees me and has a chance to warm up to me before I utter a word.

I am also positioned nearby so when it is time to take center stage, I am not wasting anyone’s time. I don’t need a grand entrance by parading down the aisle from the back of the room.

The exception would be if a humorous dramatic grand entrance is called for ... such as if I am wearing a clown nose.

— Ray Mulvihill

Most of us feel self-conscious when we are standing in front of an audience while someone extols our virtues. That’s why most of us keep in the background until such time as the introduction is complete. When a person is speaking, they are “front and centre.” They are “in control” and eyes are usually focused on the speaker. I wouldn’t think it’s a good idea to be standing beside someone when they are (or should be) the focus of attention.

Also, the moment people see you, they are getting a first impression. Do you really want their first impression to include your awkwardness while waiting to take over?

It’s very important to think through what you will do as soon as the introducer is finished because if you force an audience to clap too long, they feel awkward ... or they stop clapping and you feel awkward. So, plan how you can be front and centre while people are still clapping.

Tactics might include

  • staying in the wings until “the moment” and then moving crisply to stage center.
  • In a small room, be at the back — behind people — until “the moment.”
  • In an assembly, locate yourself on a chair that gives fast and easy access to “front and centre.”

So, the two tactics I’d recommend for a best first impression are:

  • be out of sight (or insignificant) until “the moment”
  • move quickly to “front and centre” ready to present your best self with the greatest degree of panache.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions