Thursday, March 20, 2014

How NOT to introduce a guest speaker

Most people do a poor job of introducing a guest speaker. They either: (1) don’t know how to prepare an introduction or (2) don’t know how to behave in public. Sometimes both.

Here’s an example of both: a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Lowell introducing the author Stephen King. The introduction begins at 00:25 in the video. It’s two and a half minutes long; watch it now.


The introduction is histrionic and creepy.

Although the introducer is a professor, she uses baby talk: “beepy things.”

Although she is a professor of English, she uses a confusing circumlocution: “please just make sure you’re not going to be that person who embarrasses themselves.”

She tries to humiliate the audience members: “that you thought was really cool.”

She apparently thinks it’s cute to warn the people in the front rows that she may “projectile vomit” on them.

Worst of all, she upstages her guest speaker by spending more than one-third of the introduction talking about herself. Projectile narcissism.

How to prepare a decent introduction

Even if you are not a trained public speaker, you can easily prepare and deliver a decent introduction. Even on short notice. Here’s what to do:
First write 20 words that identify the speaker’s topic.
Then write 40 words about the importance of that topic to the audience members.
Then write 80 words about the speaker’s qualifications to discuss that topic.
Then write, “Please join me in welcoming (name of speaker)!”
You now have a rough draft of your script. Rehearse your script with a recorder running. Then listen to the recording and edit the script. Then rehearse and edit again. You now have the script for a decent, polite, relevant one-minute introduction. You will deliver it well, especially if your heart is in it.

And if you have sufficient time for thorough preparation, consider using this detailed and thoughtful guide, written by a wonderful librarian. And I hope you always will have sufficient time.

The Takeaway: If you are asked to introduce a speaker, be diligent and considerate in your preparation. You don’t have to be a smooth, fancy professional speaker – just a modest, well-mannered grown-up with a heart.

See disclaimer.


  1. The poor introduction (which is indeed very poor and irritating; an excellent illustration) begins at 00:25, rather than 25:00.

    1. Thanks for the correction. I've updated the post.