Toastmasters - Collected Wisdom

These are summaries of the collected wisdom of contributors to a Toastamsters newsgroup which operated between 1995 and 2008 and ToastmastersPrime, a Google group which commenced in 2008. This is not an official Toastmasters site, but is an edited collection of posts from the newsgroup and the Google group. These groups provide an unofficial means of communicating for an enthusiastic group of Toastmasters from throughout the world.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Introducing the next speaker

In January 2007, Mary asked How do Toastmaster members write effective introductions. The thread was Effective Introductions.

It is boring to hear that they live in a certain city with their wife, 2 kids and pet canary. They do not have the background or qualifications to speak about the subject for the introducer to list. They probably do not even have a title such as head of some department at a hospital for example. All they did was research a topic and are preparing to present it.

For Betsy, There had to have been a reason why that person chose that topic--tell the audience that reason.

"Two years ago Joe Schmoe moved to our city. He realized that the drinking water tasted different and this sparked his interest in learning more about Water Pollution in the Potomac River..."

"Joe has always been interested in cars. Last year he went to the auto show, where he had the opportunity to test drive a Prius. Since the he has learned a great deal about hybrid cars, which he will share with us today..."

"Joe still remembers the first movie he ever saw, which was the Wizard of Oz. Ever since then Joe has been a fan of the silver screen, and tonight he will tell us about 3 of his favorite movies..."

To PC it depends on what you mean effective.
In the context of a regular Toastmasters meting,IMO an introduction is effective if it it includes the name of the speaker, the title of the speech, speech project # and manful, and project objectives. The extra fluff it's fine but irrelevant. Most members already know the speaker already.
In the context of an event (seminar, conference, etc.,), the effective introduction needs to include some brief info that points to the speaker's qualification or relevance to speak on the topic. However, it's not a recitation if his/her resume (CV).

John F's introductions for my speeches aren't a CV, but they do highlight something in my background appropriate to this particular speech. For example, when I do a talk on a technical topic, it doesn't hurt to remind the membership that I do have a background in engineering.

There is nothing wrong in Toastmaster in giving a talk where we don't have a lot of background and just did a bit of research on a topic that interests us.
Chances are, there is a reason why the topic interests us, and a reason why we want to share it with the rest of our audience. And that can help us build an appropriate introduction.

For Rick, people don't have to have a title to be an inexpert. The department head may know about a subject because s/he read the summary on the report prepared by a staff member.

Gene always writes his introduction.
The details that you call boring are irrelevant to most speeches. The details should be relevant.

The introduction sets the tone for the speech. It should be connected with it in some way. This might be why the speaker is qualified to speak on the subject or a statement of general philosophy that will be addressed.

For Rod, an effective introduction should build the speaker's credibility hand help him or him to get off to a good start. In particular, a good introduction should answer the questions:
Why this speaker?
Why this subject?
Why this audience?
Why this occasion or time?

It's all in the manual, but few bother to read it.

In May 1998, Podi asked As the Toastmaster of the Day I like to introduce the next speaker with a smooth transition , but more often than not, I scramble in my mind for words.
How do you folks handle this problem? The thread was How do you introduce speakers

For LG, each person that will be introduced supplies information to the person who will be introducing them. The information provided varies. It may include personal information (how long in TM, where they work and for how long) sometimes the information is a lead in for the speech they are about to give. This ensures that the introducer knows what they will be saying before beginning rather than scrambling in their mind for words.

Joy recalled an educational by heard a speech by Wendy Farrow (later an International Director, now deceased) in which she strongly recommended that speakers write their own introductions so they will be introduced the way they want. Ever since then I have tried to do that, and have encouraged others to do the same. I also encourage the Toastmaster to use the introduction provided by a speaker.

A few years ago after an 8-year-old girl was killed while trying to fly an airplane across the United States, I gave a speech on the subject. I prepared a carefully written introduction which included the facts that I have been a private pilot and that I have worked with gifted children. This was to establish my credibility to speak on the subject, without taking up my speech time.
The Toastmaster ignored the written introduction and gave a flowery paean saying how witty and humorous I am. Since this was one of the few speeches I have given which did not contain humor, and was about a very grave subject, his introduction was entirely inappropriate, and I had to begin my speech by saying, "Thank you for that flattering introduction. However, the introduction I provided said ..."

So, I encourage speakers to write their own intro, or at least provide the information they want included in it, and I urge the Toastmaster to use the introduction or information provided.

JohnF described a module from the Better Speaker Series "Creating an Introduction" (Cat. No. 277 which seems to be just what the Doctor ordered.
I was present when this module was presented as an educational to one of my clubs and the presenter gave some very good examples of what to do, and what not to do.
Her 'what not to do' example really sticks in my mind. "Ladies and gentlemen, John is an established trainer in both downhill skiing and water skiing. He holds a degree in Physical Education, and several years experience in the field of skiing. Ladies and Gentlemen, please help me welcome our speaker, John, with a speech entitled 'Proper Motorcycle Maintainance.'" She really drove home the need for a proper introduction.

When I write introductions, there are four questions I like to keep in the back of my mind-
Why this Speaker?
Why this Audience?
Why this Subject?
Why Now?

Carmen was amused by John's experience, but added it never happened to her because she writes her own introductions, although what it *did* do was remind me not to be too casual about the introduction I do write.

Joy added the introduction should include information that relates to the speech subject rather than something that does not. If the speech was to be about skiing, the information would be important for the audience to have. Since the speech was about motorcycle maintenance, it would have been logical to mention any training or experience the speaker had in this area. The purpose of an introduction is to prepare the audience to hear the speech. Giving them information not related to the speech can confuse them.

If our club speeches are preparing us to speak to outside groups the contest formula of Title, speaker, speaker, title, in an introduction would be inappropriate, and either frowned on or laughed at, in most situations outside the Toastmasters club.

I feel that the introduction should include any pertinent background to bolster the speaker's credibility about the subject, the objective of the speech in question, and any other information the speaker wants the group to know. At a club meeting, for instance, it is appropriate to mention how long the speaker has been a Toastmaster. In an outside group, this would not be of interest to the audience, unless the speaker is talking about Toastmasters or some aspect of public speaking. The speaker's name could be mentioned at the beginning of the introduction, and again at the end, along with the title.

Bill, a professional speaker, said at the top of my intro is a note to the Introducer that says in bold print.
To the Introducer:
The introduction of a speaker is vital to setting the stage and tone for the presentation. To maximize Bill's contribution to the program:
1. Please review this introduction before the program. 2. Please read it slowly and clearly. 3. Please read it as written.
I send two copies to the meeting planner, one to the introducer (if known) and I bring one with me to the event.
Please keep in mind that people are there to hear the speaker and not about him or her. Keep your intro down to about 30 seconds and certainly not more than one minute.

Review it for difficult words. I used to say in the intro,"Bill has spoken before personnel from some of the worlds most prestigious companies." It now says, "... for many of the Fortune 500's largest companies." Everyone stumbled over the word "Prestigious." Keep it simple.

Be sure that the info given is important to this audience. If you are speaking on achieving perfect attendance in Sunday school, the fact you have be able to do that counts. But if your topic is water polo the audience will not care about your Sunday school attendance.

Also keep in mind that something written to be read and not spoken is written differently from something to read aloud. Give your intro to several people to read aloud to test it for ease of speech.

Mike witnessed "An introduction from Hell" at a district convention. Our Communications and Leadership recipient was a close and personal friend of the introducer. The introduction droned on for 22 minutes (No Kidding, we timed it). The audience was bored, and the speaker visibly embarrassed and shaken. The C&L recipient only spoke 20 minutes. So.....I agree with Bill - write your own introduction, even if the introducer is your friend.

Podi emphasized the transition focus in his original question:
How about the lead-in itself? That is the bit that most people don't know how to handle in my opinion.
Let me be clear about what I'm saying here: the end of the previous speech doesn't and shouldn't take you directly to the introduction of the next speaker on the agenda now, right?
What do you do there?

Denis agreed: bridging and transition is not emphasized enough. The mood of two speeches can be very different and you should present each so that it gets proper focus without overlap.
I like short quotes which act to bridge and set the scene for the next speech. This requires at least some contact with speaker to scope out mood of speech and how it fits into theme or is opposite (both work)!

The intro can act as a bridge. Find out from speaker if there is a point or topic that needs emphasis before the speech, you or the evaluator should give notice before the speech i.e. is it a speech to be read or is it supposed to be extemporaneous or is it set in the Great Depresion, etc.

Lets face it, if my speech is a farce and yours is a eulogy, the bridge should be more than one minute to fill out eval card and a call to the lectern.

This is a skill which like speaking comes with practice, just try different stuff till you find your own NATURAL style.

In February 2000 the thread was Introduction of a speaker

Roy learned the following from a DTM friend in the area.


An Acronym; (To make the formula more memorable)

TOPIC What is it and Why this subject?

INTEREST Why this audience? And What is in it for them?

PERSPECTIVE Why this speaker?

What information about the speaker?

In May 2002, David started the thread How To Introduce Someone with:

What is a good way to get information about a speaker? Are there any good questions to ask? I want to be able to do more then email these speakers and ask--How do you want me to introduce you? It never seems to illicite answers that make for good introductions.

These steps worked for PC:

1. Call or email (you need to communicate)

2. Say: For introductions I need,
  • The title of your speech, speech project number and manual, and project objectives (if making speech) and
  • a couple of sentences about you the way you want me to introduce you. Whatever you want is fine. (If you are on the phone give them an example.)
  • If I don't hear from you I will make up something based on what I know about you.

Another way to make special introductions ask every person to give you his or her answer to the same question and inlude that informaion wih the introdction. For example, favorite past time.
One thing to remember: if you decide to give special introductions, do the same for everyone. If you want to use the minimalistic introduction, also do the same for everyone.

Dennis asks the speaker if the speech needs any explanation or set-up. This might trigger an answer if they need something "special" in the intro.

Does your club usually call on the evaluator to explain the speech objectived and speaker goals? Our club has the evaluator do that just before each speech, then TM introduces speaker.

Will you have a meeting theme? Ask each person you will be introducing a question based on your theme - this can form a nice thread carried through the meeting.

Unless you can ask a specific question, folks do not usually have a good answer about how they want to be introduced. I think it is a fear of seeming to brag.

JohnS (your editor) added:

I would draw their attention to the section in the manual - How to introduce a speaker, and explain that you would like to do it according to the book.

Mention that you will only have thirty seconds, so could they choose one aspect that you could highlight - perhaps something about their family, perhaps something about their work, perhaps about their hobby.

Suggest an example introduction, and ask them for assistance in filling in the blanks.

A couple of other points, avoid a repetitive formula of Manual number, speakers name, title, assignment objective, personal note, time etc.

With respect to time, make an announcement at the beginning of the session that all speeches will be from 5 to 7 minutes, with the exception of our third Speaker who is speaking from the Advanced manual - Speeches by management - Geoff's speech will be 10 to 12 minutes.

he other items in the list should all be mentioned, but vary your approach.

Integrate them something like this:
Our first speaker, Rod Taylor is well known for his varied diet. An African resident, John is familiar with the taste of Alpaca and Llama, although we are not sure if he has tasted Springbok. Tonight, however as he takes up the challenge of Working With Words, Rod will answer that time honoured question "Which came first the chicken or the egg?"

Afterwards - thank you Rod. I am sure that we all love to see the photos of your trip.
John Fleming is another world traveller. Tonight, as he applies his skills John will relate a thrilling experience in a Canadian winter. Under The Northern Lights, John has experienced the chill of below freezing weathers and days with barely two hours of sunshine. Join me in encouraging John to share his tale of Life Under the Northern Lights.

Thank you John. Perhaps next time you could tell us how you spent the twenty two hour days in sub arctic summer.

The sort of night life that Dale Hartle specialises in is best conducted in a city not far from home. We know that Dale is the life of the party at our festival meetings, but did you know that Dale is also the heart and soul of another party? As campaign manager for the recent city elections, Dale spent her days and most of her nights stuffing envelopes and making placards. Fresh from the successful campaign for city council, Dale will Show What She Means when she says "You can't Beat City Hall."
and so on.

You should mention the title last, shortly after the speaker's name.

It is important that the speaker know what you are going to say about them, so your idea of an email questionnaire is good. Perhaps you might want to cut and paste some of this to give them an idea.

One other point - Start the applause and wait at the lectern until the speaker arrives. Shake hands and return to a seat close to the front so that there is no time lost between speakers.
Apologies to Dale, John and Rod. The above intros are not based on any real people, living or dead.

Dennis does the manual and timing information slightly differently:

First - the timer is introduced and announces timing for the speeches and goes over the lights for the newer folks.

Second - just before the speaker is introduced, the evaluator will announce the manual and project with objectives and then personal goals for the speaker.

The Meeting Toastmaster will then introduce speaker with personal informsation and title.
Afterwards the Toastmaster asks for a minute for audience to complete short evaluations for the speaker.

I find it easier for the evaluator to explain this stuff and it makes a cleaner introduction.

Rae had noticed noticed a trend in our club that I don't think is particularly effective and that is that the speaker is handing a written introduction to the Toastmaster at the last moment.

I feel that this is ineffective on several fronts. Firstly, it deprives the Toastmaster of the opportunity to interview the speaker in advance and learn a little more about them.

Writing effective introductions of other people is a valuable skill to practice.

Secondly, the introduction that you may be handed may be very poorly written. If you read it verbatum it will effect your credibility as well as that of your speaker.

Thirdly, I believe in being prepared for every role that I perform. This last minute receiving of an introduction doesn't allow me the time to practice my intro and build the proper excitement for the upcoming speaker.

One factor of an effective introduction that I haven't seen mentioned in previous posts is that your introduction is to build excitement or interest in the speaker but that focus should not be placed on yourself.

Introducing the prepared speakers by the Toastmaster is only one example of opportunities to introduce someone. There are many other examples througout the meeting. "Fellow Toastmasters our Table Topics Master this evening just won the Division xxx Table Topics Contest in xxx. Please join me in welcoming xxxx for an exciting session of Table Topics!"

Joy felt that times should be given to the timer, and possibly the evaluators. Nobody else really needs to know that. It is okay to include it in an introduction, but I don't feel it's necessary.

Dan has experienced a mixed format for introductions. Most often it is a reflection of the attendance record of the Chair/Toastmaster; they are not always there to see the diversity of the agenda formats.

Often the Toastmaster will simply introduce the speaker with a narrative about the speaker's resume with the Club. The minimum is how long with, some of their roles and the Title. For the more creative and regular attenders you find they ask first for the evaluator to highlight the project goals.

This highlight can be a real attention focus for the evaluator and voting audience as they view the presentation. Follow this with the Toastmaster presenting the speakers credentials and/or background in the topic of choice, the audience gains respect and anticipation for the speaker's presentation. Further this with a track plan that the speaker has followed in the manual you can appreciate the building nature of the speaker.

The real credit for the introduction can sit with the speaker if they offer a script for introduction. They provide the background of interest and expertise for the speech/speaker. If left to the Toastmaster then they may expect a whitewash. It is an opportunity to communicate that requires preparation. It should be done prior to the meeting since at the meeting the greeting and preparation actions do not blend easily. Even a brief phone call is better than trying get attention as members and guests may arrive only minutes before the thump of the gavel.

It is part of preparation. Do not put it off as an adjustment; make it part of the speech preparation.

For Gene sometimes it's very important to my speech how I am introduced. In that case, I am very careful to tell the Toastmaster that it is important.

In the thread The role of Toastmaster in the Meeting in January 1998

Rick added physical set up to the introducer's duties:

Does the speaker have everything they need set up?

Make sure the room is setup and ready to go. When they get to the front of the room, the audience wants them to start not fiddle with equipment or props. If they have problems, what can you do to solve them. When I’ve been in the toastmaster position at conferences, I’ve had to have the conference center adjust the temperature below 83 F. I have also flipped overheads for a speaker who couldn’t wear a livelier mike. (She didn’t have a belt or pickets for the connector to clip to.)

There is more on this in the next post: When you are the Toastmaster of the day

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