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Introductions are often underestimated. They are far more than just announcing who will speak next or what the next programme item is. A good introduction not only strengthens the connection between the audience and the stage but also ensures the overarching narrative has more impact and sparks curiosity.

For many moderators, announcements are often an afterthought. They think, ‘How hard can it be?’ and resort to improvising with random facts or reading from a pre-prepared and overly lengthy script.

It’s a real shame because a carefully crafted introduction can have a huge impact. It represents the first opportunity to win the audience over, especially when there may be little room for interaction later. A compelling introduction:

  • Excites participants, piquing their interest in what’s to come, revealing just enough to illustrate the relevance of the forthcoming item.
  • Energises the atmosphere, ensuring the speaker addresses a responsive audience.
  • Bridges the gap between stage and audience, breaking down barriers and fostering a collective connection to the topic.

Taking the time to distil the essence of your message for use on stage is crucial.
An effective introduction comprises three elements:

  1. The teaser: The opening of your announcement should capture attention instantly, whether through a rhetorical question, an intriguing observation, a startling fact, or an anecdote. Creativity is key here!
    Remember, introductions don't always have to be 'fun' or 'dynamic'. A reflective, serious, or thought-provoking tone is equally valuable, provided it aligns with the session's purpose.
    Ideally, take a brief pause after your opening sentence(s) to let the message resonate.
  2. The pitch: With the audience's attention secured, it's time to demonstrate the importance of the upcoming programme item. Expand on the teaser, explaining, for instance, why this topic is timely. People appreciate understanding the rationale behind the session's inclusion.
    If a speaker is involved, highlight why they're the right person to discuss this topic, giving just enough background to intrigue the audience.
    Avoid saying, 'this speaker needs no introduction'. Every speaker deserves a proper introduction tailored to each event's unique context.
  3. The claptrap: A well-structured introduction naturally leads to applause without explicitly requesting it. Conclude with a memorable remark and enthusiastically announce the session or speaker.

Avoid fully scripting your introduction; instead, note key points. Don't memorise it, apart from the opening and closing lines. Trust in your preparation to find the right words spontaneously.
There are exceptions, of course. In more formal settings where recitation is necessary, do so openly. In that case, shamelessly read aloud and don't try to conceal this.

What to avoid in introductions:

  • No CVs: Refrain from reciting complete biographies. Highlight relevant achievements only.
  • No long speeches: The length of an introduction should match the session's nature, but always use common sense. People haven’t come to hear how great you are at oration, so restrain yourself.
  • No process sharing: Don't detail how you prepared or go into how you spoke to the speaker earlier If information is relevant, include it; otherwise, skip the backstory.
  • It isn’t about you: Focus on the audience and speakers, not yourself. Avoid 'I' and opt for more inclusive language.
  • No opinions. Remain neutral. You're there to moderate, not to influence audience perceptions. Your enthusiasm should encourage interest without bias.

A moderator's role is to present sessions and speakers enticingly. So, spend time crafting a good introduction and engage with content contributors to grasp each story or session's core. Consider asking:

  • What is the session’s key message?
  • What are the key learning points or calls for action?
  • What should the audience understand beforehand?
  • What question will this session answer?
  • Naturally, the aim isn't to incorporate all these aspects into your introduction, as you wouldn't want to steal the speaker's thunder. Nevertheless, these questions will offer you essential insights into how your introduction should be structured.

Conclusion: A thoughtful introduction significantly enhances the impact of the following programme item, setting the stage for an engaging session.

Picture by Adam Whitlock on Unsplash

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