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And Today’s Speaker Is …

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
May 5, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 18

Credit: Shutterstock
Well-planned introductory remarks can help prime an audience, enhancing a speaker’s chance of success.
A pair of microphones on a dual stand, set off threateningly at a “Dutch angle.”
Credit: Shutterstock
Well-planned introductory remarks can help prime an audience, enhancing a speaker’s chance of success.

MOST CHEMICAL PROFESSIONALS have some experience presenting their work at seminars and conferences. In anticipation of those presentations, they may spend hours preparing content and practicing their delivery until everything is perfect. But when it comes to introducing other speakers, many people are less prepared, giving very little thought to what they will say until they step on stage.

As the moderator or host at a conference, it is your job to get the attention of the audience and spark interest in what the speakers have to say. You want to prime the audience to give the speakers the best possible chance of success. Below are some tips to help you do just that.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Start preparing well ahead by asking the speakers for their bios, CVs, or résumés. Visit their professional webpages, and learn about their work and institutions. Be sure you know how to pronounce each speaker’s name. Also, confirm the exact title of each presentation, taking note of any last-minute changes.

PREPARE THE CONTENT. Spend time carefully preparing what you will say. You will want to briefly state your name and role before introducing the speaker, emphasizing his or her connection with the event or sponsoring organization, as well as the topic of that person’s presentation and his or her credentials. Don’t rattle off a laundry list of the speaker’s awards and accomplishments or provide details of his or her educational background; just offer enough information to convince those in the audience that he or she is uniquely qualified to speak on the topic of choice. Don’t give an outline of the talk or set up unrealistic expectations.

After you have written your introduction, run it by the speaker, who may want to suggest some changes.

SET THE TONE. Your introduction should be consistent with the formality and length of the speaker’s presentation. It should generally be one to two minutes long if it will precede a short presentation. If you are introducing someone who will give an hour-long talk, your remarks can last a little longer and may include mention of your personal connection to the speaker. Humor is occasionally appropriate, but if you’re not sure about how it will be received by the audience, omit it.

As you wrap up your introduction, draw attention to the speaker by looking directly at that person and providing his or her name, saying something like, “and I am pleased to present Dr. David Tennant.” You should then exit the stage. If you are introducing a series of speakers in a symposium, use the same level of formality for each as you introduce them by name. For example, don’t call one speaker “Dr. Thomas Baker” and another “Clara.”

LEARN THE MATERIAL. The same basic rules that apply to presenting a good speech also apply to making an effective introduction.

Although it’s okay to use notes, try to avoid reading directly from a piece of paper as you introduce a speaker. Also, smile, stand up straight, and speak loudly, clearly, and with enthusiasm.

By the end of your introduction, those in the audience should feel that the speaker you are presenting is well qualified to address his or her topic, and they should be eager to hear what he or she has to say.

Get Involved In The Discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (


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