Quick! You are attending an event with an eminent speaker, and your colleague suddenly comes over to you and asks you to give the introduction. You’ve never heard of the speaker before, but your colleague gives you three printed pages highlighting the speaker’s career. What do you do when it is your turn to speak?
A.) Read aloud all three pages line by line in their entirety
B.) Scan through the pages and deliver a one-minute summary, picking out the most relevant information
C.) Choose one or two parts of the speaker’s profile about which you can share a story to establish a person connection with the speaker, and tell everyone why they should listen
The correct answer, in nearly every situation, is A. If you happen to be a person of extremely high status, you can get away with C, but only if everyone in the room knows that you are more powerful than the speaker. #PowerPlays
I often go to an event in India where someone is speaking. One time, I was asked to introduce the speaker. It was a topic I was particularly interested in, and I was eager for things to begin. I was given the speaker’s complete profile and browsed through it quickly. Surely I’m not supposed to say all this, I thought as I looked through all the pages. I picked out the things I thought were interesting and ad-libbed the rest to give a more personal introduction.
That was the last time I was ever invited to give the introduction.
A speaker is an honored guest, and firmly establishing their credibility is the job of the introducer. Reading the entire profile they supplied sets the speaker up for better success in the eyes of the audience. A longer profile usually means a more esteemed speaker, and by shortening it, you are removing some of their honor.
When I gave my introduction, my assumption was that the audience would rather me go quickly through the introduction so we could get to the “good stuff”. I thought the audience didn’t want to hear me ramble and stumble over some meaningless biographical data.
This reveals two parts of my American mindset that might be true of you as well:
- I have a clear preference for the present and future and quickly discard the past (like a profile)
- I assume everyone else is in a hurry
Both of these things don’t work well in India. The past establishes legitimacy and respect, and me shaving 45 seconds off my introduction is not going to make a slight difference in how satisfied everyone feels at the end of the speech. #TimeIsEternal
If you are ever invited to give an introduction in India, make it easy on yourself and just read the script.
Photo Credit: Vibgyor Film Collective on Flickr