by Peter Sheridan
My introductory graduation speech tips are:
Introducing the Commencement Speaker at a Graduation may seem like a fairly simple thing to do but there are dangers if you have not prepared well. It is an honor and should get your full attention.
There are a few simple rules for the introducer. Make it clear why the speaker is speaking, present their qualifications and credentials, and pave the way for the speaker. You must break the ice for them and be a warm up act. The Principal can give you the reasons for choosing this speaker and why the topic is being used. They may also have some detailed background on the speaker.
A few simple preparation steps can make you a great warm up act for the speaker and help the audience to enjoy the experience.
Remember to have fun writing the introduction and be creative. Does the speech make you smile.
Past graduation introductory speeches will give you an idea as to the time available. Perhaps 1, 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the speaker and the occasion. Just enough time to do your job. However if you have a highly entertaining introduction that needs more time then use it.
Do some research, who is the speaker. There are lots of sources of information, just find the information you need.
Firstly if they are a past alumni you can get material from year books and from speaking to any of their class. Hopefully there is a funny story , or even one of real interest. If they are a notable person they may have a publicist from whom you can get a bio. Speak to the publicist and get any information you can, try and get a sense of who the person really is. Speak to the speaker and find out who they think they are. Google them and get any information you can. Get their qualifications, outstanding stories, credentials as a speaker, lifestyle and interests. You never know what you can use till you write the speech. The bio is likely to be pretty well written and possibly a little boring. You need to find material that will really bring the speaker to life! Be wary to check any Wikipedia facts!.
Look closely at any bio, is there a story behind any facts. For example if the Speaker is a charity fund raiser, why did they pick their particular charity.
If the speaker is an expert, personality or has close affiliations with the school then try and get information on their expertise, why they are famous or what exactly they do to retain ties with the school.
You will no do all of this, just enough to get a solid introduction.
The audience can benefit from understanding any connection they have with the speaker. The credentials of the speaker who is about to use up their time is important.
Take into account the topic of the speech. The audience will hopefully be ready to hear the topic. In itself that should be worthy of a key part of your warm up. Give the audience a very brief but appetising taster of what is to come. Take into account the speakers interpretation of the topic and how they see the speech panning out. If the speech has been publicised check what the publicity says.
There are a few simple ideas worthy of consideration:
- Use a positive passionate style, you are the warm up act!
- Build up to a finale. Elongate the speakers name just before handing over a little like the WWF announcers do.
- Be absolutely clear on all pronunciations. It is embarrassing to get the speakers name wrong.
- Be sure any humor works and does not offend.
- Be original. Don’t read out the bio, that would just be too boring.
- Don’t say “needs no introduction”
- Make it fun.
- Be brief but informative. Too much detail is not entertaining and certainly does not build up any excitement!.
- Prepare thoroughly, last minute rushing will not give a good introduction. Once you have written the speech, check it with a good critic. Do your anecdotes make them feel inspired to hear the speaker?
As with any speech, practice, practice, practice!