The most effective way to deliver your introduction is to make eye contact with your audience for the entire duration of your introduction. This is both the most terrifying and most thrilling part of a speech before a live audience. But before we get into that, let’s talk about why eye contact is so important.
As we’ve said before, the introduction helps you establish your credibility and it lets you connect with your audience. You can do neither of these things if you are reading off an outline and not looking your audience in the eyes.
Besides, if you don’t know what your name is and what you’re talking about without looking at your notes, you’re going to have a hard time establishing your credibility or connecting with your audience. If you can’t introduce yourself and your topic without looking at notes, you’ve got a problem.
The easiest way to ensure you can deliver your introduction while making eye contact is to memorize it and rehearse it many, many times (it doesn’t hurt to keep it short, either!). Your intro should be very brief – just long enough to accomplish your goals. My in-depth public speaking training presentation is 3 ½ hours long. The introduction? Five minutes. Max. No more than that. And it is the same length, whether I am doing a 50-minute address or a half-day seminar.
Take a minute to reflect on the speeches you have seen, good and bad. Of the less-successful presentations, think about those you’ve heard where the speaker’s introduction went on and on and on. When this happens, the audience usually starts wondering if the speaker will ever get to the point of the presentation. And inevitably, they will begin to doubt that the speaker will have time to address all points to be addressed. Will they keep droning like this? Will the speaker run long and take the next speaker’s time? And what good books have I read lately? And what’s that going on outside the window that is so much more interesting that this speech?
You don’t want to be that speaker.
You need to accomplish your purpose. You need to connect with your audience, establish your credibility, give your three main points, and grab people’s attention. You can do that in five minutes. And you can — you must — memorize it. Don’t be daunted by this challenge because, if you write it succinctly, it should only take a few minutes. Naturally, if your introduction is 20 minutes long, you’re going to have a much harder time memorizing it.
So … make eye contact and give them a preview that you have memorized and rehearsed. Do this, and you will have accomplished the primary objectives of your introduction.