Introducing The World’s Worst IntroducerPosted: August 19, 2011
I have realized something about myself. At first, I did not want to face it. I denied it for a long time. How could I, someone who considers himself an experienced public speaker and instructor, be a bad introducer? I can tell myself it isn’t so, but I can’t hide from the truth anymore.
I am supremely bad at introducing people to groups. Even if I’m given a person’s biographical sketch and asked to read it, the result is disastrous.
How Can This Be?
I’m very comfortable teaching classes and speaking to large groups. Back when I was a kid, I hated even standing before my English class to give a report. Now I love presenting to a large group. It doesn’t even occur to me to feel nervous.
In fact, I will go further than just saying I’m not nervous. I have periods of fearlessness. Juggling is a regular part of my classes. I make fun of people in the class and of myself. I assign students nicknames. Once, I sang part of a Britney Spears song in front of 350 people during a presentation at a conference because it seemed like a good idea at the moment…and it worked.
But then comes the moment when someone says “would you introduce the next speaker?”
Yeah, So Here Is, Ummmm…
Something happens when I stand in front of a room full of people and introduce someone. My brain locks. My sense of humor fails me. I forget important details like the person’s name. As comfortable as I am in front of a crowd, I become instantly as uncomfortable when I have to introduce someone – even someone that I know.
Let’s examine a couple recent examples of how I go off the rails when it comes to introductions. Both these examples involve introducing people I am very familiar with professionally. They are accomplished people in the mental health field and in both cases, I am introducing them before they present a block of instruction to about thirty students.
Case Number One: The class gathers after a break and I walk to the front of the room and speak to the instructor briefly. We chat and joke for a moment until I see the class is seated. I ask the gentleman if he is ready, then welcome the class back from break. I’d planned what I was going to say but then something came over me and in my best imitation of the introduction of a Vegas lounge act I roared:
Ladies and Gentleman, direct from the great state of Maryland, Bob Smart! Bob Smart on Suicidal Ideation, give it up for Mr. Bob Smart!
The artist known as Bob Smart looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I gave sort of a shrug and left him to begin his lecture. I was pretty certain whatever I said to restore decorum to this situation was not going to be effective.
I have to stress to you how unplanned this was. People who know me know I am fairly soft-spoken. It is completely out of character for me to roar out anything, but especially something like an instruction to “give it up” for anyone. This was unprecedented and has never happened since.
Case Number Two: This occurred in the same setting, during a different class session. The speaker was a woman who is very highly educated – she is a nurse, holds multiple graduate degrees as well as counseling certifications. She is also the boss of a good friend and colleague of mine who had introduced her to every class up until the fateful day that I was asked to handle that duty.
I again addressed the class, welcomed them back and began my introduction. Things started out very well:
Our next topic is the problem of addiction. Your presenter is Bonnie Peel. Bonnie is one of the driving forces behind us getting our program started here in the county and I always like to thank her for that, she has really made a difference.
It was a darn good start considering it was me doing the introduction. In fact, I’d even say that would be a darn fine introduction as it was, if I’d left it alone. Of course, I did not leave it alone.
The first slide of her presentation was on the screen. It had the title of her talk, her name and the abbreviation for all her her hard earned academic honors : BS, RN, MS, MA, etc. There were about three more degrees and certification abbreviations there. A voice in my head said, “say something about all the letters after her name.” So, I did:
Bonnie Peel, EIEIO
Yes, I did. Yes, like Old McDonald the nursery rhyme. Bonnie didn’t think it was funny. In retrospect, I don’t think it was either, especially since she is my friend’s boss.
I am getting out of the introduction business. While I love teaching and speaking, I will never again do an introduction that involves anything more complex than introducing two friends of mine to one another.
No more Vegas. No Old MacDonald. I am so calm and cool. So prepared. Then someone says “would you introduce…?”