And Today’s Speaker is….

Chemical professionals are used to presenting their work at seminars and conferences. They spend hours preparing content and practicing wording, until everything is perfect. But when it comes to introducing other speakers, many people give very little thought to what they will say until they actually step on stage.

As the host, it is your job to get the attention of the audience, build anticipation, and spark interest in what the speaker has to say. You want to prime the audience, to give the speaker the best possible chance of success. Below are some tips to help you do just that.

Do Your Homework

Start well ahead of time, by asking the speaker for their bio and CV or resume. Visit their professional web page, and learn about their work and institution. Ask them to pronounce their name, and repeat it back. Make sure you have the title of their presentation exactly right, it is has not changed, and that you know how to pronounce everything.

Prepare the Content

If the audience is not familiar with you, briefly state your name and your role, then quickly move to your introduction of the speaker, emphasizing

their connection with this organization or event, their credentials, and their topic. Don’t repeat a laundry list of all their awards, accomplishments and education, just enough to intrigue the audience and convince them that this person is uniquely qualified to speak on this topic to this audience. Don’t give an outline of the talk, or set up unrealistic expectations.

Once you have your introduction written, run it by the speaker. They may have newer information to add, or prefer that something be omitted.

Set the Tone

Your introduction should match the formality and length of the main presentation, generally 1-2 minutes for short presentations. If the speaker is giving an hour-long talk, your introduction can be a little longer, and may include your personal connection to the speaker. Humor is occasionally appropriate, but if you’re not sure, omit it.

As your introduction builds to a climax, you should draw attention to the speaker by looking directly at them, end with “and I am pleased to present Dr. David Tennant”, and get off stage immediately. If you are introducing a series of speakers in a symposium, make sure to use the same level of formality for each – don’t call some “Dr. Thomas Baker” and others “Clara”.

Learn the Material

While it’s okay to use notes, there’s nothing more boring to the audience than a speaker reading directly from a piece of paper – unless it’s reading what is already printed in the program. As when you are the presenter, smile, stand up straight, and speak loudly, clearly, and with enthusiasm.

By the end of your introduction, the audience will know that this is the only speaker who could address their need to know about this topic, and they will be anxious to hear what she has to say. An eager audience is the best gift you can give a guest speaker, and mastering this art will go a long way towards enhancing your professional reputation.

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 (—brought to you by the ACS Career Navigator.

3 Responses to And Today’s Speaker is….

  1. acsundergrad says:

    Reblogged this on .

  2. Steven Cooke says:

    Good advice – and not too much different from general guidelines for presentations. One way to help the presenter introduce YOU is to provide them with a short biography of what you would actually like mentioned (and leave out the long list, if possible). Name, affiliation, a few pertinent bullet points and your current professional interests will make it easier for the presenter, and make you both look better! Some conferences ask for a short bio. I usually send mine along whether they do or not – it is what the presenter often must use at the meeting.

  3. Steve says:

    Having been introduced by someone who got my name wrong, my degree wrong, basically my entire background despite having been given a bio which I wrote I totaly endorse this article!

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