Talks of Honor

Talks of Honor

Introducing others, whether in formal or informal settings, requires thought and planning, lest you make yourself the focus of attention.

The holiday season may be wrapped, but the opportunity to honor others continues throughout the year. Use special events and networking outings to do that while showcasing your brand. At events, I often see people reading introductions from a sheet of paper they pulled from a company website. Not only does this lack professionalism, it also makes you look bad and your target cringe.

Talks of honor show up in different forms. Introducing others at events is one iteration. These can be one-to-one settings or small-group casual introductions. A larger format could include emceeing an event where you must introduce several elements in a program or have the distinction of introducing the keynote speaker. No matter for which category you must prepare, you can use the IAP formula to help you accomplish your goals.

  • I = Intent
  • A = Audience analysis
  • P = Powerful performance

Your goal with any talk of honor is to make the person who is the focus feel honored. A second but equally important goal, is to showcase yourself. Even though I usually advise focusing on one intent, this is a case where both honoring and showcasing are equally important. Think about it. If you look shabby or stumble over your words, you don’t do much for your own brand. You definitely won’t make the person you are charged with introducing feel honored.

Introducing others

Introducing is an art. You can make your introductions masterpieces if you practice with intent. Be sure to do audience analysis on both your target and the audience. Find out personal and professional facts about the honoree. Try to gather interesting tidbits your audience won’t easily find online. Don’t rely on the event program for your material. Use any personal connections you have with the person you are going to introduce as fodder.

When you are set to perform, your introduction will be most powerful if you tailor your remarks to the audience. For example, if you were introducing the creator of 3M’s Post-it notes and happen to occasionally use Post-it notes as your business card, work that into your introduction. Creativity and personalization are key when it comes to introducing someone, no matter the forum.


Toasts before a meal, or in any other setting, are celebratory. You have license to use festive language and inspirational anecdotes. Once again, your two-pronged intent includes honoring your subject and showcasing yourself. Last fall, I gave a wedding toast to my brother and his bride at the Edina Country Club. Talk about a tall order! Faced with friends, family, and business colleagues, I had a mixed audience in front of me. The common connection was the joy everyone had for this amazing couple.

Toasts of any kind are also a time to really know who you are as a communicator. If you have a sense of humor, use it now. If you don’t, try not to break out into stand-up comedy. It won’t be authentic.

During this particular toast, I knew I might get emotional so I chose to use my sense of humor to naturally counteract too much emotion. I also practiced ahead of time. Even though I ad-libbed much of my toast and even threw in a couple tidbits from what I saw at the wedding, I didn’t use a script for my final delivery. I did, however, practice with a printed version several times prior to the wedding reception.

Hearing yourself give any talk of honor before it comes out of your mouth on gameday can help you plan for a powerful performance. Through practice in your living room or in front of a mirror, you’ve already dealt with some of the emotion that may release. You’ll also hear when something doesn’t sound right. Don’t over-rehearse, but no one ever sounded worse because of practice.

Award ceremonies

Many companies and organizations give out awards annually. Often, these awards are handed out at special receptions or galas. When you’re asked to introduce an award recipient, it’s crucial you know how to pronounce the person’s name, properly cite the award they will receive, and look good yourself.

I remember one evening gala at which I couldn’t stop staring at the speaker’s knees because she chose to wear a short dress. For that setting, and because of the role she had introducing an award winner, I would have advised her to dress the part. At the very least, wear an age-appropriate dress that would cover her knees. At best, wear a gown or dinner suit that showcased her as she was introducing the award recipient. Appropriate and classy attire help you honor your recipient while at the same time accomplishing the equally important intent of showcasing yourself.

Toasting you

Here’s to good intent and powerful performance as you go forth honoring others this year.

Roshini Rajkumar is a communication coach, host of News & Views on WCCO Radio, and author of Communicate That! For additional communication tips, visit

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