This past week I had the pleasure of being part of my 14th “ACE Awards”. (ACE stands for Accessories Council Excellence and the awards are given to designers who have made a significant contribution to the accessories industry in the last year.)
As you might imagine, it’s a star-studded evening, with celebrities queuing up to pay homage to the designers who help them look their best. My job is to help both those presenting and those accepting awards to present their best selves.
The thing to know about introducing someone (which also translates to giving toasts and eulogies) is that a story is necessary to draw the crowd in and to keep you away from useless modifiers (amazing, awesome, wonderful, etc…)
Given that, my recommendation is that you begin with a (very short!) story that tells people how you first came to know the person in question.
Ideally, this story will demonstrate a quality of the person: their sense of humor, their loyalty, their kindness, etc.
You can then follow this up by saying something along the lines of, “and I know everyone in this room could tell a similar story about X’s sense of humor/loyalty/kindness,’ which is a great way to make those in the room feel included.
Other things to think about:
Words on the page sound very different when you hear them out loud, so I recommend you read your speech/toast/eulogy out loud numerous times beforehand. This will allow you to tweak it so it sounds conversational.
In my dream world, you also have a friend or colleague read it out loud to you, as hearing someone else say it is helpful to the editing process– your brain is free to devote itself to listening and you notice when your attention begins to wander.
As you can imagine, cut those bits.
Finally, don’t rush it. When you arrive at the front of the room (or stand up in the banquet hall or church) take a moment before you begin to speak to gather the audience; the best analogy I’ve heard for this is, “I’m not leaving the driveway until everyone has their seatbelt on.”
After that, enjoy the open road.