I always say when it comes to speaking or performing, you must adhere to Murphy's Law. What can wrong … will. I don't know who this Murphy was, but perhaps he should get in touch with Montezuma (and his revenge.)

Please note, dear reader, I am not a fatalist. I am more of a realist. Yes, you can fix the lighting the sound… even the proximity of the platform to the stage. But the challenging part is getting the host, (or organizer) who hired you -- to give you the proper introduction.

Fogel's tip: When you send your introduction a week or two before the engagement, double space it and make the font size bigger - say 14 or 26. This will enable your host to easily read it from the lectern.

Then make two more copies and bring them with you on the day of the engagement because undoubtedly the one sent ahead will be lost.

Murphy's law #1. You hand a copy to the host and releases this big smile and says,
"Oh, I wrote one for you myself…

Not a good sign. I know you don't want to insult the man who is paying you, but a good way is to politely ask him (or her) to read what you wrote out.

Murphy's Law #2 What happens if you go the engagement and nobody really wants to go onstage and introduce you. Well, this is the perfect time to BRING yourself on and test the room for humor. Here's a sure-fire way to do just that. IMPORTANT: This only works if the audience does not know who you are. Take the microphone, be serious and ask everyone to take his or her seats, because the presentation is beginning.

"Ladies and Gentlemen I'd like to bring up to the platform our speaker today. (Then read your wonderful credits…) Please welcome my good friend and a tremendous talent (insert name) Then stand off to the side waiting for "the speaker" (you) to show…"

When you of course don't, then grab the microphone and say, "I want to thank you for that warm and wonderful introduction… I couldn't have said it any better."
(beat; wait for laughs) Folks, times are tough when you have to introduce yourself… so don't be surprised when you discover I'm also bringing your cars around later!

The audience will LAUGH because a) they were caught off guard b) they know you have a great sense of self-effacing humor…

The beauty of introducing yourself, or having someone introducing you, is that you can TEST the humor I.Q. of your audience. You lay in a little joke… if the audience laughs during the intro, then you know you're going to have a good time with your audience.

Here's one of mine, that I only use in clubs and not necessarily in a corporate setting. But you'll get the picture.

"Our next performer has worked with Jon Stewart, John Byner, John Davidson… and all the major johns in Hollywood… including Charlie Sheen

See what I mean? NOT right for a corporate environment, but suitable for after dinner cocktail hour when folks are more playful and possible a tad drunk. That's why it's important to use TEST humor to get a good feel for your audience.

Use Test Humor

Why is using test humor a good idea? Well, as a professional speaker, you can’t leave things like your audience’s mood to chance. This is especially a good idea when working with unfamiliar groups. It helps me figure out if the audience is receptive to my speech.

Like I said, it's a good idea to insert a line in my written introduction that’s somewhat funny and really simple to deliver. That way the introducer can get the line right without feeling awkward. The line should be short and sweet, and if you need to, even write the pauses in for the introducer so they’ll know how to deliver the line well.

Again, as the introducer is using the funny line, I watch the audience. If they react well, I know they’ll take humor in my speech. If not, I know they’ll need some more warming up as my speech begins. Surprisingly, many speakers don’t use this technique but start out with a funny line no matter what the audience’s mood. I can tell you from experience, this could annoy your audience. Remember: Every audience is different!

Have Multiple Openings in Mind

My recommendation is to play it safe. Every time I give a speech, I’ve planned more than one possible opening. Again, you shouldn’t always open with humor, but lots of times I have a funny opening ready to go just in case.

If the audience reacts well to my test humor, I’ll start with that opening. Sometimes I also prepare a serious opening. Audiences who sit stone-faced through the humorous introduction line receive the serious opening. The failsafe method is that you should be flexible on your openings because the opening few lines can make or break an audience’s experience with you.

No matter how the audience reacts, you should have an insurance policy against a terrible opening.

Opening a speech with a funny line can really bomb the rest of the experience if the audience isn’t receptive to humor. Likewise, opening with a serious line can lose an audience early if they are expecting a somewhat funny speech.

Remember: You can typically use the same line over and over as long as you're speaking to different groups with each speech. This type of continuity allows you to really read the reaction of the audience even if the introducer doesn’t get the line right, which can be tremendously helpful. The more stage time you get - the more you will figure out and determine which is the best introduction to use as well as the best humor to use for optimal results.

Any questions? Just write me at peterfogelspeaks@yahoo.com

Author's Bio: 

Peter "The Reinvention Guy" Fogel is a humorist, seminar leader, and speaker coach who helps entrepreneurs, writers, and emerging speakers reach their full potential as effective communicators. He is the author of the bestselling book, "If Not Now… Then When? Stories and Strategies of People Over 40 Who Have Successfully Reinvented Themselves" and the soon to be released book, "Reboot Your Career: 27 Ways to Reinvent Yourself in the Workplace… If You Still Have a Job!" For more info on his products and to sign up for his FREE &7 Days to effective Public Speaking E-course.. ($75 Value) Go to www.publicspeaklikeapro.com