Well, I have three or four speaking engagements scheduled in the near future, and so the organisers of these events have been getting in touch with me and asking for information they can use when they introduce me. I’ve always struggled with this, and so, after careful consideration, this was the last self-description I emailed to an organiser:
Dan O. is smarter than you, better in bed than you, more socially active than you, and he is not afraid to kiss your woman and kick your ass.
Of course, I’m just having a laugh (although I’m not sure if the person I emailed this to will find it funny…), but is this really all that different than what is said when we are introduced at these kinds of events? Don’t we just find more socially acceptable ways to talk about how awesome we are? In particular, aren’t we expected to describe ourselves as ‘experts’ or as somehow superior to the people who will be attending the event? (The assumption being that people wouldn’t bother listening to somebody who is a non-expert, or to somebody whom they perceive of as inferior.)
Of course, the point of an introduction is twofold. An introduction is intended to (1) give the audience some insight into who the speaker actually is; and (2) explain how the speaker is connected to the topic at hand.
However, the problem with this is that the more connected the speaker is to the topic, the less connected the speaker becomes with the audience. I am not saying that this makes the speaker less exciting, but I am saying that it makes it less likely that what the speaker says will have a significant impact beyond the event itself.
Thus, for example, when I am asked to speak at an event, it is usually somehow related to some combination of biblical theology and community activism or social justice concerns, or whatever you want to call it. However, should I be introduced with a list of things I’ve done related to these things (thereby establishing my connection with the topic), then a divide will have been created between me and those in attendance. Consequently, the foundation is laid for people to respond to my talk by saying, “Wow, that’s really interesting!” while simultaneously failing to connect the talk to their own daily practices — because, you know, the introduction makes me look like I’m some sort of ‘radical’, while the rest of them are just average Christians trying to make the best of it… or something like that.
So, my increasing concern with introductions is not how to establish my connection with the topic, nor is it with defending my expertise. Increasingly, I want to be introduced in ways that connect me, personally, with the people with whom I am speaking. Then maybe people will be enabled to start making the connections between the topic at hand and their own daily lives.
Any thoughts on this?