• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

Introductions

Welcoming you to the stage ...

 

October 18, 2017
 
 

Do enough public speaking, and you come to recognize different genres of introductions.

Brief bios are standard fare, which is fine. They give the audience a sense of context, which can be helpful, and they can also build confidence as you’re stepping up. Sometimes you get reduced to being a representative of a given organization or side, which is dreary, but at least transparent. Sometimes you’re on the receiving end of a mini-roast, which can go very well or very badly, depending on context and delivery. Occasionally you get the passive-aggressive intro, which may or may not be intended to be funny. (My favorite of those, from a gender studies class many years ago: “And now, to represent patriarchy...Matt?”  Uh, thanks…) I’ve even seen the veiled attack: “Here to attempt to defend himself, please welcome…”

Cold intros are hard, particularly when the crowd is chatty. People with booming voices have an advantage there. Many years ago I once banged a shoe as a gavel, hoping people would catch the reference, but nearly nobody did. Alas. Now I keep my shoes on. It’s probably for the best. Plus, you really have to wear loafers to make that work. Stopping to tie a shoelace destroys the moment.  

The “utterly indifferent” intro presents its own challenges. A little over a year ago, I was introduced with nothing more than “Dr. Reed, go to it.” It’s hard to follow that gracefully. The stock line for that situation is “of all the introductions I’ve had, that’s the latest,” which offers a backhanded acknowledgement of what just happened, with the added virtue of being true. But it’s a line you can use only so often.

Once in a while, an intro goes over the top and becomes awkward in its own way. A few years ago, speaking at the Chairs Academy, I was introduced as “a national treasure.” When I got home and shared that one with The Wife, she responded “Take out the trash, national treasure.”  That seemed about right.  

But this week, I had my favorite introduction ever. At the end of a Board meeting, as the room let out, a colleague introduced me to her son as “(The Girl)’s Dad.” She even said that’s my name now.

I’ll take it.  

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