I was not about to enter Nevada that day, several years ago, as an attendant in a friend’s wedding party. I didn’t find any gold on that day, either. Neither did the DJ who was on the mic, attempting to introduce the wedding party to the guests as we entered the reception venue.
It was a rather poor attempt.
The DJ introduced me to the guests as “Eureka.” He did not take the time to learn how to pronounce my name correctly. I don’t know if he suffered a sight impairment, or was simply clueless (I’m still unsure how “Erica” even slightly resembles “Eureka”), but I saw red, and he looked ridiculous. Clearly, it was a moment I would never forget.
I was reminded of that story after attending a recent dinner event to honor several teenagers. The person charged with introducing the teenagers to the audience clearly did not prepare for the evening’s duties. This person apologized for mangling the teenagers’ names before he began. And yes, this speaker proceeded to butcher several of them. The presentation reflected poorly on the speaker, and on the event organizers.
Nothing sets my teeth on edge quite like a speaker mispronouncing names, and it especially stokes my ire when that person blames their lack of preparation on the event organizers (or even the persons to be introduced) from the podium.
It’s not a good look for anyone involved. As a speaker, you will look as if you’re unprepared and winging it. As event organizers, you will look as if you just threw together a program with little or no thought involved. And a paying audience is uninterested in your excuses about poor performance.
Don’t be that person. Take responsibility. Be prepared, proactive and pronounce those names correctly.
First, speak to the event organizers from the beginning about your duties as a presenter. Get the script as early as possible, and review it with them. Then read your script out loud. Highlight every name. Huddle with the event organizers, and review with them the pronunciation of all those you are to introduce or present. Even if the name seems familiar, don’t assume–review it. Spell phonetically those names that you cannot pronounce easily.
If organizers don’t have time to review the pronunciations of the names on their script (and they should), then be proactive and confirm the proper name pronunciations yourself. Be upfront and ask those sharing the podium or program with you how to pronounce their names correctly.
Then practice. And then practice again.
Why should this be important to you? First, it shows you care about the details, and care about taking the time to get the details right. It is also the mark of a polished presentation–in this case, meaning the smooth, confident delivery of every aspect of the script. This prep work will build credibility with your audience and will reflect well on the organizers, showing that they put care into their work. It also will show respect to the other people participating in your program or presentation.
See what a little preparation will do?