My wife and I attended a play the other night that was preceded by a man getting on stage to thank donors and make some announcements. You’ll note that I haven’t included his name because he never said it. Perhaps some of those in attendance recognized him, but we had no idea. It’s more than a little presumptuous to assume everyone knows who you are, particularly when we weren’t warned you’d be getting up there to begin the festivities.
I’ve seen this phenomenon elsewhere. An organization I used to work with had an annual meeting. It always started with some opening remarks from one of the people in charge, but they never introduced themselves. Yes, most of us knew them, but the event was open to the public, so there were likely people who’d never seen or heard these folks before and were left wondering who they were.
There used to be a popular longtime radio personality in St. Louis who never said his name. In fact, he wouldn’t mention the names of his sidekicks until the last forty-five minutes of a three- or four-hour show. But even then, didn’t introduce himself. Sure, those who tuned in every day and/or called in knew him (and his shtick), but if you were a first-time listener, you might never know who the host was.
During my 40+ years on the air, I was always aware that someone new might find the show at any time, so I said my name often. And not just at the very top of the show, because I knew people joined the show on their own schedules, particularly in morning drive. In addition, whenever I came back from commercials or a newscast, I would reset things and say my name.
This was important in the days when listenership estimates were determined by a group of a few hundred people who were supposed to write in a diary what or who they’d heard each day. Quite often, they wouldn’t know the call letters (even though they were said repeatedly, too), but they could name the hosts. The ratings service — Arbitron then, Nielsen now — would compile the information, and if the station had provided a list of its air personalities, it would get credit whenever a diary-keeper wrote it down. That’s no longer true, as the pen-and-paper process was long ago replaced by electronic devices that do the listening and record-keeping automatically.
However, it is possible to overdo the mentions of your name. I’ve always hated it when I hear air personalities use recorded intros — “This is the Bill Mackey Show, with your host, Bill Mackey. Call us with your comments at 800-MACKEY or post them on BillMackey.com. Now, here’s Bill Mackey!” — and then double or triple down on the redundancy by saying their name yet again instead of just rolling into whatever they want to talk about.
Late-night hosts are guilty of this, too. I’ve never seen an episode of the shows hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, or any of the others where they didn’t start off by welcoming the audience and invoking their own names — despite both an announcer and the graphics making it clear who we were watching.
But if you’re going to speak in public to a group of any size, you’re probably better off introducing yourself rather than leaving anyone in attendance wondering, “Who the hell is this?”