Introducing a keynote speaker is no small task. It is not as simple as briefly reading material that has been handed to you moments before the speaker is set to come out. In fact, a great introduction is vital to any presentation. Taking that job lightly, not preparing in advance, or assuming all will run smoothly can be risky moves to take. How a speaker is introduced can make or break the speech before it even begins. A well executed introduction establishes the speaker’s credibility, piques the interest of the audience, and creates an environment for an impactful speech. The following tips will help you set the stage for a memorable presentation.

For the introducer:

  1. Add your own flair. Including your own personal experience with the speaker can make a powerful impact. For example,  “I first heard Julie Jones speak five years ago and I have been following her blog, along with her professional words of wisdom ever since”.
  2. Double-check the pronunciation of the speaker’s name and company. If you think this step is a no-brainer, just ask John Travolta, who mangled the name of singer Idina Menzel before she sang “Let It Go,” live at the 2014 Academy Awards.  Spell names out phonetically (fo-NET-ically) so that anyone can easily step in and pronounce everything properly in your absence.  Make no assumptions; many names have variable pronunciations--for example, Stephan can be pronounced “STEE-ven” or “Stef-AN.”
  3. Practice your delivery. Just as the speaker should avoid reading their speech, the emcee should carefully rehearse their introduction so they are making eye contact with the audience and are comfortable delivering a flawless introduction.
  4. Anticipate the speaker’s needs. Does the speaker want to stand at a podium or walk freely across the stage? Do they require a lapel microphone or a hand-held? Do they prefer a can of soda, a glass of water or a cup of hot tea with lemon? Attention to every detail gives a speaker the ultimate environment for success.
  5. Lay the ground rules. Inform the audience about the format for the presentation; will there be an opportunity to ask questions? If so, how will questions be accepted - will the speaker take questions from the stage, will questions be written down and collected, or will an assistant with a microphone roam the floor?
  6. Keep it brief. Let the presenter deliver the information; the introducer’s job is to generate excitement for what’s to come, not give away the key points that the speaker will discuss. So often the introducer gets nervous and starts to add their own thoughts on the topic before the speaker even steps foot on the stage.

And, a few tips for the speaker:

  1. Prepare your own introduction. As the presenter, send ahead a short bio with key points and a fewcareer highlights. Follow up with an email or phone call to ask if they have any questions about pronunciations. This will encourage the introducer to take a look at your intro prior to the day of the event.  
  2. Print a backup. Be armed with a hard copy of the introduction you previously emailed. Often times the person introducing you may forget to bring your introduction. Your own copy will serve as an extra form of reinforcement to the introducer when you go over specific points you would like for him or her to highlight.
  3. Do a technology run through. Arrive early and do your own microphone check. Make sure all presentation files are connected to a screen and ready to go with the click of a button. You don’t want to start the show on someone else’s laptop only to be stuck without the password as the audience waits. When using your own laptop, make sure calendar reminders, email notifications, anti-virus software alerts, etc. are turned off to avoid distractions and embarrassment.
Published on: Jan 6, 2015