Whether you’re sharing information at a team meeting or large annual conference, the best presentations require lots of preparation and practice. But what if you’re simply introducing the main speaker versus giving the keynote? You still need to prepare and practice for that small yet important role that sets up the speaker and the audience for success. Here are seven ideas to easily and effectively introduce speakers at your next event:
- Keep it concise. Since the audience is there to hear the main presenter, make sure your introductory comments are brief – no more than two minutes and even Toastmasters International suggests 60 seconds may be sufficient. Provide the right information to engage your audience. For example, focus on three areas: who is the speaker; why is he/she an expert on the topic; and what you hope the audience learns or why this topic is important for them. Avoid reading a long list of academic degrees, authored publications or awards, and don’t repeat the speaker’s biography that may appear in any program.
- Start strong with practical details. Some audience members may not know who you are, so it may be appropriate to lead with your name and title/role. Then, share your speaker’s name and title, as well as the general presentation topic. Confirm how to pronounce the speaker’s name – write it phonetically in your notes, if needed. Here’s how you might start an introduction: “Good morning. I’m Jane Doe, the founder of ABC Company. I’m very pleased to introduce Mary Smith, chief innovation officer of XYZ Group, who is going to give us three things we can do today to re-invent how our organizations turn consumer insights into top-selling products …”
- Reinforce or build the presenter’s credibility. In an authentic way, share why the presenter is uniquely qualified to address the specific topic with this audience. Pick the most interesting and relevant points. If appropriate, you can weave in a relevant personal anecdote or connection with the presenter. Perhaps you’ve collaborated with the person or have been impacted by his/her work. Overall, it’s your chance to pique the audience’s attention and provide a helpful runway for the presenter and the presentation. For example, you might say: “Mary has used her R&D approach to completely turn around three companies, including mine. With her smart and practical counsel, we went from ….”
- Share what’s in it for the audience. Connect the audience to the presentation topic. In a nutshell, tell them why the topic matters to them and/or why it’s important or timely. This can support their active listening during the presentation. For example, you might say: “In our membership survey, you told us e-commerce competition was the biggest worry and risk to your business. Mary is here to help us address that issue head-on and give everyone a competitive edge.”
- Avoid trite expressions. Steer clear of over-used expressions like “So, without further ado, let me welcome …” or “Our next speaker needs no introduction …” If the former is used, your intro is too long! If the latter is true, then your role isn’t needed!
- Lead the applause. Help your speaker feel welcome and appreciated by starting the applause when he/she comes on the stage or to the front of the room. For example, you might say this and clap as she steps on stage: “Please help me welcome XYZ Group’s chief innovation officer … Mary Smith.”
- Practice. Like any presentation, it’s important to practice your introductory remarks. Stand and say your remarks aloud, just as you will be doing on stage. Consider any hand gestures to reinforce your points (e.g., holding up three fingers when you mention the speaker will offer three tips). Determine if you’ll be presenting from behind a podium or in the middle of the stage. Pre-plan where the speaker will enter the stage and where you’ll exit to complete a smooth transition.
Bonus: If you’re the main speaker and someone asks how you would like to be introduced, take the opportunity to offer several points that address your expertise, as well as your topic and why it matters to the audience.
If you need help preparing for your next speaking opportunity, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to determine how our team’s coaching experts can help you present with confidence and with compelling messages.