The audience is ready for a good evening, lights illuminate the podium, and you are introducing the next guest speaker to take the stage.
Seems simple, but there is an art to making a great introduction – and I have four tips to guide you. Join me!
Quick reminder: what is a guest speaker?
To put it plainly, guest speakers are people who are invited to speak at all sorts of events. They are formally introduced by the master of ceremonies and deliver ideas that are relevant to the interests of the people in attendance.
Let’s get started!
Tip #1: You Are the Opening Act
What was the last concert or live comedy show you attended? Was there an opening act? In many ways, your introduction serves the same purpose:
Ease the audience
Whether you are the first person onstage or are introducing the closing speaker, guests need time to adjust to a new presence.
Give a word of praise to the presentation that preceded your introduction and share the importance of the speaker to come.
Set the tone
Audiences look to the person onstage for communication on what to expect. Make your speaker’s life easier by warming guests up with an authentic and approachable onstage presence.
Join guests with confidence and deliver your introduction like you are exchanging words with a good friend. The audience will relax and look forward to the speaker’s presentation.
Cue the audience
As the person onstage, all eyes will be on you. Therefore, the audience will look to you to guide their behavior.
If it’s time to begin clapping for the guest speaker or motivational speaker so they know to come onstage, then start the clapping. If ongoing laughter is causing your introduction to run too long, then you are a success for making a fantastic joke, but respectfully request that folks quiet down.
A good introduction is like a roadmap
Think of it this way: you are like the cue cards at a live sitcom taping… except you probably won’t want to instruct the audience to “boo” at any point!
Tip #2: Inspire Confidence in Your Audience
Remember, this introduction is not a speech of your own. The focus must remain on the professional speaker and what they are about to contribute to the event.
Guest speakers bring varying levels of name recognition, so your audience may or may not be aware of their qualifications.
Your task as a corporate emcee? Help the audience understand the guest speaker’s connection to the event and why they are worth listening to.
Touch on the speaker’s credibility
Why was this speaker invited to talk? Chances are, they have expertise in your industry. Let the audience know that!
A speaker’s credibility and knowledge can take many forms: an advanced degree in your field, a volunteer background, or personal experience with the topic at hand.
Personal connections pique the audience’s interest
Even if a speaker’s qualifications shine on paper, I recommend mentioning their personal connections to the subject matter during your communication with the crowd.
Why did the doctor you are introducing want to work in breast cancer research? What inspired the wildlife photographer to switch career paths after spending ten years as a pharmacist?
This context will pique the audience’s interest and create a good introduction.
Tip #3: Preparation is Power
I know, you are very familiar with the guest speaker. But please, do not stand at that podium without notes.
Check your run time
Your own introduction should not be more than a few minutes. An important skill to practice is rehearsing your speech and timing it beforehand.
It can be difficult to gauge the actual length of an introduction simply by looking at it on paper. Factor in laughs and applause, and you’ll be onstage longer than anticipated.
Write notes that serve your needs
As I mentioned earlier, be sure to have a written introduction in front of you. But remember – your notes need to actually help you!
- Choose a font large enough for you to read onstage. You don’t want to lift up the paper and squint to make out what you wrote.
- If you are unsure of proper pronunciation, look up the answer and make a note. When you introduce a speaker, it is extremely disrespectful to mispronounce their name. Writing phonetic spellings down beforehand can help prevent this during your speeches.
Before you start speaking, take five minutes to do vocal warmups. You can find examples on YouTube and you’d be surprised at how much they help!
Lots of people feel nervous before giving presentations or introductions. Warming up your voice before your intro is a great way to release tension and make sure you speak with resonance and clarity – what every event emcee must do well!
Tip #4: It’s All in the Details
Your introductory speech is just the right length, spotlights the speaker’s accomplishments and credentials, and gets the audience excited for the speech ahead. Nice job!
Now is the time to cross the t’s and dot the i’s:
The best events have a seemingly effortless flow between speakers. As the person making introductions, you have the opportunity to get the audience into that flow. How?
Make eye contact with the audience
For many speakers, making eye contact is their worst nightmare! But your guests will feel comfortable and enthusiastic about the speech to come if you make eye contact while you talk to them.
Making eye contact is a critical skill because it creates moments of connection with your guests and tells them you are prepared for and interested in the speech to come.
Start the applause
After you introduce a speaker, be the person to begin applauding. Most guests don’t want to be the first to clap, so they will listen until they hear someone else start.
A handshake marks the transition
Remain onstage until the speaker has entered and shook your hand.
This moment marks the end of your intro and the beginning of their speech. Clear buttons like this help the audience know exactly where to place their attention.
Keep Reading: A Beginner’s Guide to Keynote Speakers
Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.