If you’ve been tasked with introducing a keynote speaker, this is a must-read. It may be a quick moment on stage, but a great keynote speaker introduction pays real dividends.
Wait, what’s a keynote speaker again?
Let’s take a moment to review what keynote speakers do. (For an in-depth introduction, read my Beginner’s Guide to Keynote Speakers here.)
- Are typically high-profile industry experts with more insights than others and excellent credibility;
- Usually give a speech near the beginning of the event;
- Set the tone for the rest of the speakers with their speech.
Now that you’ve refreshed your memory, let’s dive in!
How to make the perfect INTRO:
It’s acronym time! I’m breaking down how to introduce a keynote speaker with a simple mnemonic device: INTRO.
Make the Perfect INTRO #1: Ignite excitement
As the master of ceremonies introducing the keynote speech, you’ve got to get the audience excited and interested. They are in the place to be, after all!
Generate excitement for the speech by talking up the speaker’s credibility. They are about to listen to the best keynote speaker possible, one who is curated just for them.
Add some flair by sharing a personal experience.
Why are you thrilled to introduce this speaker? Maybe you attended a Ted Talk they gave that changed your perspective on life. Perhaps you read their New York Times bestselling book and responded positively to the message.
Captivate with excellent delivery
A great introduction is well-practiced but comes off naturally (a secret of the public speaking business!).
Practice speaking your introduction and making eye contact. Make mistakes behind the scenes. Noticeable stumbles (verbal or physical) in your message distract from the speaker the audience is about to hear.
Make the Perfect INTRO #2: Nail the small details
Both the audience and the next speaker you introduce will appreciate thoroughness. Set yourself apart from the crowd by attending to these details:
Double check correct pronunciation
It is disrespectful to mispronounce a keynote speaker’s name. As part of the practice we discussed in #1, be sure to confirm this information.
If you can’t affirm with the speaker themselves, speak with a trusted resource.
Settle the audience’s nerves…
The audience will have questions going into the keynote speaker’s address. As part of your introduction, discuss any ground rules they need to know.
For example, inform the audience if there will be a question-and-answer session at any point. Speak to instructions for those using listening devices. Remind folks where the nearest restrooms are. Key messages like these are comforting and helpful.
… and your own!
As prepared as you will be, it always feels good to have a personal backup plan.
Print out a few copies of your introductions so you’re sure to have one on hand. If you are using a teleprompter, consider having a backup pair of glasses on hand.
Make the Perfect INTRO #3: Transition seamlessly
As I mentioned earlier, stumbles in introductions are distracting to the audience and bad for business. It is the introducer’s job to know the speaker’s needs so that everything runs smoothly.
Do a tech run-through
No matter how sophisticated or no-frills the material setup, check that everything is running smoothly. Consider:
- Does the keynote speaker want a hand mic or a headset?
- Do they prefer to talk without a microphone?
- Are the lights stationed appropriately before they are introduced?
Gather equipment for the speaking engagement
Set the keynote speaker up for success by providing everything they need. Consider:
- Do they want to use a podium or walk freely across the stage?
- Would they like a beverage onstage?
Collect the answers in advance and plan accordingly.
Make the Perfect INTRO #4: Reach out to the speaker in advance
Fostering a great relationship with your keynote speaker is a vital part of giving a good introduction.
Prior to a corporate event (or any event), get in touch! Here are a few things to talk about:
- Collect the speaker’s bio. This ensures that you include the key points they want mentioned in your corporate emcee introduction.
- This is the time to ask about the needs we discussed in #2 and #3 (pronunciation, microphone preferences, beverages, etc.).
You may go through a speakers bureau
Speakers bureaus are organizations that help identify and hire out speakers for events. (You can learn more about them in my blog here!)
To talk with the keynote speaker, you may contact them through a speakers bureau. They may prefer that the speakers bureau distribute their bio and presentation requirements.
Preparation goes a long way
Plainly, conscientious communication with the keynote speaker is good for business growth.
From motivational speakers to academics, everyone wants to feel respected. Picking up the phone in advance of the event demonstrates your respect for the speaker’s needs.
This will make them want to continue working with you. It will also lead to excellent word of mouth about you and your company.
Make the Perfect INTRO #5: Optimize your time and energy
Let me guess… introducing this keynote speaker isn’t your only job as event host. Am I right?
I can’t stress enough the importance of preserving your energy for your myriad responsibilities.
Here are a few tips for optimizing your time and efforts:
- Don’t bog the audience down with long introductions. Keep it brief. They need stamina for the entire event!
- We don’t need to hear their entire life story – focus on the most tantalizing and exciting facts to get the audience hyped up!
Offer more info – just not in your introduction
To highlight someone’s credibility in an entertaining yet succinct fashion is no small task. If the speaker has a website or extended bio, offer these elsewhere.
Print a program or create a digital space for the event, like a website or social media account Use these spaces to share more in-depth content about the speaker. The speaker will appreciate the extra promotion and your audience will enjoy getting to dive deeper!
You’re ready for a standing ovation!
You are on your way to mastering the art of the INTRO:
Nail the small details.
Reach out to the speaker in advance.
Optimize your time and energy.
Now go forth and nail that introduction!
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.