“I want my emcee to introduce our guest speakers in an upbeat and professional way. We want our team to feel excited to hear what they have to say.”
-Maria Jimenez, Event Planner
If there is only ONE thing event emcees are expected to do, it’s this: introduce the speakers.
Very little has ever been written about this. I personally own every book ever written on the topic of being a master of ceremonies (that I know about).
And guess what?
There is almost no information about how a host can effectively introduce speakers to an audience. It is my hope in this chapter to remedy that.
See Related: Housekeeping – How To Be A Great Emcee
Excellent Emcees Deliver Excellent Speaker Introductions
As the event MC, you represent more than the organization or company that hired you. In a way, you also represent the speakers. Before they ever set foot on stage, the audience has already been given a first impression of sorts. This impression is given by you, the host of the event. You want to set the speakers up well, so the way you deliver information about them is extremely important.
There are good introductions, and there are bad introductions.
In this section, we will go over some pointers on how to nail your speaker introductions. But first, here are some common mistakes to avoid.
How to make a bad introduction:
#1. Read a long-winded speaker biography to the audience
You do not need to narrate a speaker’s entire life story. Intros that go on too long lose their impact. You want to simply set the speaker up for success, not do their job for them. It may be helpful to think of it like a game of volleyball: your job is to “set” the speaker; they will “spike” with their presentation.
#2. Tell a joke or story instead of setting the speaker up to win
While it might be entertaining, telling a joke or story will take the focus off the speaker. Not to mention, it could also throw the program off schedule. Remember, the attendees are there to learn from the speakers, not from you.
#3. Bring the speaker on with weak energy.
This is vitally important. As I have mentioned, you are the conductor of the event. The audience is looking to you to know what they should expect. Your goal is to capture their utmost attention and direct it toward the speaker, so your tone and body language need to reflect enthusiasm.
If you’re excited, they’ll be excited.
Think of it from the speaker’s point of view. Wouldn’t you rather be greeted by an eager crowd than a lukewarm one?
The goal here is to get your audience fired up about meeting this special guest and hearing what they have to say. If your introduction is lacking, you risk dampening your attendees’ excitement– and possibly losing their attention altogether. The best way to support your presenters is to give a brief but enthusiastic introduction that highlights the reasons they have been asked to speak at the event.
How to make a good introduction:
- Ask for it and review it ahead of time!
- If you don’t get an intro, write it up yourself
- Stoke the audience’s enthusiasm (and the speaker’s confidence)
Here is a simple but powerful ABC method for creating introductions that you can use to communicate the following things about each of your speakers:
What is the speaker’s #1 claim to fame?
What “qualifies” them to be giving a lecture on this topic?
What are several of the speaker’s career highlights?
Touch on some of the milestones that helped get them to where they are today.
Why has the speaker been invited to this event?
Say something about the speaker that builds a personal link to the organization and/or audience.
Putting a good introduction into action
I had the good fortune as an event MC to introduce the amazing Tara Westover as a keynote speaker for a wonderful non-profit organization called ACE scholarships. Here’s how I approached it:
First, I took a look at her bio on her website.
“Tara Westover is an American author. Raised in Idaho by a father who opposed public education, she never attended school. She spent her days working in her family’s junkyard or stewing herbs for her mother, a self-taught herbalist, and midwife. She was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. After that, she pursued learning for a decade, graduating magna cum laude from Brigham Young University and subsequently winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. In 2014 she earned a Ph.D. in history from Trinity College, Cambridge. Westover was Fall 2019 A.M. Rosenthal Writer in Residence at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard Kennedy School. She was selected as a Senior Research Fellow at HKS for Spring 2020. Educated is her first book.”
It’s great. It’s concise. But I wanted to re-work it and turn it into a dynamic spoken introduction.
I wrote it up this way and delivered this introduction:
“It is my privilege to introduce our keynote speaker.
She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Educated (AUTHORITY).
Although she was only seventeen when she first set foot in a classroom, she pursued learning for a decade, graduated magna cum laude from BYU, and earned a Ph.D. in history from Trinity College, Cambridge (BACKGROUND).
She personifies what ACE Scholarships is all about: The power of learning (CONNECTION).
Please join me in welcoming to our stage, TARA WESTOVER!”
I want you to notice a few things here:
- This introduction establishes Tara as an expert
- It impresses the audience with her qualifications
- And it builds a bridge to the organization’s mission.
You can also see that I put an exclamation point after her name. Why? I want to remind myself to welcome her on a high note!
Five More Master MC Tips for Delivering Rock-Solid Introductions
- Have a conversation with the speaker before you introduce him or her.
- Invite the audience to welcome the speaker to the platform
- Make the intro complete AND to the point
- The final words of the introduction should be the speaker’s name
- Transfer positive energy to the speaker
One more bonus observation
The bigger the name, the shorter the introduction needs to be.
If you were introducing a megastar like Taylor Swift, you wouldn’t talk about her school history or the jobs she had growing up. You’d simply say, “Please welcome…TAYLOR SWIFT!”
When I had the thrill of introducing Alice Cooper as the headliner of the Christmas Pudding concert at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, I didn’t talk about his album sales or his international fame. The audience already knew and loved him. They paid to see him (not me)!
So, I got right to it.
“Ladies and gentlemen… ALICE COOPER!”
So, how does this relate when you are introducing a CEO to his or her own company?
It can be tricky. Hopefully, the team already knows and loves this person.
Here’s a sample introduction for a CEO to his/her own company:
“Get ready to say hello to the person who has led us into our best year ever (AUTHORITY).
She started with us as a sales rep, then became our marketing manager, and has been serving as our CEO since 2018 (BACKGROUND).
She loves her husband Mike, her two kids, John and Carolyn, and her two dogs, Bernie and Betsy. She loves our customers, and she loves all of you (CONNECTION)!
Let’s give a warm welcome to our Chief Executive Officer, NANCY SHIM!”
The above introduction fits the personality of this CEO. For other company leaders, it would feel too casual. It’s important to set the right tone for each speaker. Whenever possible, let them see it before you say it.
Also of great importance are your outros. Delivering a smooth outro is essential for two things: transitioning nicely from one segment to the next and keeping the energy high. When the special guest has wrapped up their talk, put a nice bow on it by applauding, acknowledging, and appreciating their contribution to the event.
Bruce Springsteen has been called “The Boss.” Seeing him perform live is an incredible experience. Though he is the star, he also likes to take on the role of emcee. Here’s what The Boss had to say about intros and outros:
“A good introduction and a good outro make the song feel like it’s coming out of something and then evolving into something.”
See what Springsteen is getting at? Your job is to pave the way for the speaker. Then, when their speech has concluded, you want to provide an outro so that you can move on to the next part of the program.
How to Give an Outstanding Outro in 3 Steps:
At the conclusion of the presentation…
- Start the applause
- Say the presenter’s name
- Sincerely thank them
Then, transition to the next part of the agenda.
Here’s an example of a great outro:
(While leading the audience by example and clapping for the speaker)
“Tremendous! Let’s keep the applause going for Dr. Sheryl Gonzales!
(Emcee and speaker fist-bump) That was terrific. What a great message about the importance of mental health. Let’s give another hand for Dr. Gonzales!
Thank you. Your talk was so perfect for our theme: “Growing together.”
(Turning back to the audience) And now, friends, we have another opportunity to grow together as a group. Let’s watch this video…” (transitions to next segment).
Outro Do’s & Don’ts
- DO praise the presenter
- DON’T give a long commentary after the speech
- DO shake hands with the speaker (when appropriate)
- DON’T have a private conversation with them onstage
- DO know how/when the speaker is going to end
- DON’T walk back onstage until they are done
- DO call back to the speaker’s points later in the program
- DON’T forget who/what needs to be introduced next
A warm introduction and a winsome outro will serve as beautiful bookends before and after each guest speaker. Remember to plan beforehand how you will present the presenters, as well as how you will see them off.
Your intros and outros are the bridges between each speaker and each segment of the program, so you want to take the time to build them well.
By becoming a master of intros and outros, you are well on your way to becoming a fantastic master of ceremonies!
Keep Reading: Jokes – How To Be A Great Emcee
This is an excerpt from Adam Christing‘s forthcoming book, “How To Be A Great Emcee: The A to Z Guide to Hosting Events” by America’s #1 Master of Ceremonies. Follow along as new chapters get posted to this blog category each week.