Get the audience excited about your keynote speaker

Think that introducing your keynote speaker is an unimportant, small task? That’s mistake #1.

If you’ve waited until two minutes before the introduction is supposed to happen to start thinking about it, with the hopes of successfully winging-it: at best, it’s going to be a forgettable missed opportunity, and at worst an insensitive debacle.

The audience will have largely made up their mind about the speaker in the first 7–10 seconds that they are on stage. A great introduction is essential for setting a speaker up for a great presentation, as it will solidify the speaker’s credibility, get the audience interested, and set the tone for the talk.

When crafting the introduction, being empathetic towards your audience will go a long way. You can do this by keeping two things in mind: first, what is going to be the effect of listening to this talk, and second, why should they trust this speaker’s expertise?

Always answer these 3 questions in your introduction:

  • What is their position on the topic, their name, and the name of their presentation?
  • Why is the talk important? Without diving too deeply into the main message or outline of the talk, give the audience a reason to listen, tell them what the outcome is going to be.
  • Who is this person? The audience wants to know what makes this particular individual credible and trustworthy. Be straight with them and express why this speaker was chosen, and why they have authority on the topic.

Always ask the speaker if they have an introduction they want you to use. The majority of speakers will have an introduction ready to go. If they do, read it over three or four times before you get on stage, then stick to it, or discuss with them beforehand if you’d like to add to it.

Top 10 tips for creating a great keynote speaker introduction:

1. Get the name right. This may seem obvious, but make no assumptions; it is far less embarrassing to make sure you’ve got their name right behind the curtain than on stage. Double check that you have the pronunciation correct (for example, Louis can be pronounced “Loo-IS” or “Loo-IE”) for both their first and last name.

2. Establish the speaker’s authority. Solidifying their expertise will give the speaker credibility. Talk about their qualifications and background. Express the reasons why they were asked to speak.

Keep it relevant to the topic. This is not the time to list off their entire CV.

3. Memorize it, or minimize your notes. Speaking without notes will add to your authority, and the credibility of the speaker.
If you are confident and well-versed in your introduction: the audience will also feel confident in your recommendation (ie. listening to the speaker.)

4. Make it personal. Including your own personal story about your experience with the speaker can add a bit of colour to the introduction, and make it more interesting.
That said, stay relevant and complementary. Telling a hilarious story about a night out in your university days right before they are supposed to get up and talk about the food crisis in Somalia would hardly be appropriate, your story needs to build authority and trust.

5. Lay the ground rules, so the speaker doesn’t have to. Inform the audience about the format for the talk; like whether there will there be an opportunity to ask questions, or if there is a Twitter hashtag they can use to comment on the talk. If there any specific rules, or things the audience needs to keep in mind, this is the time to say it.

Taking care of this means that the speaker can jump right into their topic seamlessly.

6. Make sure you know the title of the talk. Most speakers will have crafted the title of their talk very thoughtfully, choosing very specific words and phrase. Its title may be rigged in a way to make sure the audience remembers it or it may be a witty word play.

Respect the work the speaker has done in creating it, by sticking to it word-for-word.

7. Keep the introduction brief. Don’t overdo it. Long introductions are boring. Nobody has attended the talk to listen to the introducer go on and on. You do not need to give an outline of the speech, or give away the main message, leave that for the speaker to cover.

Never attempt to steal the show by making the introduction too long, or by going on tangents that are in no way related to talk. Get to the point, then get off stage.

7. Keep the introduction brief. Don’t overdo it. Long introductions are boring. Nobody has attended the talk to listen to the introducer go on and on. You do not need to give an outline of the speech, or give away the main message, leave that for the speaker to cover.

Never attempt to steal the show by making the introduction too long, or by going on tangents that are in no way related to talk. Get to the point, then get off stage.

8. Never hedge your bets: One of the worst things you can do is to try and skirt around potential negative backlash from the audience by avoiding committing yourself to the speaker’s message, leaving their authority in question.

Even if you are certain that there are people in the audience who will disagree with the message, do not bring it up in the introduction. For example, saying something along the lines of: “You may disagree with what the next speaker has to say, but I encourage you to hear them out” can directly undercut their message. Start, and stay, positive.

9. Cleanly wrap up the introduction. When you’ve gotten to the end of your introduction, always repeat the exact title of the presentation, and say their full name (correctly pronounced) again.

10. Give a bold welcome. A roaring applause will give your speaker a boost of confidence before they get on the stage, so always include an applause line (for example “Please join me in welcoming them to the stage!”)

Always remain as the focus of attention until the speaker assumes control. Wait for them to take centre stage, and shake their hand, but don’t stay longer than that, now you’ve done your job and it’s time to let them do theirs.

A great introduction can breath life, confidence and anticipation into the audience for the speaker about to get up on stage. Set the bar high, and put effort into how you come across and the core message you want to audience to hear.

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This was originally posted on the SpeakerHub blog.