How To Introduce A Keynote Speaker
Crafting a compelling keynote speaker introduction is usually not at the top of a meeting planner’s to-do list. With so many other big decisions to make, deciding who is giving the introduction and what they’ll say may not even be hammered out until the last minute.
And while having an unprepared executive read a long biography isn’t the worst thing that can happen, it’s not the best. That’s because it’s a missed opportunity to get your audience excited and create the right energy in the room, and to give your speaker a proper welcome.
In other words, think of a strong introduction as the cherry on a sundae: if it’s missing, you can still enjoy the rest, but you’re going to be less excited to dig in! So, do yourself a favor and don’t forget the cherry; plan your speaker’s introduction in advance.
Here are a few factors to keep in mind when thinking about the best way to introduce your keynote speaker:
- The speaker’s preferences
- The event’s budget
- The individual giving the introduction
FIRST THINGS FIRST. ASK THE SPEAKER.
Your first step is to find out if the speaker has a preferred (or even required) written introduction or intro video. Once that is determined, you’ll know how creative you can get. If you have a speaker that requires you read their pre-written speech verbatim, all you can really do is have the introducer practice and memorize enough of the content that they can read the script with confidence and enthusiasm.
Many speakers have a “preferred intro” that is sent out to meeting planners. Often this is just a helpful guideline and can be edited to fit the needs of the client. In fact, many speakers will be hoping you keep it brief. As one speaker recently told the meeting planner onsite at an event I attended, “Please don’t feel the need to read the whole thing. Everyone can read a bio.”
But be sure you run any edits or new material by the speaker for approval, and FACT CHECK! Nothing is more awkward than having a speaker start his speech by having to correct the CEO that just introduced him.
THINK ABOUT BUDGET AND SIZE.
The next thing to take into consideration is your budget and meeting size. If this is a large event with a budget to match, intro videos can be a great way to add some pizzazz to an introduction.
A surefire way to get your audience to stop looking at the screens on their small handheld devices during the keynote introduction is to have something pop on a much larger screen. Occasionally speakers will have ready-made video introductions for you to use, but a custom intro video with a script created with your audience in mind is one-way to guarantee a successful keynote introduction and set the tone for a high-energy environment for your speaker. LAI Video has created some masterpieces in this arena, including:
- A fast-paced and fun introduction video for high-level executive speakers on a panel for the National Retail Federation, highlighting their first jobs in retail.
- Animated, voice-over driven introduction videos for speakers featured at Leading Authorities Inspire conference.
- Introduction videos for award winners at the Association Leadership Awards in Washington—using interviews with the award winners combined with animated play-by-plays of their answers and stories.
Keep in mind that intro videos work great in large ballrooms and convention centers, but this might not be the best route if your meeting is in a small private room of a restaurant with limited AV capability.
THINK THROUGH WHO WILL BE INTRODUCING YOUR SPEAKER.
If a custom video isn’t an option due to budget limitations or style preferences, choosing and coaching the right individual within your organization is the next important decision. While the CEO or Board President is frequently the go-to or obvious choice, he/she may not always be the best choice.
Here are two things to consider when thinking through who will be introducing your speaker:
- Make It Personal: If possible, find someone with a personal connection to the speaker. Whether they are from the same town, share an alma mater, or have the same type of dog, it’s a nice touch. If there aren’t any similarities like that, the introducer should still find a way to personalize the relationship—even if it’s just mentioning another time the saw the speaker present or how much they have enjoyed the speaker’s work (whether that means their reading published works, watching their show, or even just seeing a previous speech).
- Confidence & Stage Presence: Public speaking isn’t everyone’s strength, so pick someone who enjoys it and will feel comfortable making eye contact with the audience.
Once you’ve picked the perfect person to introduce your keynote speaker, here is an easy checklist of the most important things to do and the most important things not to do for you to keep in mind and share with the person who will be making the speaker introduction.
Speaker Introduction DO's & DONT's Checklist:
- DO practice (especially pronouncing the speaker’s name if there is any doubt or concern)
- DO fact check
- DO use an applause line such as “Please join me in welcoming Dr. Jane Doe,” and immediately begin clapping so the audience will follow (hopefully enthusiastically)
- DO stay on stage shake the speaker’s hand to symbolically “hand over the floor”
- DON’T just read off a sheet of paper
- DON’T go over two minutes
Are you ready to find the perfect keynote speaker for your next event?
To get a customized list of keynote speaker recommendations tailored specially to your event or meeting or to find out more about the latest speaking topic trends and ideas, contact our team.