By Diane Gottsman, modern manners and etiquette expert, and author of “Pearls of Polish, An Etiquette Guide for Today’s Busy Woman“
When you are asked to introduce a keynote speaker at an event, you don’t want to pull a “John Travolta”. If you think there is no preparation involved in a well-executed introduction, think again.
Here are some tips to help you set the stage for a memorable presentation:
1. Add your own flair.
Including your own personal experience with the speaker can make a powerful impact. For example, “I first heard Julie Jones speak 5 years ago and I have been following her blog, along with her professional words of wisdom ever since”.
2. Double-check the pronunciation of the speaker’s name and company.
If you think this step is a no-brainer, just ask John Travolta, who mangled the name of singer Idina Menzel before she sang “Let It Go,” live at the 2014 Academy Awards. Spell names out phonetically (fo-NET-ically) so that anyone can easily step in and pronounce everything properly in your absence. Make no assumptions; many names have variable pronunciations – for example, Stephan can be pronounced “STEE-ven” or “Stef-AN.”
3. Practice your delivery.
Just as the speaker should avoid reading their speech, the emcee should carefully rehearse their introduction so they are making eye contact with the audience and are comfortable delivering a flawless introduction.
4. Anticipate the speaker’s needs.
Does the speaker want to stand at a podium or walk freely across the stage? Do they require a lapel microphone or a hand-held? Do they prefer a can of soda, a glass of water or a cup of hot tea with lemon? Attention to every detail gives a speaker the ultimate environment for success.
5. Lay the ground rules.
Inform the audience about the format for the presentation; will there be an opportunity to ask questions? If so, how will questions be accepted – will the speaker take questions from the stage, will questions be written down and collected, or will an assistant with a microphone roam the floor?
6. Keep it brief.
Let the presenter deliver the information; the introducers job is to generate excitement for what’s to come, not give away the key points that the speaker will discuss. So often the introducer gets nervous and starts to add their own thoughts on the topic before the speaker even steps foot on the stage.
A well-executed introduction establishes the speaker’s credibility, piques the interest of the audience, and creates an environment for an impactful speech. A great introduction is not as simple as briefly reading the material that has been handed to you moments before the speaker is set to come out.
Diane Gottsman is a national modern manners and etiquette expert, sought out industry leader, accomplished speaker, author and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies, and her seminars cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media. She is author of “Pearls of Polish, An Etiquette Guide for Today’s Busy Woman“.