How to Effectively Introduce a Guest Speaker
To increase the take-away value of a guest speaker’s presentation at your business or organization, you have to engage the audience from the start of the event. Often, someone from the business or organization will give the introduction before the speaker begins. If that job falls to you, you may be unsure how to approach the task. Follow these tips, though, and you will craft a concise, engaging and effective introduction.
Write a Short, Focused Introduction
An introduction doesn’t need to be grandiose. If you ramble, you may bore your audience and lose their attention. Think of yourself as the warm-up act. You want the audience to be eager to hear more. Your job is to answer these questions in your speech:
- What’s the speaker’s name? Double-check pronunciation with the speaker or his or her bureau beforehand.
- What’s the speaker’s background? Rely on the speaker’s biography and stick to the most succinct overview.
- What will the speaker’s speech be about? No need to go into great detail— the speaker will do that.
- Why was the speaker invited to your business or organization? Give a few points about how you hope the speaker’s lecture will inspire your company or organization.
Answer these questions and you will have your introduction. Your speech should be no more than a few minutes long.
Engage the Audience
A simple way to engage the audience is to make repeated eye contact, so don’t bury your nose in your notes or recite the speech without looking up. Another way to get the audience engaged is with visual aids. If you have a PowerPoint setup for the speaker, see if you can add your introduction’s bullet points, along with images, to the presentation.
You can also ask for audience feedback at the last part of your speech, when you’re talking about why the speaker was invited to speak at your company or organization. You can ask questions such as, “What projects are we working on that could benefit from [the speaker’s speech subject]?” However, don’t let the feedback get away from you. Keep your speech short. There will be time for questions at the end of the speaker’s lecture.
Humor is a common speech fallback, especially when the speaker wants to be more engaging. However, sometimes humor can backfire. It can sometimes prove offensive to people in the audience. If it’s not offensive, it may just not be that funny. Your job is simply to introduce, so you won’t have time in your intro for jokes that might bomb.
Have a Peer Critique
Sometimes an idea we have in our head makes sense to us, but we’re unable to clearly communicate it. Have a trusted colleague look over your introduction ahead of time. Open yourself up to criticism so you know what you need to revise. The goal of an honest critique is to eliminate any unclear or awkward bits before you actually give your introductory speech.
Practice Makes Perfect
Once you’ve settled on a clear, concise and engaging introduction, practice reading it out loud as the day approaches. Without practice, you’re likely to stumble over your words, get mixed up or find yourself reading something that sounded better on paper. Practice the speech until you know it almost by heart, so your eyes will only have to look down occasionally and you can give your audience eye contact — an essential for drawing them in. Practice in front of a mirror and then ask friends or family to listen.
If you’re asked to introduce the guest speaker at your organization or business, just remember to be concise, engaging and easy to understand. You only have to capture the audience’s attention for a short time, so don’t get stressed. Relax, and you’ll put the audience at ease and make them eager to hear what the speaker has to say.
About the contributor: Katherine Roquemore is a contributing writer and human resources coordinator. She uses Leading Authorities Speakers Bureau to find guest speakers for her company’s events.
Have you ever been in a position to introduce a guest speaker? What would you add to make the transition even more efficient? Share it in the comments!
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