How to introduce a guest speaker

When did Wikipedia become a substitute for thinking? I’ve attended a few events recently where an eminent person is being introduced by an MC using an inaccurate, boring and tedious print-out from Wikipedia. There’s no respect for the guest or the audience, no professionalism from the person doing the speaking and it gets things off to an awkward start.

Here’s my easy guide to doing a killer introduction.

1 – Know your audience.

Does your audience already know the guest or the subject matter? A football club CEO being introduced to members, will need a different introduction to an 18-year-old Youtube billionaire speaking to the Chamber of Commerce.

There may also be a range of people in your audience; some that know the guest well and others who have never heard of them, so aim for the middle. You don’t want to bore people with redundant information, but don’t assume they know everything about the person either.

2 What is your guest’s relevance to the audience? 

You will need to give a clue in your intro as to what your guest will be talking about. 

For example, if your guest is Cathy Freeman, and your audience is an indigenous sport youth group, you will want to indicate she’s talking about how she got into sprinting. If it’s a business group, they may be more interested in how she has transitioned out of professional sport and into the workforce. Or if your crowd is made up largely of sports administrators and Australian Olympic officials, they might want to hear her speak about the barriers to a good performance when competing overseas.

3 Use an original source when researching your guest.

Most guest speakers will have a bio from their manager, website, social media or even something they have written personally. Don’t rely on Google. It doesn’t care if you look like an idiot. 

Put together their bio with news articles written about them and cross reference the facts with industry association websites, Linkedin and other reliable sources. It takes a bit of time to pull the information together, but it shows you care and boosts your credibility.

4 Get feedback.

If you can, send the guest or their representative your intro. They will be able to check facts, names, dates and pronunciation to make sure you get it right.

5 Keep it short – under 3 minutes.

We don’t want to hear you recite their CV. It’s boring. Just give us the basics about who the person is, their main achievements and why they are speaking to your audience. A long introduction often steals their thunder. Let them speak for themselves.

Additional tips.

Give context. Tell your audience about your relationship with the speaker and why they are there. It helps put your audience at ease and make them more receptive.

Eg “Cathy and I went to school together and I thought you would love to get an insight into how she made it from a shy, Mackay schoolgirl to Olympic Gold.”

“Joe is one of the worlds greatest experts on global warming and we thought his research would be a fascinating addition to today’s discussion on renewable energy.”

“Sarah is well known as Captain of School, but many people don’t know she also has a beautiful voice so she is going to sing the national anthem for us today.”

Be confident

You’ve done your preparation, you know your stuff, so own it. If you are confident in yourself, then your audience will have confidence in you too. Let them know that you are in charge and that you’re proud and excited to be introducing your guest. Introduce yourself, look at your audience, project your voice and smile.

eg “Hi, I’m Pepita Bulloch and today I’m introducing you to our guest, Australian Olympic gold medallist, Ariarne Titmus.  Ariarne’s Mum and I went to university together and when I found out her amazing daughter was returning to Australia, I thought she would be the perfect person to talk to us about the psychology of winning….” etc etc.

If you’re still unsure, I am happy to give you a free 30 min coaching session to support you to be your best.

Pepita Bulloch
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