I was recently asked to introduce a speaker at a meeting. To be honest I am not a public speaker. This fact seems odd to many who know me, as I am very outgoing and extroverted. I love meeting new people and experiencing new places, but my nerves are better at one on one, face to face or small group contact.
Regardless of my public speaking fears it was my mission to do well and face my fear. A year ago I had set a goal to work on public speaking - to a group of 20+, 50+, 100+, 500+, and 1000+ - hoping to work myself into stage confidence. I had previously succeeded at the 20+ goal and even though many of those twenty were my friends or people I knew, I was ready for the next step. When Nick Arnette spoke at the meeting and said “Do something everyday that you do not want to do,” I felt like I was right on track! It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do it, I just didn’t want to mess it up.
How hard could this be, right! I was sent the introduction for the keynote speaker I was to introduce, half of my work was done. I had two minutes prior to the introduction to talk about myself and Midwest Meetings. Easy! I know me and I am passionate about what I do.
I wrote an introduction that I felt conveyed who I was to others and what Midwest Meetings is and could be for them as a resource. I edited, let other’s read and edit. I read it aloud multiple times to myself and others. I was nervous but felt confident that I could say the words without fumbling. The second speaker of the day, Shelley Williams, spoke on contract negotiations and upon learning more about ‘attrition’ being the ‘performance clause,’ I was worried that my performance was not going to meet the needs or standards of my audience.
The time came, but came late. Suddenly it was time for me to speak and the meeting was running almost 20 minutes behind. (Sometimes this happens, we all know it.) The speaker I was about to introduce had to get to a flight and I had to cut everything I had rehearsed right there. I worked with Matthew Jones to get a great shortened introduction and then looked at my paragraphs and thought, “here goes nothing!” I got up to speak, I felt like my voice was shaky, I know I wasn’t as articulate and elegant as I had been in the previous night’s rehearsals. Nerves kicked in and I quickly got through my bolded text and the speakers introduction. He gave me a high five and it was over, but what he had to say in his time really hit home. “Visualize your victory…Take action…and Elevate your attitude,” he repeated to us between infectious laughing spells. As I continue to pursue my career and as more public speaking comes my way, no matter how long or short or how large the crowd, I will remember to “Lighten up instead of tighten up” and keep on smiling.
If you are an event professional working with a first-timer in public speaking or keynote speaker introductions, or if you are a first-timer here is my short list of tips for introducing a public speaker based on my first experience.
- Know what you are going to say and practice it. Whether you are sent a bio from a speaker to use or you create the content, make sure to read it and rehearse it. Speak the words aloud to yourself and others if possible to get a feel for your cadence and time. If you have questions, make sure to ask them prior to presenting someone in front of others.
- Make time for face time. If at all possible meet the person you will be introducing prior to the main event, even if just 15 minutes prior to the introduction. Get to know the person a bit and make sure they are okay with what you plan to say.Depending on timelines, new information, or other scenarios you may work together to change introduction information.
- Communicate. Communicate with the planner, the speaker, and the A/V tech if necessary. Make sure you are clear on your role and that you have everything you need to accomplish your task.
- Remain flexible. As timelines change, if your introduction does need to be changed on the fly just remember to breath, slow down, articulate, and Keep Smiling, most people have no idea anything has changed.