Experienced presenters know that introductions can make or break a good presentation. Here, Jack Vincent discusses the importance of establishing a connection with the people behind the scenes prior to speaking, to make sure your next presentation goes off without a hitch.
Knowing how to get a great introduction at a conference can make a huge difference on your talk’s impact on the audience, as well as on your perceived value in the marketplace.
So you’ve been preparing for weeks, perhaps months, for an important talk at a conference. You’ve done your research, you’ve developed compelling content and you’re well rehearsed. You’re focused… and you’re ready to spread the love!
But then, shortly before you go on, the conference’s speaker coordinator assigned to you comes in wearing a conference t-shirt and holding a piece of paper with introduction points he’s downloaded from your website.
As you’re being introduced, your heart sinks. In that critical, final moment before you go onstage, you’re not happy with the material the coordinator has included in your intro, nor with the minimal rapport the coordinator has with you and, thus, with the audience.
The audience gives you a polite applause… and you know, it could have been better than that. You feel… you deserve better than that.
You could have had the audience, in this climactic important moment, leaning forward, more eager than ever to hear what you have to say. Already you’re swimming upstream, when you should be… feeling the love… and spreading it!
So here are a few tips on how to get a great introduction at a conference to propel you into a great talk.
1) Tell The Organizers That Your Introduction Is Important
Talk with the most senior person you can at the conference, and let her know you take your introductions very seriously. Be open with her that you may seek an industry influencer or a close colleague to introduce you. As a member of Toastmasters International, a worldwide club of clubs on public speaking, we’re trained to take our introductions so seriously that before every meeting, the speakers are encouraged to email their introductions to that week’s Toastmaster of the Evening/Day.
This is not a for-Toastmasters-only best practice. The top professionals like Seth Godin and Dan Pink do this as a matter of process, and there is no reason why you can’t make the same thing happen at a conference of any magnitude, your company’s holiday party or even an after-dinner speech. This matters!
2) Choose The Right Person To Introduce You
Having the right person introduce you can make a huge difference on the impact of your talk.
There are two primary criteria here: someone with whom you have a rock solid relationship, and someone who has influence in this conference’s community.
If you can hit both criteria, great. This past September, I spoke at Inbound 2015 in Boston. It was my biggest professional speaking engagement last year. When I saw that my Boston-based buddy and influencer, Chris Brogan, was attending and also speaking at Inbound, I reached out to him. Chris and I had met six years ago at a conference in Berlin where we both spoke and hit it off, and we’ve stayed in touch since then.
Chris is by nature a generous guy who also knows that, in business, the more you give, the more you get. (Please don’t go contacting a person like Chris just because he has influence. Do so only if you have an existing relationship or, at very least, your influence matches such a person).
If you don’t have access to any of the movers and shakers at the conference, but you know an attendee who knows your professional or personal merits, consider asking her to introduce you.
Industry influencer or professional colleague, most people are usually pleased to get the visibility of stage time. Most people are happy to support you, provided you have earned their trust that your message is worthy and your delivery will be solid.
Chris gave me a spectacular introduction at Inbound. The last thing he said before I took the stage was, “If that doesn’t get you to buy Jack’s book right now, then I know Jack’s talk will…”
3) Make Sure There’s A Link
It really doesn’t make sense to have a financial expert introduce you at a marketing conference.
While this appears to be a no-brainer, it happens all too often. Make sure there is a clear link between your topic and the expertise or relevance of the person who introduces you.
Have they read your book? Have they partnered with you on a project? Are they “in the same space” as you and know what you specifically stand for? Chris had read an advanced copy of my second book, A Sale Is A Love Affair and he had produced a podcast interview on The Owner’s Mind with me in February, the week after the book launch. (Chris is an awesome interviewer, by the way. Really, check out the podcast!)
If you can’t find an influencer or an allied attendee, then ask the conference organizer to assign their most senior person to introduce you. Don’t be shy. Yes, even conference organizers like to have stage time at their own conferences!
Earlier this year, I was engaged to give a lunchtime Talk by the Head of Learning & Development of a major corporation based in Zurich. I asked him if he would introduce me, and we then decided that the Senior Partner of New Business Development would be more appropriate… and more effective.
We also arranged a phone conversation between the Biz Dev guy and myself leading up to the Talk. The intro he gave me was spot on for that audience. The 300 employees that fit into the corporate auditorium were already leaning forward before I even started my talk.
4) Send Them Your Ideal Intro
Again, for some this is standard practice. For others, it feels too pushy.
Pushy? No way! You’re helping this person! It’s that simple. You’ve asked her to do you a favor by introducing you, and now you are making it easier… and more effective.
You’re also maximizing your investment here.
That’s right! Securing a conference talk, preparing for it and travelling to it is an investment you’re making (regardless of compensation). This is Brand You! Why leave it to chance that the person introducing you is going to know how to put your very best foot forward?
The person may respond, “Great! And I’ve got something personal I want to add.”
That’s awesome, but, even then, you have the right to at least ask, “Can I ask you what that is?”
The intro you send should not be modest. Again, this is your brand. Put your best and most relevant stuff into it. This is one of the values of having someone introduce you. It appears less self-serving than you saying it yourself. (And we all know that selling yourself from the stage is heresy, right?)
Also, keep the intro simple. Do not write long sentences. Instead, outline a few bullet-points and, at most, include a few sub-bullet points.
Three main bullet-points, three big messages, should be the max for your intro. You want your introducer to be able to remember the important points or, at very least, to only have to glance down at an outline, and not read your glorious, long-winded essay.
After sending your intro, follow-up with your introducer and ask them a) if everything is clear, and b) if they plan to make any changes.
5) Meet Before The Talk
With all this planning, things can get lost in the sauce as the conference approaches.
Make sure you connect face-to-face with your introducer as soon as you both arrive at the conference, and again a half-hour before your Talk, and review the actual stage logistics. Have a printed version of your intro, just in case.
If you’re all prepared, just hanging with your introducer should put you in a positive mood. And hang with the audience, as well, as they enter. It’s really good karma in these final few moments.
6) Enjoy The Energy. Spread The Love
For best impact as you’re being introduced, stand off to the side of the stage or speaking area… and smile!
At a typical Toastmasters club meeting, we shake hands as we take the stage and, again, as we give the stage back to the Toastmaster of the Evening.
Coordinate this with your introducer. If it doesn’t happen in the moment, don’t freak out… and please don’t chase the person off the stage for a mere handshake. In that case, make eye contact or gesture in their direction early on in your Talk.
Take the stage like a pro. Take the stage like someone who’s ready to kill it for the audience and who’s appreciative of such a great intro. Again, make some reference to your introducer at some point in your Talk, if you possibly can… and you usually can!
Today’s world is one of collaboration… and love. Keep spreading the love. The more you give, the more you get… and that includes connecting with people at conferences before, during and after your Talk, and it certainly includes strengthening your relationship with the person who introduces you and those who support you.
A great introduction will help you achieve all of these things. It will add an extra element of high-impact to the talk you’ve invested so much in.