One of my roles this week and an absolute highlight was being the Master of Ceremonies (emcee) for a Royal Afternoon Tea and conversations with Paul Burrell, former butler to the late Princess Diana. It was held at the Palazzo Versace on the Gold Coast and was a very elegant and entertaining event.
I have been the Master of Ceremonies on numerous occasions over the years having started out in my career as a television presenter and compere of many about town events. In preparing my MC notes I reviewed a few articles and past check lists and in this blog I’m sharing what I believe are the top tips to being a successful MC.
Stage management. You are not necessarily responsible for the stage management or production of the event. Generally, an event planner or the organiser will be arranging that and provide you with a run sheet. However, you are the director and there to oversee the proceedings go smoothly and to time. Familiarise yourself with the run sheet, the amount of time at the beginning and in between each introduction. Know the meal and entertainment breaks and what are the main housekeeping rules that need to be addressed. Know who the speakers are and introduce yourself to them beforehand if possible. Make sure you have a handy time piece available to keep track of time and know which side people will enter and exit the stage. You may also be on hand to assist someone on the stairs and help adjust the microphone height if necessary.
Humour. Don’t try to be funny or tell jokes if it is not your style. Some of the best MC’s and television comperes are comedians and naturally witty. If the event calls for a comedian – they will hire one. The event doesn’t want someone dour and uninteresting though. Be yourself, but be the lively, upbeat version of you. Smile and relax into it and perhaps some gentle humour will shine through.
Forget I and ego. It’s not about moi, moi. It is about the other speakers. When people ask if I get nervous being an MC, I say, “Not really because I know people aren’t focusing on me”. My job is to make the other people look good and highlight the real stars of the show – or event. Often you will be provided a written introduction to the speakers but if not make sure you have researched who they are and have some bio points on hand. Do introduce yourself at the beginning and set the scene for the event.
Notes. Be well prepared. Have your runsheet, the notes you have written out, introductions, announcements and all items together. A plastic sleeved folder works well. Some prefer it all on iPhone and others written out on cue cards. Do what works for you and make sure you can see everything clearly. Listen to the speakers and make mention of pertinent points as you segue from them to the next speaker or next part of the evening. Just in case the next speaker is not ready or something goes wrong in the proceedings, have a filler prepared. It could simply be to say what the rest of the evening/day entails or if you are more experienced, an activity that gets people engaged can also work.
Engagement is the key. The beginning is when you need to impact the audience immediately with a strong opening and set the tone for the day or evening. This is also when you introduce yourself and it will most likely be the one time when the focus is on you. Make this moment count with well thought out content and preparation. The closing of the event is when you thank the relevant people and again if you can, finish on an uplifting and memorable note.
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Sue Currie is a speaker, author, consultant and educator recognised as an authority on personal branding to boost image, profile, brand and business. Through her workshops, professional development programs and brand consulting, Sue help businesses and entrepreneurs position and present an impactful professional brand.