Build Rapport – How To Be A Great Emcee

B How To Be A Great Emcee Build Rapport

“We are wired to connect with ‘like-minded’ leaders.” -Mercer Bradley 

When it comes to human connect rapport rules. 

Here’s another word for it: Likeability. Your audience is silently asking themselves: Am I going to enjoy this meeting? Will I like this host?

An emcee who bonds with people quickly is an invaluable asset for happy meeting planners. 

As the MC, you want to develop rapport quickly with an audience. But before you do that . . . 

Connect With This Person First… 

Before you ever step foot on stage—in person or virtually—you need to connect with the event organizer. Here’s how you build rapport with her/him:

Let them know you care. 

Even if you are an experienced Master of Ceremonies, it’s never a good idea to host a meeting before you get to know the meeting producer. Keep this in mind: You have been invited to host this event to delight this person’s boss, team, and attendees. 

If you can, meet with this key person face-to-face before the event. Get to know them on a personal and professional basis. If it isn’t feasible to meet in person, go for a Zoom or Facetime call.

At the very minimum, chat on the phone. It’s almost impossible to connect on a human level with someone by exchanging emails.  

Schedule 10-15-minutes to talk with the meeting planner before your official Agenda overview meeting call.  Lead the conversation like this: 

  • Thanks for inviting me to host! Please tell me about what YOU do for this organization
  • How can I help YOU make this meeting a big hit?
  • Do you have any program concerns I can help YOU handle? 

Notice I capped the word YOU above. This is to remind you of a simple truth. We feel more connected with men and women who care about us. This others-centric mindset leads us to another key for great Emcees… 

Can You Make an Audience Like You?

You can sway an audience to instantly like you! 

How? By first liking them. This approach works if you work at it…sincerely. Ever try to dislike someone who likes you?

It’s almost impossible. This is one of the big secrets I want to share with you here. I will state it three times for effect: Like them first. Like them first. Like them first!

One of the big errors I see Emcees make is trying to hard to be liked by an audience. These hosts try so hard to impress a group with jokes, witty stories, special talents, and more. 

These performers or speakers are seeking validation from a group when they work as the MC. So, what works better than seeking their approval? 

Validate them.

Tell the audience how great they are. Remind them that they are part of a very special group of attendees. Praise the organization, club, university, company, sales team, church, or non-profit you are addressing. It’s such a privilege for me to be your Master of Ceremonies tonight. You are some of the finest people in the world. And the work you are doing? Incredible! See the difference? An insecure Emcee seeks praise from the crowd. A fine host praises the audience. 

Because I work as a clean comedian, I avoid the “F word.” But here are three fantastic words that begin with the letter F.

You can quickly build rapport with any group by tapping into these ideas: 

FRIEND

Get to know your attendees on site before the meeting begins. Have some warm conversations. Ask them about what they do and how long they have been associated with this wonderful group.

When you do this wholeheartedly, they will feel like they already know you when you walk on stage! Even the way you refer to audience members can sound upbeat and friendly.

Are you going to be merely factual as an Emcee or friendly? Which sounds more inviting to you:

“Attention. May I have your attention, please? I have an announcement.”

OR

“Hello friends. I want to share something with you. I don’t want you to miss this!” 

FUN

It’s one of the things an audience wants most in a host. They hope you will help them have a great time. Here’s the key to giving them a fun experience: T

hey will have a good time …when you do. If you enjoy the program, they will too. Like laughter, good times are contagious. They’ll feel good when you feel glad.  

FACES

If you have convinced yourself that you are not good at remembering names and faces, change your mind. You can link a person’s name and face. You can remember people’s names.

Quick example: If you meet a sales rep named Julie, visualize her face covered with jewels. You’ll see “jewels” and remember “Julie.” Take an extra moment to hear a person’s name and link it to something striking about them (nose, eyes, hair). It really works.

Remembering names and faces will help you build an incredible bond with your attendees. It’s well worth the effort. It shows an audience you care about them.

Even if you take the time to learn just a handful of names and repeat them on stage. The impact will pleasantly surprise you. Note: Don’t learn just the bosses’ or VIP names!

Besides wearing a smile, what else will help you build rapport with your attendees? 

Dress to Connect 

Creating affinity with a group begins with what you wear when you arrive. Know the dress code for the program.

If the audience is wearing shorts and Aloha shirts, don’t dress in a suit and tie. If the event is red carpet formal, you may want to wear a tuxedo.  

Look the part that fits the people and the program you are hosting. 

Six Rules to Remember for What to Wear as the Master of Ceremonies: 

#1. First impressions matter.

People will size you up instantly based on the way you dress.

#2. Wear clothes that show you are tuned in with the audience.

When I have the privilege of hosting the annual dealer meeting for KIOTI Tractors U.S.A. I don’t wear a tuxedo. I wear jeans, a flannel shirt, and a KIOTI tractor cap. Don’t dress to impress.

Dress to identify with the culture of the company. If you think an outfit is too flashy for a group, you are likely right. Don’t wear it.

You don’t want to over or underdress. If this company’s attendees are going to wear business casual, you shouldn’t be in a suit & tie, etc.

#3. Dress according to the event theme.

If you are wearing a Hawaiian shirt to a Western themed party, you didn’t get the memo. If everybody is wearing sports gear to a sports-based award show, you should too.

#4. It’s OK to dress a step up.

Example: If your attendees are wearing “resort casual” wear, it would be inappropriate to wear a dress shirt and tie. That is several steps up from them. But you might sport a stylish shirt, dressy jeans, and a sports coat. It’s fine to look (a bit) dressier than the attendees. You’ll be on stage and in the spotlight.

#5. Dress so you have freedom of movement.

Shoes are crucial here. As the event host, you should be moving and not just planted behind the podium. Make sure you dress to look great and feel comfortable. Note: Sometimes a meeting can run 2-3 hours or all day long. Be practical.

#6. Dress to look like you.

Wear what’s true to you. Big tip: Have your clothes professionally fitted for your size. Get your dress or suit dry-cleaned and pressed before the event. If you need to pack your clothes in a suitcase. Iron them when arrive in your hotel room. 

It’s tempting to think, “Well, I’m the M.C. That means I need to wear a Tuxedo or formal evening dress.” But that’s not usually the right fit for most meetings.  So… 

What about formal gatherings? Should you appear in elegant attire? YES. Here are some of those formal occasions where evening gowns, dresses, tuxedos, and coat & tie are apropos for the Emcee: 

  • Award shows
  • Weddings & Funerals
  • Annual Galas 
  • Proms and Pageants
  • Art shows
  • Live Auction Fundraisers 
  • Graduation Ceremonies

Don’t Make This Mistake!

Back to bonding with your audience. Remember this: The Emcee is not the star of the show.
You are the glue. And what does glue do? It connects. 

Obviously, you are wonderful presenter. Hey, that’s probably how you got this “gig.” 

But…if you make mistake of making the event all about your winsome personality, you lose. The meeting planner will be disappointed. The event sponsor will feel bummed.  And worst of all, the audience will feel disconnected from you and each other.  Hey, this meeting was supposed to be about us

Of course, the Master of Ceremonies needs to be confident, fun, and dynamic. 

But like a good party host, your focus is all about the experience of your guests. 

You are the connector.

Think of yourself as the host of a party (the program) and your attendees are guests. Imagine if you were hosting an event at your home. The doorbell rings. Your first guest arrives. Would you say, “I’m here!” No, you would welcome them with open arms, invite them inside, and make them feel comfortable. “Glad, you’re here!” 

Three Ways to Make a Good Entrance

#1. Start On Stage

Even though the event is about them and for them, your confidence is vital. Establish your stage presence on stage! The audience wants to see that they are in good hands. By starting on stage—and not on the floor, or back of the room—you assert your authority as the Master of Ceremonies. Tip: I like to enter from stage right (This, from the audience’s POV is to their left). Why? Because people are used to reading from left to right. It’s natural for them to follow you as you walk to the podium.

#2. Enter Smiling!

Mother Teresa may not have been the life-of-the-party, but she helped change the world. And she was on to something about rapport when she said, “A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” It doesn’t matter if you are emceeing for two people or 2,000, Walk on to the stage smiling at the audience. They will smile right back at you.

#3. Welcome Them

Remember, you are the host of the party. Let your attendees know that it’s going to be a great time. And welcome them by name(s). Here’s an example:

Good evening Ultra One Sales Superstars! My name is Adam Christing. I have the privilege of being your Master of Ceremonies for this special evening. I want to thank your sales leader Charlene Reynolds for inviting me to be with you.

Stuart and Cynthia, it’s great to see you at table one. You were our high-achievers last year and you still look great. It’s going to be an awesome evening.  Let’s get started. Welcome to the Ultra One Annual Awards Show!

Do you see what the above three ways accomplish? You are building rapport with your audience by communicating that you belong with them, you are thrilled to be with them, and that you know where you are taking them. In a word, you are building trust.

The Closer They Get the Better You Get!

This is one of those gems I want to share with you from 30+ years of event experience…  

The audience will feel closer to you emotionally when you get closer to them physically. 

Here are three ways you can remove the barriers, in order of importance:

  • Strongly encourage the meeting organizer to seat the audience as close to the stage as possible! Yes, even if this means you need to help the event team move tables/chairs closer to the platform. Trust me. Your jokes will get funnier. The audience will feel more connected to you, and the other speakers, when you pull them closer to you. 
  • Early in the program, and at various times, walk into the audience. Connect with attendees. Shake hands. Interact with them. Start off on stage, but later go into the audience to build rapport. More on this in later chapters. 
  • Move away from the podium. It’s fine to use a lectern or podium for notes and introductions, etc. But don’t hide behind it. Move around. Don’t be just a talking head on stage. Bring the energy. Continually connect and reconnect with the crowd. 

A good Emcee acknowledges the audience. A great Emcee affirms them. One of my clients calls me a “Pastor of Ceremonies.”

Why? Because he has noticed that I build a bond with an audience and shepherd them through a program. Your audience will follow your lead when they like and trust you. So build rapport and keep building it throughout the program. 

The Bottom Line: Do all that you can to create a warm connection between you and the audience. 

This is an excerpt from Adam Christing‘s forthcoming book, “How To Be A Great Emcee: The A to Z Guide to Hosting Events” by America’s #1 Master of Ceremonies. Follow along as new chapters gets posted to this blog category each week.