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“It takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

-Mark Twain

As the emcee, you are the glue.

To make the meeting hold together, you need to do three things:

  1. Make the event feel important to the audience
  2. Make the audience feel united as a special group
  3. Make the event feel like a shared experience for the audience

Did you notice? I just used word the word Audience three times. 


“Know your audience” is the first rule of dynamic public speaking. It’s also one of the major keys to being a great emcee. It’s worth repeating:  Know your audience. At every event you emcee, your goal is to please the people who invited you to host AND delight their audience. 

This chapter will show you how to know them and delight them. 

See Related: Clock – How To Be A Great Emcee

THE Compliment You Want

What is the best compliment you can receive when you serve as the MC?

Hearing “You made it fun” is always nice. “You did a fine job” is another bit of praise that will make you smile. But hands down, the compliment that means you really nailed it as an emcee is… How long have you worked for us?

When you hear this, it says a lot about the work you put in before the event. It means you went the extra mile and made their world matter to you. It means you care. 

So, what are the steps you can take to ensure that you make the audience feel like you are part of their team?

Here’s the secret:

Do a deep dive and learn about the people—and the unique culture—of this group before you ever step foot on stage (or get on screen). 

  • Discover all you can about the organization
  • Laser in on the uniqueness of the people
  • Find out who the key leaders are 
  • Uncover things that will remind your attendees that they are wonderful people 

When an audience member walks up to you after the event and says, “Hey, you knew all about US!” They win and you win.  This is only possible when you do a deep dive into the organization and audience before the meeting date. Do your homework prior to the test: the in-person or online event you are emceeing. 

Do Your Homework

When you were in school, if you were like me, you would often cram for a quiz the night before. Maybe, like me, you got OK grades. But when you put the time into studying the subject matter before the exam, you did much better. Maybe you had to know the answers to 10 questions. When you took the time to learn the answers, it felt good to earn that “A+” grade.

The same approach is required if you want to become an “A+” host. Put the time into knowing your audience. Personally, I invest a minimum of 3-5 hours into this kind of detective work prior to every meeting I emcee.  It’s a great investment. 

Get to know (and love!) this group of people. It’s an investment of your time. But it’s worth every moment when you learn to become an expert diver. Here’s what you need to discover:  

Get The Scoop About the Group

Have the Internal Program Manager Answers to These 7 Questions:

What is the name of this group, org, company, association?

Important: This might not be the name on their building, or website. You need to know: What name do they call themselves?

Who is the leader of this group?

Find out: Does she/he repeat certain phrases? One Senior V.P. who led the team I was serving, was known for saying to his team, “We refuse to lose!” What else can you discover about this leader? Does she/he have certain stories, habits or characteristics that would be fun (not hurtful) to joke about? What is this individual’s great strength? How are they celebrated? in your role as master of ceremonies, you want to acknowledge, honor, and celebrate this person!

What unique language does this audience share?

Become familiar with the “inside jargon” and when appropriate the inside jokes that this audience appreciates. Do they say things that unite them? Some examples:

Lead the way.

Serve the customer

Safety first, second and third.

We are Del Point, and we deliver!

Note: Sometimes this special language is on the company website. But other times it is the “insider” language that is only used internally. Ask the org’s meeting coordinator about the language that unites this group. You want to know how they talk about themselves.

Can you weave some of the group’s one-of-a-kind buzz words, special company language, and acronyms into the program?
Example: You might say, “Before I introduce our special guest who will deliver our keynote message. I want to remind you that we are Del Point, and we deliver!” (They will likely cheer you for learning and saying something this about them). 

What are their pleasure and pain points?

Be careful here. This does not mean you want to cause pain. The two things to learn here:

A) What problem does this organization solve for their customers or members?

B) What frustrations do they experience?

Examples: government regulations, competitors cutting prices, slow copy machines, waiting for parts from vendors. When you can let an audience know that you celebrate their gains and relate to their pains, they will love you as their host.

Besides the top leader, does this group have one “personality” who is known and loved by everybody?

The crucial thing to learn here is what most everybody in attendance knows (and respects) about this individual. Sometimes this is the Founder of the company. “John has been our leader for 25 years!” But it might be the beloved receptionist or head of security who is the crowd favorite.

Find out as much as you can about this special man or woman. Have someone introduce you to him/her before the program begins when you are on site. When you know who this person is and mention and/or involve them into the program in a fun and positive way, you will have scored major points with the audience.

What are the different roles, jobs, and positions, of the attendees?

When you give shout-outs to the various sub-groups within your audience, you demonstrate that you everyone in attendance is valued at the event. Lead them in a round of applause. “Before we introduce some of our award winners tonight, can we thank our sponsors, techs, salespeople, and admin team for all they do?”

What should you avoid saying/doing during the program?

Are there any topics or issues — either within this group or industry–that are off limits? Ask the program director: Besides politics, is there anything you do not want mentioned during our event?

The main thing: Discover positive information about this group and the people who will be attending this meeting, gathering, or special event. Avoid repeating information that might reflect poorly on anyone associated with the organization. 

Bonus: Build Rapport – How To Be A Great Emcee

The Huge Value of a Pre-Event Call 

Request answers to the above questions via email before your Zoom or phone meeting!
Review their answers on your call. Let the meeting leaders know that you will not be able to use all the information they provide to you. But all if it serves a purpose—to educate you about the organization, the leadership team, and most important of all, the attendees. 

I can’t stress this enough: You want to do a deep dive into the group who has invited you to emcee. So, how are you going to get the best of this information into your brain and into the program?

Your Secret Weapon

Let’s get super-practical. Review the meeting organizer’s answers. Discuss the agenda and audience on your pre-event call. Then convert the “best of” the deep dive research into one 3 x 5 card you can review at-a-glance. This becomes like a “cheat sheet” you can refer to again and again before and during the program.

It’s simple. It works. And it looks like this: The word D.I.V.E. gives you the framework:

  • What does this group DO?
  • Who are the key INDIVIDUALS?
  • How will I make this audience feel like VIPs?
  • Can I repeat certain EXPRESSIONS

Here’s what a simple notecard looks like using my DIVE method. When your research is complete, transfer the key ideas to a simple card (or use the Notes app of your phone). 

Review it during the days leading up to the event. 

Bring it with you to the meeting and put the 3 x 5 card in your pocket. By then you will have already internalized the information. And it’s great to glance at this card before the program begins, during breaks, and as you listen to the other presenters. You want the key information top of mind during the meeting.

Here’s what it looks like on a 3 x 5 card:

4 Things to About Silver Securities Event:

DO? This group provides retirees with a secure financial future. 

INDIVIDUALS: Jen O’Leary is the VP of Sales. This is her meeting.
Tony Rodriquez is the sales rep of the year. Julia Simmons is the meeting planner.
Their biggest customer, Terry McMillan will be in attendance too. 

VIPS: You guys improve lives. You help people sleep at night. How great is that?!

EXPRESSIONS: The reps tell clients: “Invest like Warren Buffet, live like Jimmy Buffet.” Their mantra: “Treat clients like gold. Have them invest in silver.” 

Names are the Name of the Game

Names are crucial. Learn to say them. And say them correctly. It starts with the name of the company, organization, or sponsors of the meeting. What is the name of this group?

Ask them. 

I will tell you this again. It’s important. You must find out how to refer to the organization that has invited you to emcee their event. Imagine an emcee hosting an alumni event for UCLA and calling it “Ucklah”? You know how to say U.C.L.A. It’s letter-by-letter. You know that NASA is pronounced differently, it’s not “N.A.S.A.” It’s “NASA.” Find out how to say the name of the company, non-profit, college, business, church, or event bride and groom you are representing.

Let’s look at a few examples:

    • If the Bright Group has hired, you…would you pronounce B.R.I.G.H.T. as “Bright” or would you say each letter? 
    • If you were emceeing an event for Southern Nazarene University, would you say the full name, or do they prefer to be called SNU? 
    • How would you thank The Association of Pediatric Dentistry? Is there a short name for this organization?  Note: Often, it’s best to say the full name of the org at the top of the program, and then use their short-hand version as the program continues. 

The Deeper You Dig the Better You Get

Here are other ways you can become a master of the deep dive:

  • Watch YouTube clips about the company/product/service
  • Visit the group’s website and read the About Us page
  • Check out what other people are saying about this group, i.e., customer testimonials and reviews. Note: Only repeat the good stuff. 
  • If possible, buy something that they are selling or promoting so you can taste the experience they create for their customers, donors, etc. It’s so powerful to be able to say: “I just bought one of the vehicle air fresheners you guys sell. It’s so awesome, I don’t want to get out of my car!”
  • Poke some fun at the “villain” this group opposes or competes against.
    Note:  Be careful here. If in doubt, leave it out. Make sure to get the green light before mentioning this “bad guy.” Always avoid controversial topics. Here is a playful example: “Hey team, I just made a New Year’s resolution: I’m never going to buy my supplements from XYZ (the villain) again! I just became your newest customer after visiting your website!” 
  • Let the audience know you have enjoyed finding out about them!
    “The more I learn about you guys…the more impressed I get. Wow, you have gone 12 years with a perfect factory safety record. Give yourselves a hand!” 

This chapter has provided you with the tools you need to know your audience. Remember your mission with the deep dive. You want this audience to know and feel that YOU love them and what they do. 

Now you have the questions to ask before the event. You have the handy D.I.V.E. “cheat sheet.” By doing a deep dive about this group, you have set yourself up for super success as the emcee.


The audience will absolutely love you for celebrating who they are, what they do, and why they are gathering. 

Keep Reading: Engage – How To Be A Great Emce

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.