I’ve been making a living as a master of ceremonies for 25 years.
Here are 7 lessons I have learned that may improve your next meeting or special event.
Why do event planners need a great emcee?
- Attendees are silently begging to be led
A meeting is a lot like life. We all want to know where we are going and how we will get there. A professional emcee tells the audience:
You are in for a great time and I’m going to be your host and guide for a great meeting. You set your guests at ease when they know you have hired a polished professional who will lead the proceedings.
- A likable host helps your group relax
Meetings should feel successful not stressful. Your audience wants to relax and recharge at your event. By hiring a likable master of ceremonies, you will maximize the enjoyment of your attendees and you will exceed their expectations. People enjoy meetings led by hosts who are warm and witty. Don’t invite a “party pooper” to host your party!
- You want an energy-booster on the platform
A great emcee knows how to raise the energy in your room. This is vital. Your attendees need to grasp the information and takeaways you want them to get. This is more likely when they are actively engaged and feel energized. A professional MC will tune in to how your audience is feeling. If one of your speakers is boring your group with too many slides, he/she will pump them back up during the next transition. Work with a host who knows when and how to reenergize your attendees.
- You can improve the image of your organization
People are constantly and instantly evaluating your meeting. Most event producers spend a lot of time thinking about what is being presented, but not enough time focused on WHO is doing the presenting. Give some careful thought to who will be presenting your presenters. A fine MC will give your guest speakers and VIPs strong introductions. Make sure you are working with an experienced emcee who can welcome your attendees to your meeting and welcome your speakers to the platform.
- You will avoid your meeting going off the tracks
Many unexpected things can happen during a live event. What if one of your speakers runs way over time? What if you suddenly need to fill an extra 30-minutes in your program? What if you have to add some time-sensitive announcements to your agenda because of the weather? A strong master of ceremonies can entertain and inspire your audience as needed. And a great emcee knows that the greatest ability is flexibility. A great MC knows how to make adjustments during a program—to make sure your meeting stays on course.
- Your attendees want more of the laughter factor
Laughter is not only the “best medicine” for healthy living–humor is also magic at your next meeting. A fine emcee will bring more fun to your gathering. He or she will know how to use humor in a way that brings people together and builds community. You don’t have to hire a famous celebrity for this role, but make sure you secure an entertaining emcee. Your people will thank you for it, I promise.
- Listening is the Emcee’s secret sauce
Your host should be looking and listening for ways to enhance the enjoyment of your people. Is an attendee celebrating a birthday or work anniversary? Are some of your top customers in the audience? Can he/she recognize and applaud your key vendors? Your master of ceremonies will help you make your event a winner when he or she is making notes before and during the meeting so that your people and your event goals are always in mind. Don’t just hire a good talker. Hire a great listener the next time you book an MC.
“I can see how hiring a great MC helps.
But how do I find one that will help guarantee my group has a great time?”
Here you go:
- The key to finding the right host is based on this question:
Is this a person you’d invite into your home?
You are looking for someone you feel great about connecting to your work family. Can you trust them with your program goals?
- Don’t confuse “life of the party” with host of your meeting.
You may have some funny co-workers who can crack up the office, but a great emcee puts the spotlight on your event, not on themselves.
- Go with a host with tons of event experience. You would never visit a doctor who was doing her first-ever surgery on you. Make sure your MC has hosted many events like yours with a winning track record.
- Look at video clips. If your emcee candidate does not have a demo video, they are not a full-time master of ceremonies. The word “demo” has the same root as “demonstrate.” You want to see for yourself that this host knows how to delight an audience and will be a good fit for your company culture. Look also at audience reactions in the video clip.
- You don’t want an actor, you want an “interactor.” Find an MC who is adept at involving your group. Today people want to participate and not just watch from a distance. Make sure your host can actively engage your people via humor, interaction, and appropriate ad-libbing.
- Look at the MC’s past list of clients. Some hosts work only in single categories like fundraising or sales meetings. Speak with your potential host about his/her experience in your arena. And make sure they are not bringing their own personal or political agenda to your people! You are looking for a master of ceremonies who cares about your agenda.
A great MC has a very specialized skill set. Is this person: Likable, engaging, warm, funny, experienced, and there to serve your meeting agenda? Whatever you do, do not hire an emcee without first having a conversation with him or her about your needs and event goals. Have this phone or in-person meeting well before your public meeting.
The best compliment I can ever get as an emcee is this: “How long have you worked for this organization?” This happens frequently for me because I do a deep dive into the culture of every association, business, non-profit group, or company long before I hit the platform and say, “Good evening!” Provide your emcee with lots of background about your group and the unique people you serve. Have your host incorporate your key words, acronyms, and inside language into their comments on stage.
“What about using an in-house MC?”
Here are 5 reasons why that is usually a bad idea:
- Your group will thank you for hiring a pro
When you bring in an experienced host you communicate to your attendees that this event is important, and that you want to delight them. Asking “Joe in accounting” to host your meeting is like having your neighbor fix your air conditioning. It might work, but why risk it?
- An amateur MC may make your event look amateurish
There are so many aspects to emceeing a meeting. Does your emcee know how to tell a joke, make a superb introduction of a notable guest, think on their feet, reinforce your messaging, and wrap up your meeting in a wonderful way? Probably not if they are not doing it full time. Work with a host who has the experience to make your event a super success.
See: 7 Reasons to Avoid an Amateur Emcee at Your Next Event
- You will benefit from the perspective of an event expert
If you make the mistake of asking an organizational insider to host your meeting, you lose out on the insights a seasoned emcee can bring to your meeting. Here’s an example: A great MC can summarize the key points of your meeting theme in a fresh and fun way. The danger with using an “insider” is that they tend to go deeper into corporate speak. You want a host who can connect with everyone at your event including employees, customers, vendors, and first-time guests.
- Some people in your audience may not like your co-worker
It’s impossible to get along with everybody. When you ask someone within your organization to host your event, there may be some people within your group who are not fans of this person. It doesn’t mean they are a bad person. But some attendees will project baggage on to them. When you hire an outside emcee, your audience sees the guest host in the best light possible—the spotlight on an elevated stage.
- If your associate bombs as the MC, it will hurt them and you
The worst thing you can have happen at your meeting is embarrassing yourself or your organization. Saving face is more important than saving money. Be careful about putting any of your people in a bad light with the choice of your master of ceremonies. Remember to hire a “Master” to handle your ceremonies. You won’t regret it.
Here is another big mistake to avoid…
Some meeting and event planner’s make the error of having no emcee at their meeting. This is not wise. Not having an MC running your program is like inviting your guests into a car with no one behind the wheel. Make sure you have someone steering your event into a wonderful time for everyone who will be in attendance.
To sum up, here are six keys based on the word “MASTER”:
You want to work with a host who is a MASTER of Ceremonies:
Meeting-oriented. Hire an MC who keeps the focus where it should be—on your meeting.
Audience-tested. Don’t let someone learn on the job at your program!
Super-flexible. You want a host who can adapt to problems and make changes as they come up during your meeting.
Tuned-in. Secure an emcee who really listens to your event goals, your other speakers, and the energy level of your audience.
Engaging & fun. Your attendees are hoping you will provide them with a fun experience. Look for a host who has mastered the use of positive humor and lots of participation.
Rapport-building. Employ an emcee who can create a sense of community with your attendees.
What about the “ceremonies” part? Don’t worry, I’m not going to describe that word as a long acronym. But this is important: The original meaning of master of ceremonies, puts the emphasis on the ceremonies part.
The ancient idea was that the ceremonies were of tremendous importance—sacred even. And the host had the serious role of protecting the process and leading attendees into a deep communal experience.
You may not think of your sales meeting, awards show, or annual dinner as a “holy” meeting. But your program matters. Your meeting is important to you and to your organization. So, remember, the person you put in charge of the proceedings will be the one guiding your guests into a great experience.
Bonus tip: Have a meeting before your meeting. This is where your MC meets privately with your other speakers, the AV team, and with you the event producer. This is not a formal rehearsal or even a walk-through. This is a “talk-through” meeting usually lasting 10 to 15 minutes. You can schedule this meeting to take place 30-minutes prior to the start of your program.
In this “huddle” you want to cover the Who, What, When, and Where of your on-stage presentations. This is where you confirm podium and microphone needs, talk through transitions, and make sure that all of your presenters are on the same page. Speaking of pages, here is a vital one for your meeting:
The One Event Document that Makes a Meeting Better…
This leads me to a final thought on this topic. Document your success. Here’s what I mean: You can help your master of ceremonies hit a home run at your meeting by providing him or her with a printed working schedule. This is a valuable tool for your emcee.
This document should fit on a single printed piece of paper. A one-sheet working schedule or “run sheet” becomes the at-a-glance map for your meeting. Your MC will use this as the outline for your platform program. Here’s what you should include on your working schedule:
- The name of your meeting room. I.e. “The Pavillion Ballroom”
- The timing of your pre-production meeting.
- What time your program begins/ends.
- The names of each of your presenters.
- The time frames for each segment of your program.
Example: Shelly Jones/Keynote Speech (45 minutes)
- Transition time between speakers–usually 1 to 3 minutes.
- Rule of thumb: For every 2 hours of program time, allow for a 20 to 30 min restroom and refreshments break.
- Wrap-up segment. This is where the master of ceremonies wraps up your meeting with closing comments, announcements, thanking sponsors, and dismisses your attendees.
What not to put on your working schedule doc.
- A working schedule is an outline–not a complete script—of your meeting agenda.
- You do not need to share much about the content of your program on this “run sheet.” You are capturing the flow of the sessions here.
- The working schedule does not show speaker bios or intros.
(But you should provide your MC with those separately).
- This document is not for the eyes of your attendees. It is for your presenters and production team only.
By hiring an outstanding event emcee—one who really listens to your program needs—you will ensure that your meeting is a memorable one. A working schedule document is a key guide for the man or woman who will be guiding your meeting.
Now get the party started.
Adam Christing is a professional master of ceremonies. He has been called “The Tom Brady of Emcees” and an “Event planner’s dream.” He has worked with more 500 private and public organizations and hosted more than 1,500 live events.