5 Ways To MC A Conference So Skillfully, You’re Hired Again and Again

How To MC A Conference

Maybe you’ve hosted live events before, but a conference is an entirely new challenge.

Don’t fret! Here are my 5 insider tips on how to EMCEE a conference with poise, control, and polish.

See Related: How to Conduct a Business Meeting in 6 Easy Steps

How to EMCEE a Conference #1: Ease the clients’ worries

Chances are, the event coordinator has put months of work into preparing for this multi-day event. Many, many months.

Securing speakers, making travel arrangements, finding caterers – the list goes on. How can you help make their life easier?

A successful MC asks questions

Ask the client thoughtful and useful questions in advance so that your work integrates seamlessly with the event.

The client will appreciate your thoroughness and feel confident in your abilities. Here are a few questions you should ask:

Attendees listen to tips they will write down and clap for speaker who has great audience controlWhat is the main purpose of the conference?

Ask your client to explain conference’s purpose to you in detail. Why?

This will help you make decisions regarding tone, content, humor, and more.

Attendees exchange phone numbers when going from one segment to next segmentWhat might the purpose of a business conference be?

The purpose could be to foster idea sharing amongst top industry professionals influential in current affairs. This would impact the way you structure your emceeing.

Or it might be to spark interest amongst young industry newcomers. This might inform different decisions as far as your hosting.

Maybe the purpose is to review new protocols that everyone must be aware of. Again, this should impact the choices you make as a corporate emcee.

Who is attending the conference?

Learning the purpose of the conference can give you some hints here, but never assume. Always ensure that you have specific information to work with.

Understanding who your audience will be comprised of will help you tailor the conference to their specific desires and needs.

Room of attendees listen to speakers talk on stageA great corporate MC knows who’s in the room

Are attendees mainly high-level industry executives looking for rejuvenation? Are they freshly graduated college students, ready to take on the corporate world?

Are they circus performers from around the world looking to learn new skills? Chefs who specialize in French cuisine (okay, now I’m hungry!)?

How to EMCEE a Conference #2: Move things along

While a good MC knows how to improvise, it is best to keep extemporization to a minimum. You will feel more confident if you’ve structured your days’ responsibilities.

Set a clear plan for each day of the event and stick to it. This will reduce dead air, keep the momentum up, and keep energy high.

Virtual host keeps things moving and makes opening announcementsMinimize top-of-day housekeeping

Anticipation and energy will run high in the mornings as the event starts. People are juiced up on their coffee and (hopefully) well-rested from the night before.

Don’t weigh that excitement down with a ton of logistical talk. Here’s what I mean:

Hit the key points

Keep your notes ready and cover the absolutely necessary housekeeping points. Safety protocols are, of course, vital to share with the audience.

Then, move right into the planned event schedule.

Make extra logistics available to attendees in pamphlets or on the conference website (preferably both!).

Speaker on stage makes speech before attendees go on breakAlways run tech beforehand

Most professional venues will provide a run sheet and lead a sound check.

However, if these are not provided to you, request them.

The first time you step onstage should not be when the actual conference begins.

Speaker on stage in front of blue background is happy to introduce another speakerYou need practice walking across the stage.

You need to hold the microphone in your hand.

You need to get comfortable making eye contact with the audience.

Tech rehearsals are key to a successful event.

Woman in audience smiles at funny presentation in first few minutes of eventPrepare introductions and transitions

Your client has dedicated meaningful effort to securing the lineup of speakers.

Ensure that each is given the introduction they deserve.

The next speaker should feel as esteemed as the previous speaker.

A good master of ceremonies does their research

Research each speaker thoroughly and highlight their major accomplishments succinctly.

Introduce speakers by connecting them to the purpose of the event – why is this speaker talking to this particular audience?

Lone speaker on stage makes gesture toward audience while making a point during presentationIn the same vein…

Prepare timely ways to transition between speakers.

The audience should always feel confident that you are “steering the ship.”

Put your end-of-day wrap-up to use

Your audience will be running low on energy by the end of the day.

They’ll want some cold drinks. So, put a concise button on the day with a quick wrap-up.

Audience in event room listens to speakers on stage give presentationTell a quick closing story

Express gratitude to the day’s speakers, do a short recap, and confirm how the day will run tomorrow.

Consider sharing a fast, relevant anecdote about the day.

Then, send guests on their way to relax and enjoy their evenings.

Your closing ceremony may be more involved, but extended goodbyes can be indulgent and I generally advise against them.

Host on stage keeps things moving and looks at notes to introduce guests making speechesBonus: The 7 Elements Of Public Speaking That Can Make Or Break Your Message

How to EMCEE a Conference #3: Capture the tone

As the corporate MC, the audience will look to you to set the tone of the event.

Serious, lighthearted, somber, rigorous, playful?

Use the following tips to make intentional choices and guide the attendees in the right direction.

Understand the audience’s preferences

As we discussed in #1, you need to know who the audience members will be.

Part of the reason for this is so you can make decisions regarding the conference’s tone.

Room watches host on stage give speech with tips on hostingWhat do you mean, the “tone”?

For example, an audience of savvy business people looking to network probably prefer you avoid small talk.

However, an audience of nervous young graduates may have a high energy vibe and appreciate a more welcoming, almost parental sensibility.

Maintain open communication with the event planner

And of course, if you have any questions regarding the tone, speak with your client.

They will appreciate your thoroughness!

Fun virtual team meeting end of weekMake intentional choices regarding humor

Humor can be a tricky subject for a master of ceremonies to navigate.

It can be a daunting task to know what an audience wants as far as humor.

The many faces of “funny”

For example, a group of middle-aged suits with tight neckties may be looking for a good chuckle!

Or, a teen event may surprise you with their razor-sharp focus.

“Funny” is subjective

My advice is to trust your instincts, do your research, and consult with your client.

Man makes speech to introduce guests to personWhen in doubt, throw some softball humor into your introduction and see how it lands.

It won’t take long for you to sense how open an audience is to laughter.

Also, different things make different people laugh. Don’t be discouraged if the first try doesn’t land so well. This takes practice!

How to EMCEE a Conference #4: Establish the pace

Remember, a multi-day event is a marathon and not a sprint for the master of ceremonies.

Set a sustainable pace that keeps energy high but won’t burn you or your audience out.

Man speaking to crowd to introduce fun team with hosting tipsStay healthy

I don’t mean to sound like a nagging father, but this is important.

When you are the corporate MC for a multi-day event, you are the person everyone looks to for guidance and structure.

It is vital for the conference’s success and the client’s satisfaction that you stay healthy for the duration.

Drink water, eat foods that make you feel energized, and get plenty of sleep. Do activities that help you stay calm, like walking, meditating, or talking to friends.

The event may double as a party for attendees, but you are there to do your job.

Man with laptop smiles and claps for speech that made great point to most people in roomDo not sacrifice quality for quickness

I’m sure there is a lot of material to get through over the course of the event. However, never sacrifice quality.

If you’ve planned your pacing out correctly, you should be able to present everything while maintaining a comfortable tempo.

Find a happy medium

And remember, a comfortable tempo is not just for you. The audience needs to be able to hear and process the words you are saying.

This means that volume and clarity are just as important as pacing.

Guests clap for opening statement that had focus on hosting a funny team meetingHow to EMCEE a Conference #5: Embrace flexibility

No matter how much you prepare, surprises will always arise at a multi-day event like a conference.

My advice is to create contingency plans and stay loose. You can handle anything that comes your way!

Prepare for cancellations

Most speakers will stay well. Other speakers, however, are going to get sick or have family emergencies arise, and they will cancel.

Diverse group of people smile and exchange words after they hear opening wordsThis can mean a few things:

Perhaps the event coordinator will hire a backup speaker to take their place. In this case, you must go through all of your preparation for this new speaker.

Learn their story, connect their accomplishments to the audience, and prepare a compelling introduction.

Unexpected breaks

Or, the planner may simply leave that time slot empty. This may give you a quick breather in the middle of the long event.

Take advantage of this: rest, eat, exercise, or review your notes for the next speaker.

Audience clap and exchange words after great opening meetingSchedule surprises are basically guaranteed

Cancellations are always a possibility, but so are additions!

If a renowned award winner lets the event planner know they are available, chances are they will be smushed into the lineup.

Breathe and stay positive

You’ve got this. Do your research and write a simple, effective introduction.

If this means you need to shave minutes off of your transitions, go ahead and do that.

Attendees mill about and exchange words over coffee after listening to speaker discuss an important matterRemember, your flexibility is a testament to how good you are at your job.

You can fit any situation into an entertaining and well-organized message!

Let’s wrap this up!

It can feel intimidating to be asked to act as event emcee at entire multi-day event such as a conference.

They often last multiple days, are extremely well-attended, and can even have high public visibility for the master of ceremonies.

So, approach a conference with the same organization and attention to detail you would any other event. Go step-by-step. Ask questions.

Attendees listen to speaker with great audience control give tips on career preparationAnd remember these key points:

How to EMCEE a Conference #1: Ease the clients’ worries.

How to EMCEE a Conference #2: Move things along.

How to EMCEE a Conference #3: Capture the tone.

How to EMCEE a Conference #4: Establish the pace.

How to EMCEE a Conference #5: Embrace flexibility.

With that, you are off to the races! Good luck!

Attendees discuss tips they found useful from the afternoon talk over coffeeKeep Reading: 5 Steps To Make The Most Of Your Virtual Career Fair

Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetingsspecial eventsgala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on InstagramFacebookPinterestLinkedIn, and YouTube.