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“Momentum makes meetings magical.”

-Maggie McDonald, Meeting Mavens Magazine

As the master of ceremonies, you are the conductor of the event you have been hired to emcee. It is your job to not only keep the train on the tracks but also to keep that train moving. Maintaining momentum is absolutely critical to hosting a super successful event. 

There are seven keys to keeping an event moving:

See Related: Jokes – How To Be A Great Emcee

#1. Lead a production meeting before the event starts.

Much like in the production process of a film, the work that happens before the cameras even start rolling can save the company a great deal of time and money. In the same way, meeting with everyone involved in the production of your event prior to the start time can help you work out any kinks by talking through them before anyone sets foot on the stage. 

Thorough planning is essential to the success of your event, as is effective communication. Run through every last agenda item with the event staff to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Leave no detail undiscussed. Make sure everyone is clear on what their role is and how to carry out each task. 

As in other pursuits, practice makes perfect. You wouldn’t skip practice in the days leading up to a big game, nor would you put on a play without a rehearsal. It is a good idea to have a “practice run” with the presenters and staff before the event begins. This doesn’t mean that each speaker needs to give their presentation in full during the production meeting. It is just a way to help presenters familiarize themselves with their cues so that no time is wasted. 

#2. Know when and where props will be moved. 

When I say props, I am talking about anything that is on or near the platform or stage. For example, you could have a setup consisting of lecture chairs, a couch, microphones on stands, plants, award tables, and so forth. 

Be aware ahead of time of any transitions that will require any of these items to be removed or rearranged.  

If you have an interviewer coming up onto the stage, make sure he has everything he needs, including plenty of room to accommodate the interviewee(s) on the platform. Oftentimes this means coordinating with your AV team or event support staff so they know exactly when and where to move anything that would impede the natural flow of the program. 

You want to do your best to avoid any awkward transitions. If you wait until the next speaker takes the stage to move the props, you will take away from his or her presentation by distracting the audience. 

#3. Look at the meeting from the POV of the audience. 

This is an important tip that you’ll find repeated throughout these blogs. As the host and emcee, you want to try to experience the meeting or presentation the way an attendee will. 

If you sense that your audience is getting bored, chances are they are getting bored. Be tuned in to the energy in the room (or lack thereof) and do whatever you can to engage and re-engage audience members.

Can attendees hear what’s happening? Can they see what’s happening? Most importantly of all, are they fully experiencing what is happening? 

Sometimes before a program begins and the audience enters the room, I’ll sit in the middle of the auditorium or theater, look at the stage, and listen to the audio so I can anticipate the experience of an audience member. 

Your backstage perspective is not the same as the audience’s point of view, so trying to see the event through their eyes will help you to fine-tune aspects of the production and enhance their experience.

Bonus: Intros and Outros – How To Be A Great Emcee

#4. Have presenters in place. 

Just like in baseball, where the next batter is on deck and the third is in the hole, you want to make sure that when someone is on stage, the next person who will go on is in position and ready to present. 

Don’t assume the speakers know when to do this. Sometimes they will stay in their hotel room until someone calls for them, or they will be in an adjacent room or the tradeshow room, et cetera. It’s your job to ensure that each speaker knows where to be and when. 

You want to have them either right off stage, sitting on the front row, or wherever the designated “on deck” spot is. This will keep your event running smoothly and in a timely manner.

#5. Encourage participation…but stay on top of it. 

One of the best ways to keep a program moving is to encourage lots of audience involvement. 

Inviting participation will make the presentation or event feel more energetic, livelier, and ultimately more fun! 

Warning: Though you want to encourage this kind of interaction, as the event MC you must stay on top of it. What do I mean by this? Simply put, never relinquish control of the proceedings. 

For example, do not pass off your handheld microphone to someone in the crowd, because they might derail the schedule of the program by pontificating on their perspective, going on a rant, or deciding they want to become Mr. or Miss Comedy. 

Remember, keep the train on the tracks. If you put the spotlight on an audience member, they might run away with it. Encourage the audience to participate, but don’t let them steal the show!

#6. Increase the pace of the meeting. 

The most important thing for keeping a meeting moving is momentum. That means pacing. 

There are two things to keep in mind when it comes to pacing: There should always be movement, and you should never have an empty stage.

When you are speaking, making announcements, telling jokes, introducing another speaker, and so on, you want to change your tone of voice, where you’re standing on the platform, and your body language. 

You also want to encourage other presenters to enter and exit the stage quickly. Have them shake hands, fist bump, or give a quick hug– whatever is appropriate in the context. Timing is everything, so make sure that all your presenters know their cues to make room for the next segment of the program.

The point is this: you want to keep the pace UP. As the master of ceremonies, your goal is to put on a dynamic event, not a static one.

#7. End promptly.

This is probably the most important point of all. Your audience is silently hoping that you will let them out either on time or early. 

This goes back to effective clock management. It also involves looking for ways to shave time from various segments of the event rather than adding more time. 

If a speaker is running along, oblivious to the clock in the back of the room, you can stand in his or her line of sight and make a gesture to signal to them that it’s time to wrap it up. You can also shorten introductions and encourage speakers to keep their presentations tight in order to gain back time. 

Everyone will thank you for keeping the program moving by utilizing these seven keys to maintaining momentum. In the end, the company or organization will know that they made the right choice by asking you to be their event MC.

Keep Reading: Listen – How To Be A Great Emcee

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 get posted to this blog category each week.