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“It’s time we highlight the importance of the rehearsal.”

-Jourdan Aldredge, The Beat

You’ve heard the old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” In the world of events, it’s probably more accurate to say, “Practice makes progress.” You want to practice as much as you possibly can before the event. This is where rehearsals come in. 

The main goal of good a rehearsal is to make sure that everyone understands the following:

  • Who is doing what?
  • When are they doing it?
  • Where are they delivering it? 
  • Are the support pieces in place (sound, lighting, props, slides, video)? 
  • How will we handle the transitions?

It is essential to make sure that everyone is on the same page about each of these elements of the program. The success of the event depends entirely on the communication between you, the event coordinator, the AV/tech team, and the event support staff. 

To make the best use of your rehearsal time, run through everything on the schedule and discuss all the logistics involved to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. 

See Related: Q & A – How To Be A Great Emcee

What is the role of the emcee during a rehearsal?

This can change from event to event. In some cases, the master of ceremonies also acts as the show director and/or producer.

Most of the time, you’ll be working with a meeting planner, but I want you to understand something important here: the meeting planner is often busy with things like handling registration, answering attendees’ questions, and finessing last-minute decor.

In other words, he or she will likely have their hands full. If this is the case, the rehearsal will need a guide to help steer things in the right direction. This is where you can step in. 

In other cases– high-end corporate events, for example– there will be a show producer or director. However, as the event MC, you still need to be fully present and engaged in the hours (or even days) leading up to the event.

The emcee’s job is to be an extension of the producer’s vision. Remember: You represent the company that hired you, so you want to do everything you can to ensure the success of their event. 

There are three types of rehearsals:

#1. The Talk-Through

This type of rehearsal should take place during pre-event phone or zoom calls. Many people don’t know this, but a rehearsal actually begins long before anyone arrives at the venue.

This happens during pre-planning calls with members of the event staff/production team. It’s important to always stay focused on a goal and a timeframe for these calls. 

This should happen again prior to the program. Start with the production meeting. This is an on-site gathering with all the presenters, during which time everyone will look at the “run of show” (ROS) and talk through every aspect of the program. These meetings should always be connected with a written agenda, aka the ROS or working schedule. 

Ideally, everyone who will be presenting during the program will meet with you, the event producer, and the AV team in a private room not visible to the attendees. Each participant will have a one-page written agenda that shows the flow of the program. 

It’s important to talk through who will be doing what, when they will be doing it, and where. This is the time to have any questions answered.

It’s also the time for the emcee to finalize details with each presenter and remind them how important it is that they stick to their designated timeframes. 

#2. The Walk-Through

This is also called a technical rehearsal because this is the opportunity for people to see what they’re going to experience on stage and hear how they will sound when delivering their presentations from the platform. Obviously, it’s critical to have the AV team in place for this. 

The purpose of the walk-through is also to experience the “blocking” of the program. “Blocking” is a theatrical term that simply refers to the choreography or movement of the players– or in this case, the presenters. 

For example, will you enter stage right or stage left? Will you enter from backstage or from the green room? Where will you be seated or standing when you are up next? 

The walk-through takes place on the very stage where the event will transpire. This is the time to handle sound, lighting, and video cues. You will need to coordinate with the AV team and communicate very clearly with the presenters to make sure no one misses their cues.

Here’s an example: 

When you introduce the keynote speaker, will he be coming on directly at that moment or will there be a video bumper that shows more about his background before he takes the stage? These are the kinds of questions that will be handled during the walk-through or technical rehearsal.

#3. The Dress Rehearsal

In a play or musical, this usually happens the night before the official opening. In a corporate event, however, my experience is that a dress rehearsal rarely happens at all.

This is because it’s very difficult to get CEOs, keynote speakers, and other special guests to a venue a day or two before the actual conference begins. This is usually because of the cost of travel and lodging, scheduling, et cetera.

That being said, I have seen dress rehearsals take place, especially for formal events like an annual awards program or a high-end gala. The purpose of this type of rehearsal is to deliver the program in its entirety, with only one thing missing: the audience. 

This means that presenters don’t stop when a glitch happens. They continue to go through the program as if the attendees were present.

It’s an excellent way to get the glitches out before delivering the program to a live audience. Every presenter must be present and dressed as they will be for the actual event. The AV team and producer must be present as well.

The success of the event depends on the success of your rehearsals. As the master of ceremonies, it is your job to make sure that every box has been checked and every detail discussed.

Think of it this way: The event is a symphony, and you are the conductor. Use your rehearsals to practice, practice, practice until everyone knows exactly what notes to hit and when so that you are ready to present a beautiful, well-orchestrated program for the audience. 

Because the rehearsal is so vital to the success of the event, you want to make the most effective use of that time. To help you do this, I’d like to go over some things you’ll want to keep from happening during your rehearsals so that no time is wasted. 

Bonus: Preview (and Review) – How To Be A Great Emcee

Mistakes to Avoid:

One person (usually the CEO or organization president) takes all the time.

You will notice that many meeting planners defer to the leader of the company. This makes sense here– after all, he or she is the one paying the bill! But it’s important if you have a voice in this process to make sure that every presenter feels comfortable with what they will be doing onstage. 

Key players are missing from the rehearsal.

In my experience, this happens most of the time because of flight delays or people who just tend to be late. In times like this, you just have to roll with the punches and simply move forward with the people you have on hand.

It’s important if anyone is missing that someone– whether it’s you, the show director, or the producer– gets them up to speed as soon as they arrive at the venue. Make sure they are quickly informed of what time they will go on, where they should be standing/sitting while they wait to go on, and what time they need to conclude their presentation. 

Presenters use this time for “re-dos” instead of “run-throughs.”

Remember that speakers and entertainers can also rehearse on their own at home, in their hotel room, in the garage– you name it. This is not the time for speakers to be trying out new material.

As we have already discussed, the purpose of a rehearsal is to go over what you’ve already prepared to deliver, so this time should not be used for creative brainstorming about the content.

No rehearsals happen at all!

In my experience, it’s always doable to have at the very minimum a talk-through. If at all possible, I urge meeting planners to also have a walk-through or technical rehearsal, because otherwise, it’s very likely that glitches that could be covered during the rehearsal will happen live on stage, in front of the audience. That’s a big no-no. 

You may be surprised that there is a chapter in this book solely dedicated to rehearsals, but it’s important to know that what you do before the program affects how well things will go during the event. Therefore, you should be prepared to give rehearsals your full attention and do everything you can to make sure that your event partners also participate in the process. 

It’s all about making progress towards a tremendous event experience!

Keep Reading: Speakers – 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.