“Greetings and farewells set the tone, pace, and energy transfer between people.”
-Sam Makhoul, A Higher Branch Success Academy
Imagine you’re watching a movie at a big screen theater, and you notice that you need to use the restroom. I want to make a bet with you.
Chances are, you don’t get up to use the restroom at the beginning of the movie or as the movie is reaching its crescendo and ending. No, you slip out during one of the boring parts.
As the master of ceremonies, you don’t want a single moment of a meeting to be boring, but you want to pay especially close attention to how the meeting opens and closes– and your part of that in particular.
I’d like to begin by talking about your welcome. The welcome is so important because it truly does set the tone for the entire event, so you want to bring enthusiasm and lots of positive energy.
Keep in mind that this is the audience’s first impression of you– so make it a good one! Here are four ways to nail your welcome.
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4 Ways to GRAB Them with Your Welcome
GREET the attendees
That’s right– start the meeting with a greeting! The first thing you want to do is say hello, introduce yourself (if you haven’t been introduced already), and welcome everyone to the gathering.
REMIND them of the big “why”
You want to let them know that this is a party with a purpose. Here’s an example:
“We’re so glad you’re attending our annual kickoff meeting! We are here to make sure that this new year is our best ever in terms of sales, service, and safety. Are you ready?”
ANNOUNCE the title or theme of the meeting
Just as an orchestra leader strikes a key note at the beginning of a concert, as the leader of an event, you want to set the tone right at the top of the meeting by letting them know what the theme is.
Example: “This year our theme is ‘Unstoppable!’”
You want to let the attendees know that as the host, you know where you’re going and that you’re about to take them on a wonderful journey that you will be sharing together.
You want to get across the idea that this is not going to be a wild ride, nor is it going to be a mild ride. It’s going to be a wonderful, shared experience that they are sure to remember.
Example: “Well buckle up, everybody– it’s going to be an awesome ride. Let’s get started!”
Mistakes to Avoid in the Opening
Like any other aspect of emceeing a big event, there are good ways to approach your welcome and there are bad ways to approach it. Now that we have gone over some tips for a great welcome, let’s talk about some mistakes you want to avoid.
#1. Trying to do too much
Although it is important to establish yourself as the master of ceremonies, this is not the time to show them everything you can do.
I’ve seen hosts perform a tap dance (literally), tell some jokes, sing a song, make announcements, and even go into the audience and dance with an attendee– all before introducing the first guest speaker.
This isn’t the time for that. Your goal in the opening is to set the table for a wonderful meal that you will be sharing as an event family, not to bring out all the courses at once.
#2. Not establishing yourself
The audience wants to know they’re in good hands. To use another body part metaphor, they also want to know that you have a good heart.
Establishing trust in the opening is important. I do this by genuinely thanking the audience and the sponsoring organization for the privilege of being the master of ceremonies.
I also like to let them know that I am a lot of fun to listen to, so I will weave in a joke or a brief funny moment (but nothing over the top or time-consuming) so that they’re thinking, hey, we’re going to enjoy this guy.
#3. Rushing instead of building rapport
As I’ve been saying throughout these chapters, pacing is important. Keep the train rolling but be careful that you don’t rush through your opening.
Take a deep breath before you go onstage. Let the audience know that although it’s going to be an exciting time, it’s not going to feel rushed or hurried. They will enjoy the program more when they sense that you are enjoying it every step of the way.
We tend to remember how things start and how things end. Don’t allow the wrap-up to be a simple afterthought. I like to use the ALOHA acronym when delivering my wrap-up because “aloha” is a Hawaiian way of saying “hello” or “goodbye.”
The root meaning of this word is “the breath of life.” I find this to be very fitting for the close of an event because you want the ending of your meeting to feel like a breath of fresh air– a reminder that everyone has just inhaled a wonderful time together.
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ACKNOWLEDGE the company or hosting organization
“We want to thank Chevron for having this annual dinner again this year, and we also want to thank all our wonderful sponsors and vendors who have been here with us tonight. Let’s give them a round of applause!”
By acknowledging the company or sponsoring organization, you are once again putting the focus on them and reminding the attendees that the event would not have been possible without their time and effort.
LEAVE them on a high note
“Wow, we raised a lot of money tonight for a great cause, and you were part of it!”
As you prepare to dismiss the audience one final time, it’s a good idea to re-emphasize the positives that came out of the evening. You want the attendees to leave feeling satisfied and invigorated, not tired and impatient to get home.
Sometimes leaving them on a high note means helping them remember one or two of the highlights of the gathering. Other times it means creating a special high note that surprises and delights the attendees.
This might mean surprising them by having the CEO come out and play for a few moments on her saxophone. It might mean a greeting from a special celebrity guest, or it might mean that you have created a brief, winsome poem that reminds everyone of what a fantastic experience they’ve just had.
The key here is to put a smile on everyone’s face without taking up a lot of time.
OPENLY express gratitude as the host
Just as I like to open a program by connecting heart-to-heart with the audience, I like to sincerely thank people from my heart.
Example: “I’ve emceed many events over the years, and tonight is one I will always remember. Thank you for the privilege of having me as your host this evening.”
HONOR the key players
Don’t go overboard here, because you don’t want this to feel like a super long Academy Awards program, but you do want to honor the key players involved in the event. For example:
“We want to thank our AV team, our speakers, our planning committee, our senior leadership team, and YOU, our awesome attendees, for being here tonight!”
Try to memorize three or four of these key names, but don’t worry if you need to bring a 3 x 5 card up and glance at it when you honor these wonderful people.
The word “amen” really means “and so it is,” but we also think of it as a word of agreement. It’s a word for saying “yes,” and when many of us say a prayer, it’s the last thing we say.
Think clearly about the very last thing you’re going to say to the audience before you send them off.
Example: “This concludes our 15th annual award show. Good night!”
Your wrap-up is your final interaction with the audience, so you want to make sure you leave them with a lasting impression. You’ve all had a wonderful evening together, and now it’s time to send them out with a bang! I suggest using the ALOHA acronym to deliver a beautiful wrap-up, as well as avoiding the following mistakes.
Mistakes to Avoid in the Closing
#1. Putting announcements at the very end
Because you want to leave everyone feeling great, what I suggest you do is put any final housekeeping announcements before your wrap-up.
You might say something like, “Make sure you get your parking tickets validated on your way out,” or, “If you’ve purchased a silent auction item, please take care of that as you exit this evening,” and, “Remember, if you’ve won one of the centerpiece arrangements, you’re welcome to take that with you now,” and then proceed to your wrap-up.
#2. Ending on a “?” instead of a “!”
Don’t conclude a meeting by saying something like “So I’m not sure who to turn it over to now…”
If you are handing it over to another presenter, think of that as your final introduction to the program and deliver it with confidence. Most importantly, you want to end on a note of exclamation, a note of thanks, and an upbeat word of gratitude.
#3. Not leaving the audience feeling great about the meeting
I’ve seen too many emcees conclude a program with a big information dump. Like the wonderful quote from Sam Makhoul tells us, a great MC understands that the work is primarily about the transfer of energy between people.
Make sure that the emotion people are leaving with is one of gratitude and happiness. You don’t want to overload them with more information to remember.
The way you greet people matters. The way you say goodbye to people also matters. Give this some thought, practice your welcome and your wrap-up, and leave everyone feeling great!
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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.