“Everyone needs a secret weapon, an X-Factor.”
-Xavier Van De Lanotte, Author of Our X Factor
X-Factors are hard to define.
They are qualities or skills you possess that make you feel more powerful, make you look cool, and give you an advantage in a sport, competition, or another endeavor. X-Factors give you a certain edge or appeal in many situations.
I have discovered five such X-Factors when it comes to being an eX-traordinary master of ceremonies.
If I could give you five secret weapons, five special advantages that will tip the odds in your favor when you are emceeing an event, it would be these five “X-Factors.”
See Related: Welcome & Wrap-Up – How To Be A Great Emcee
Five X-Factors to Help You Succeed as an Event Emcee
#1. Spend time with company leaders prior to the meeting.
Share a meal the night before the kickoff. Few things will help you feel more connected to another person than breaking bread with them, so make it a point to hang out with the key leaders prior to the start of the event.
Usually, this is lunch, dinner, or cocktail time prior to the first meeting. Use this time to get to know the leaders personally. What makes them tick? What are some of their values? Most importantly, what makes them excited about the company and the event you are emceeing?
Attend the welcome reception and introduce yourself to the stakeholders. Find out who the movers and shakers are. Sometimes it’s not just the meeting planner or even the CEO or owners of the company.
It might be investors, it might be board members, or it may be key donors of a nonprofit. Whoever it is, get to know them and ask them about some of their strong convictions about the organization you’re representing.
Ask the CEO or president what he or she loves most about the organization. I find this to be a very powerful question. I’ll put it something like this:
“Hey, Lily, what do you love most about your company, and what are you most excited about this upcoming year?”
Most of the time, you’ll see the leader light up and answer the question with great passion and enthusiasm. The reason I suggest taking the time to talk to the leaders on a deeper level is this: your goal is to transfer their excitement to the audience when you host the event.
#2. Focus 100% ONLY on now and what’s next
This is one of the biggest tips I can share with you. In this line of work, it’s very tempting to think about the next session, tomorrow’s meeting, your flight, your clothing, and so on– but you want to be completely present with what’s happening in this very moment and totally tuned in to what needs to happen next.
Remember that the audience is connected to your presence, not your planning. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be thorough in your planning– it means that if you have done proper planning before the event, you should be able to be fully present during the event.
Whenever possible, I like to sit in the front row with the audience so that I can see what they’re seeing, hear what they’re hearing, and feel what they’re feeling. This way, when I get back to the platform, I am echoing the energy in the room and amplifying it as much as I can.
If you are truly focused, you should never lose sight of who and what you are introducing the next time you go up. Something remarkable may happen on the platform and you want to reflect that emotion.
But don’t get so swept up in that moment that you forget to cue the next presenter, video, or special guest. Always know what needs to happen next. Worry about the million details later!
#3. Feel what the audience is feeling
We just touched on this briefly, but I’d like to expand on it a bit more. It’s about more than paying attention and being present– it’s about fully immersing yourself in the audience’s experience. This means being able to reflect the audience’s emotions and reveal your own.
As a corporate MC, you will likely host a wide range of events. Some will be more impactful and emotionally charged than others. Whatever the event or cause may be, you want to do your best to echo the sentiment or message being given by the company or organization that hired you.
Think of yourself as an extension of the meeting planner’s goals for the event, as well as an extension of the audience’s emotions. One of my favorite quotations is based on the word intimacy and how it can also mean “into me, see.”
I like to share with the audience how I’m experiencing the speakers, the music, and the program itself, especially when it connects with the obvious way that they’re feeling it.
At the same time, I try to be careful not to overelaborate. Here’s how it might sound at an actual event:
“Incredible. Thank you so much, Tonya, for sharing that powerful message. I made so many notes, I’m going to have to narrow it down to a Top 10 list. Let’s give her a big round of applause!”
In order to help you get in touch with the audience’s perspective, you might also walk into the crowd during the meeting. You will better connect with what the audience is feeling when you’re physically closer to them.
Whenever possible, I like to call audience members up to the stage. I also like to walk in their midst during the sessions so that I feel a constant link between the people and the program.
Move the seats as close to the stage as possible. This step is repeated throughout these chapters.
The closer they get, the better you’ll get as an emcee.
#4. The microphone is your best friend
Have the microphone in hand or attached to you at all times, even in your seat. You don’t want to have to go running for a microphone if an emergency comes up. You don’t want to be searching for your mic when a last-minute announcement needs to be made.
I like to work with the audio technician and have him or her keep my volume off, but always keep an eye on me and crank it up whenever they see me standing or speaking. In some cases, I will walk over to the audio tech and say, “As soon as this video ends, pull my audio up,” because I plan to do a voiceover.
Staying connected to the audience is also all about staying connected to your voice and amplifying it through your handheld microphone. A big piece of this is learning to do voiceovers to get the audience primed.
You’re always the master of ceremonies, even when the audience doesn’t see you. Sometimes you’ll slow the program down by continually going up and down the steps to the stage. You want to avoid doing this. There are situations in which it’s best to just do a quick voiceover.
This can be a way to save time when the program is running too long. You can stand at the back of the room or at the AV station and simply do a voiceover, saying something like, “Let’s have a big round of applause for Mike Jenkins! And now please join me in watching this video.”
Other times when voiceovers are helpful are when you’re getting the audience primed to take their seats and when you’re getting ready to go on a break.
It’s important to develop a good working relationship with the audio technician. I love to introduce myself to the lighting person, the catering manager, and of course, the meeting planner– but if I could choose only one key partner at any event, it would be the “sound guy.”
It’s not always a man, but it’s always an important person. What makes them so important?
They control how you sound, as well as when your audio comes on and goes off. If you sense that this person is asleep at the wheel, you will want to encourage them to be super attentive to what you are doing and when you are speaking.
#5. Present the program to the audience like a string of pearls
This is a beautiful metaphor because ultimately you want to give the audience a gift. Introduce each element of the program as a prized presentation– as though it’s one bead in your string of pearls.
Conclude sessions by reminding attendees how great it was to see and hear each piece they just experienced. I often do this during my recap of each session, especially at the end of the entire program. It’s important to weave together the various elements of the program and tie them to the theme.
When you emphasize this, you’re letting your attendees know that great care has been taken in the creation and execution of this event. In other words, this makes the company, the meeting planner, the speakers, and you look great!
There are a few common mistakes that emcees tend to make when it comes to X-Factors. I like to call these “Hex Factors.”
Here are five things that will doom your effectiveness as the emcee:
#1. Reading everything you say instead of speaking from the heart
The people in the room want to connect with your heart and your head (in that order). When you spend too much time reading, not only are your eyes down, but their spirits may go down as well.
#2. Starting late and ending late
My suggestion is this: Get the ball rolling even if the audience is not completely seated. Take the two minutes before the program start time to play a video or display a slide that lets people know that the program will be starting in just two minutes. This will encourage them to quickly find their seats and get settled.
If you find at the start time that people are still not in their seats, start anyway. You’ll be setting the tone that promptness matters for this session and for the entire gathering.
#3. Winging it instead of being over-prepared
While I want you to become a master of off-the-cuff humor and ad-libbing, I want to caution you against relying solely on those things. Even if you have a wonderful, clever personality and those things come naturally to you, don’t underestimate the power of being prepared.
Don’t make the mistake of flying by the seat of your pants. Even the most charming, quick-witted emcees still need to invest time in thorough preparation.
Trust your preparation, and then you’ll feel the freedom to be more spontaneous.
#4. Stealing the spotlight instead of focusing it on the key people and purpose
Keep 100% of the focus on the presenters, the program, and the audience. Remember that you are the glue of the show, not the star. The company that hired you to emcee their event is asking you to promote them, not yourself.
#5. Not taking command
The audience is silently hoping that you will grab their attention as well as their hearts, take them by the hand, and lead them on a journey through a great meeting experience.
If you are passive about your role as the event MC, you will fail to capture the interest of your audience. They want to be excited and invested– they want someone who will give them a reason to care about the event and its goals. That person is you!
There are many other X-Factors that we haven’t discussed in this chapter– you may have one or two of your own already. Everyone is different, so we all have X-Factors that are unique to us.
We all have gifts that enable us to connect with others in interesting and exciting ways. I want to encourage you to identify and strengthen yours in a way that will help you become a more effective master of ceremonies.
Keep Reading: You – 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.