Have you always wanted to emcee an event?
Or maybe you’ve been asked to emcee a work event and you’re freaking out? If so, you’re in the right place! Learning to emcee is a valuable skill to have, and can help in your overall communication and public speaking abilities.
In this episode you’ll discover 7 effective tips and strategies for being a great MC – ones that I’ve learned and implemented over my years of emceeing events such as conferences, awards ceremonies, networking events and webinars.
What is the role of an emcee?
An MC is the official host of an event, whether it’s a ceremony, conference, convention, party, performance or webinar. Their role is to set the tone for the event, make announcements, make sure it runs to time, provide a segue between each act or speaker, and make sure the audience is engaged and having a good time.
An emcee may also moderate panels of speakers, and facilitate Q&A between the audience and the speakers.
How is emceeing different to giving a presentation?
When we prepare a presentation, we tend to focus on what we are saying. On the content we want to share. And when you’re new to public speaking, or you struggle with it, that tends to be the first place we focus.
But with emceeing, that focus must shift to be 100% on the audience. Now, ideally, any time we speak or present, I would argue that your focus needs to be on the audience anyway. But you can often get away with focusing on yourself. It doesn’t make you the most effective presenter, but with emceeing, there is nowhere to hide. It’s very obvious if an MC is focused on themselves and not the audience.
Example: if the audience is talking, but the MC continuous to talk through the chatter without acknowledging.
Example: MC asks “How is everyone today? Ok Great”. And continues on without pausing for an audience response.
In addition to this, as an emcee, you also have to be a LOT more comfortable with dealing with spontaneity. There are many moving parts to an event, and things will always shift and change, and potentially go wrong. You need to take it all in your stride and be the calm anchor point for your audience throughout.
How To Be A Great Emcee For A Corporate Event
1. Create the mindset: “It’s not about me”
It’s very easy to get nervous when preparing for an MC role, just like any other speaking opportunity, but you must remember, it’s not about YOU. You’re not the star of the show here.
Unless you’re a professional comedian or hip hop emcee, people aren’t here to see you, they’re here to: see the speakers, connect with other people, or drink as much free alcohol as possible.
That is my mindset going in. So have some fun with it. You’re not expected to put on a show. You’re not expected to be funny. If they wanted someone funny and entertaining, they would have booked Amy Schumer. Or, if they have less budget, Dave Hughes.
2. Do your research
Arrange a call with the event organiser and ask them the following questions:
- How many people are coming?
- What are the seating arrangements?
- Who is in the audience?
- Why are they there?
- What do they want to get out of the event?
- Is there anything else I need to know about the audience?
- Run through name pronunciations
- What mic will you be using?
- Is there a lectern?
- Do you need to bring an iPad? Will they provide one?
- How will changes to the run sheet be communicated?
Finding out these answers will help you to prepare and will reduce your nerves. The more you find out about the audience, the easier it is to connect with them and build rapport on the day. Making your job much easier!
3. Practice your strong opening
The piece I spend the most amount of time on is the opening 3-5 minutes. I choose to not use notes or a lectern for the opening, so I practice my script over and over until I am confident with it and it’s embedded in my brain. This might take an hour the day before, and 30 minutes on the day.
In terms of content for your opening, have a listen to my episode 180 on How to Start a Presentation Strong.
Two things I always include in an opening:
- Get a cheer early. For example: “Welcome to [even name]. How are you all feeling?” (lukewarm clapping and a few cheers). “Ok, I get it, a quarter of you are excited and the rest of you are still asleep. But let’s get excited, we have a fabulous event planned for you today, so let’s hear it, how is everyone doing today?!” (much bigger cheer and clapping). Don’t let the audience get away with a weak opening cheer!
- Ask the audience to raise their hands as to why they are here (this is where your research from Step 2 comes in!). I always do sets of 3, and make it ‘normal, normal, funny’. ie:
“Hands up if you’re here to learn and be inspired from our speakers?” (people raise hands)
“Hands up if you’re here to connect with other likeminded people?” (More people raise hands)
“And hands up if you’re here because your boss made you come?” (a bunch of hands raised and laughter
4. Set the tone
You need to understand that YOU’RE running the show, NOT the speakers. As an MC, you’re the one on stage holding the mic. That’s power. And with great power, comes great responsibility. It’s your responsibility to set the tone for the event, from the beginning.
Think about what you want the tone of the event to be. Is it serious? Fun? Inspirational? Whatever it is, you set the tone. If you’re anxious and nervous, other people will be too. I think of it like you’re a high energy fitness instructor. If you’re at 80%, don’t expect your audience to get to 100%.
5. Make the speakers feel like rock stars
Just because you’re sent a lengthy bio doesn’t mean you have to read it verbatim. If you can, talk to the speakers before they go on, and ask them which bits you can cut out. I also like to add a sentence about what the audience will take away from the presentation, so ask the speaker “What’s one thing you’d like the audience to walk away with?”
Also, make their name the LAST thing you say. It creates a fantastic build up and makes the speaker feel really special. For example:
Our next speaker is Taylor Swift, who is here to share her journey of becoming one of the worlds biggest pop stars! Please give Taylor a big round of applause.
Our next speaker is here to share her journey of becoming one of the worlds biggest pop stars! Make sure you make her feel very welcome, put your hands together in a huge round of applause for…TAYLOR SWIFT!!
6. Have empathy for your audience
Sitting all day at a conference is HARD. You know why TED talks are less than 18 minutes long? That’s how long people’s attention span is. 20 minutes. So think about the poor audience. At a lot of events, the sessions often go for 45 minutes to an hour, or multiple days. It’s exhausting!
If you want the best for your audience AND the best for the speakers, keep the audience engaged. And you DON’T need to be a standup comedian. I like to get them up and moving. Here are some ideas:
- Get people to stand up and have a stretch
- Get them to change seats
- Talk to the person next to them – what’s one thing you learned from the speaker?
7. Stay hydrated and calm
When you’re a speaker, you’re on for those 20 minutes or whatever, but when you’re MC, you’re ON the WHOLE TIME. Even when an act is on, you’re thinking about the next bit, checking the schedule, having people tell you “don’t forget to announce this!”
It can get super exhausting, so you need to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, and in between, take lots of deep breaths to stay calm and focused. I don’t recommend drinking coffee, you’ll have enough adrenaline running through your system anyway. And I know it’s easier said than done, but try to get a good sleep the night before!
So there you go – 7 strategies for being a great emcee for a corporate event. I wish you all the very best as you go forth and give emceeing a go! And if you’re looking for an experience, high energy emcee for your next event, I’m happy to have a chat. Reach out here.