To be a great emcee you need to employ all of the presentation skills you’ve learned over the years: projection of your voice, poise, and body language that suits the content of your script and mood of the event. But you also need to remember that you’re not the star of the show. Your job is to serve as host, set the mood, highlight the other speakers or performers, and keep the program rolling along.
Here are just a few quick tips to help you prepare for your next emcee role:
- Find out as much as you can about the event and what the client wants: Whether you’re emceeing a wedding reception, an awards ceremony, a press conference or a corporate event, you need to understand the expectations of the person who requested your services. What atmosphere do they hope you’ll help foster? What is the purpose of the event? Who will be in attendance? Will the client be giving you a detailed script or simply an order of service/event overview? Gather as much information as you can before you start your preparation.
- If it’s a scripted event, try to get the script as far ahead of time as possible. Go through it and make clarifications with the client. Find out how to pronounce unfamiliar names or terms, and write them out phonetically on your script. Read it aloud, and adjust the wording (if permitted) in subtle ways so that it sounds natural to you.
- Share something about yourself. Depending on the expectations of the client, add in a short personal story or comments that are relevant to the event content. It may help break the ice and endear the audience to you (e.g. “I remember when I first saw road cycling…watching the Tour de France on television with my mom and admiring the athletes’ endurance and strength. Well, we are fortunate to have a former Tour de France athlete with us today…join me in welcoming John Smith!”).
- If time allows, find a way to acknowledge the previous speaker or performance. Summarize one or two key points from their presentation or share your admiration for a special move they’ve made. Take notes while you’re listening or watching, so it’s easy to summarize or comment.
- Try to find creative ways to link the speeches or performances. You can do this by pointing out common themes in the content they’ve shared, or, if you’re able, develop clever segues that smoothly move from one portion of the agenda to the next.
- Watch the clock. If things are running late, cut unnecessary chatter in between agenda items. Sometimes the proceedings move much more quickly than expected. Be sure to arrive with a backup plan (that you’ve cleared with the client) to fill in the time (e.g. a quick interview with someone, a short break in the program, a musical interlude, etc).
This is by no means a comprehensive list of emcee tips, but a basic start. Just like any other skill, emceeing takes practice. If you make a misstep, cut yourself some slack. Every event has its bumps and surprises. With experience and time, you’ll find yourself better able to enjoy the event itself. After all, emcees often have the best seat in the house.