I was at a function recently discussing speaking engagements when a friend turned to me and said excitedly, “I have been asked to be an MC!” I was delighted for her and asked some questions like “When is it, Who to, What format and are you preparing?” To which she gave me a rather blank look and said prepare, format, I don’t need those I am just being a Master of Ceremonies (MC) not giving a speech. I just have turn up and do some introductions isn’t that all there is to it? Well no, I said, there is actually a lot more to it. In fact it is just like giving a speech only in a different format.
The usual MC role that most people are involved in is a wedding MC. However, you can be asked to be MC for a variety of other events: gala dinners, charity events, conference, festivals and seminars to name a few. I have had the honour to be MC for weddings, gala dinners, conferences and festivals.
Each is unique but all have some basic requirements that a good MC should be aware of.
Firstly, there is that word again – Prepare. It is truly amazing how many people go into an MC event with no or minimal preparation. It is a recipe for disaster. Your preparation should include confirmation of the event obtaining details of the format required, any special requirements the organisers wish, outline of the programme, speakers and contact details for the speakers plus enough information on the speakers to enable you to introduce them properly. The organisers may have enough detail on the speakers, if not contact them to get the information you need. My recommendation is that you should always contact, where possible, the speakers. This will break the ice and give you a little bit of insight to enable you to add impact to your introductions. Make notes and have them available to read from when required.
The minimum amount of speaker information required is:
Name – correctly spelled and more importantly correctly pronounced. Practice saying the name phonetically if it is an unusual spelling.
Qualifications / Experience – depending on the format of the event, more for conferences. At a wedding this may just be identifying the relationship to the bride or groom. This helps to establish the credibility of the speaker.
Title of Speech or Presentation – again make sure you have this correct.
A brief outline of the Presentation – depending on the format this may or may not be required (most definitely at seminars or conferences). For festivals for example it may be a description of the next performance. Do not fall into the trap of giving a long outline – this will take away from the speaker’s delivery. The outline should be a teaser, a way of setting the scene for the speaker.
You need to be aware of the timing for the event. Time is often very critical and nearly always there is a risk of going over time. Ensure you keep, as much as possible, to the time allowed. When you contact the speakers you can also use this opportunity to discuss with them their allotted time and reinforce the need to keep to it.
Depending on the event you may require what I call fillers, little anecdotes, jokes or stories that will allow you to fill in any gaps and keep the audience entertained and focussed. These can be very handy when used as transitions when moving from one introduction to another, depending on the occasion and format.
Make sure you dress appropriately for the event – for most occasions you will need to wear business appropriate wear or evening wear. There may be occasions where less formal wear is required, e.g. festivals but even here ensure you are neat and tidy. Nothing outlandish – the MC should in most cases, be very understated – you are there to support the speakers and to keep everything running smoothly. One tip I have found from experience – wear comfortable shoes. As a MC you will often find yourself on your feet for most of the event.
Finally, the MC should be flexible, able to respond quickly to changes or crises and most importantly of all be able to RELAX and have FUN while still being professional.
So you see, as I pointed out to my friend, the role of the Master of Ceremonies is very important and it is one where you have as much responsibility to prepare and present as you do when giving a speech or presentation.
Trish @ Trischel