~ By Charmaine Hammond, CSP, MA, BA
As a speaker, I often get the opportunity to meet many amazing emcees who masterfully create powerful connections between the audience and the speaker they are about to hear.
I’ve seen exceptional emcees create meaningful energy for the room, who model how to show up (they set the expectations for the audience by showing how to “be” at the event), and who honour the event host.
Unfortunately, I meet just as many emcees who make the event about them.
The role of an emcee is an important one. The host is counting on you to do a number of things that will keep the event on track and ensure long lasting and successful event results. Their desire is to create a positive experience for the audience that will forge a bond of trust, inspire them to attend again, and generate good gossip or chatter about that event for a long time to come.
In addition to the effect on the audience, the host is also looking to you to help recognize the sponsors and create a buzz that supports those brands.
The key idea to being an effective emcee is remembering: it is NOT about you.
Another important strategy is to learn from the mistakes of others. Below are the ones I see all too often.
The most common emcee mistakes:
Emcee Mistake #1: Ad libbing the speaker bio
When speakers provide you with a carefully crafted introduction, it allows you to powerfully introduce the speaker to the audience. The introduction demonstrates the speaker’s credentials, makes it clear why the speaker has been chosen to speak for the event, and helps create connection between the speaker and the audience. When emcees replace words in the introduction, shorten the introduction, or simply repeats things like “you will love her!”, “she’s so awesome!”, and “he’s amazing!”, the speaker is devalued. Such comments come across more like you are introducing friends at a bar or casual event versus as a respected authority. Being too casual or general also minimizes your own credibility as the emcee.
Emcee Mistake #2: Pointing out mistakes and blaming people
Blaming people creates weird energy. Don’t say to the audience, “Looks like the hotel staff forgot our Kleenex,” or “You should all have an agenda in front of you. ...Oh, I see someone forgot to hand them out.” Simply fix the problem, warmly request what needs to happen, or don’t draw any attention to things that can’t be handled in the moment. Always create an environment of respect and gratitude. When the hotel staff brings the Kleenex in, thank them for taking such great care of the audience.
Emcee Mistake #3: Name blunders
Mispronouncing someone’s name is unpleasant for everyone involved. Ask in advance how to pronounce the names of everyone you will introduce (write down the names as they sound). Be sure to connect with the event coordinator to find out how soon in advance you will receive each speaker’s bio so that you can plan when to review and confirm your understanding of the names and vocabulary. If you know you are the emcee well enough in advance, you can coach the event coordinator on what you need from each speaker to be successful in your role. Ask for bios written in big bold fonts and for phonetic spellings of names. There’s nothing worse than being in the moment and trying to read a speaker bio written in light grey, 10-point font, unless you have your reading glasses or a magnifying glass at hand. Discourage the use of any italic fonts because it may “look pretty”. In a dark room, it is super tough to read anything out of the ordinary. Whenever I provide my bio, I include my name as “Charmaine Hammond” and in yellow highlighter beside my name it says (pronounced “SHAR-MANE”).
Emcee Mistake #4: Downplaying sponsor support
Sponsors are a crucial part of an event. While the emcee may not be aware of the sponsor’s contribution, it is important to recognize sponsors in a meaningful way. Don’t just say, “We’d like to thank the event sponsors” or ask a sponsor to stand up and give a wave. Tell the audience that the event was supported by sponsors (and whatever other scripting the host provides you). Don’t veer off script; the wording of the script may actually be a legal requirement for how the sponsor is to be recognized at the event, based on a contract between the host and the sponsor. Again, similar to the names of speakers, make sure you know how to pronounce the brand and company sponsor names. Avoid feeling tempted to shorten the company names. For example, if the name of the business is Waves Coffee, don’t just say “Waves.” Help sponsored feel valued.