Answer Yourself! A blog by Sukhpreet Singh

A blog on personal development, entrepreneurship & change.

21st September 2007

What I learned about being an Emcee.

Opportunity knocked on my door. Was I able to recognize it and grab it? What helped me to take the decision and what helped me after I took the decision? What did I learn?

Lets examine:Emcee - Master of Ceremonies

I am talking about an opportunity to be an Emcee – Master of Ceremonies – at a birthday party of about 400 people.

Was I able to recognize it and grab it? Yes. I got a call from someone in my extended family to be the Emcee at his party. I still don’t know why he picked me, but I was happy to get his call. Within 15-20 seconds my mind saw an opportunity and I said, “Yes, I will be glad to be emcee of your party.” The reasons are as follows:

  1. To jump the gap; break the vacuum; leap of faith: I wanted to graduate from comfort of speaking at Toastmaster meetings to a more real-world environment. Everyday I envision myself as a great speaker to bring about the “change”, to be able to “influence” others, to be a “lighthouse” [after having developed a strong character.]. And I saw this as a baby step towards that direction.
  2. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I know that I will give many presentations, speak in front of investors, employees, and clients. So why not test myself in front of an informal gathering – warm waters.
  3. Free marketing of ME Inc. I will be able to expose myself to so many people in just an hour – super-bowl ad vs. door-to-door.

What helped me to take the decision, and what helped me after I took the decision? I mentioned here that you should prepare when you don’t need to so that when opportunity strikes, you are prepared to grab it. I have been practicing to overcome my fear of public speaking and also polishing my speaking skills, as a member of Toastmaster’s club. So that gave me enough confidence to go out in the unknown environment and grab the opportunity. While making notes and while speaking at the party, I used all the guidelines that I learned during my speeches – voice inflection, body posture, pauses etc. Besides that, I also researched on other tips on Emceeing.

As an emcee, I had to start the function, conduct it and close it. During the function, there were speeches, dances and formal cake-cutting ceremony. I got great tips from this website. Here is what I learned and what worked for me:

a) You should be able to create an environment in which both performers (or speakers) and listeners feel welcomed, comfortable and respected. You should be able to relate to the audience.

b) You must remember that you are not the “show.” The focus is not on you – rather on the speaker, the audience and the performers.

c) You should be willing to take instructions from the producer of the show.

d) You must strive to keep show on time and be prepared to handle any detours.

1. Before The Show: Prepare Yourself
a) Familiarize yourself with the list of announcements so that when you are up on stage, you can comfortably announce them rather than reading them word for word from your notes.

b) First & last impression have a lot of weight. So plan and practice your opening and closing lines of the function.

c) Plan your “introductions” for the speakers. Ask speakers what they would like the audience to know about them. Share a few interesting, less-known facts, or something funny with the audience that the speaker is comfortable sharing. Few things that would help the audience better understand speaker and his speech. [Funny incidents from speaker’s life worked out great for me, as it was an informal party. Achievements might work better for a formal gathering.]. But be brief to avoid seeing yawing faces.

2. At The Performance Site: Get Acquainted
a) Arrive early and orient yourself with the venue. Make sure that every thing is set up and ready to go (water-bottles, mic, music, lights, etc.). Test the mic (sound) and placement of speakers/sub-woofers. This was the biggest mistake that I made. I didn’t test the mic and sound-system. To begin with the sound output was so poor that the audience kept loosing interest, as they couldn’t hear the first few speeches or my jokes properly. Later the problem was fixed but the initial damage was already done. Now I had to work harder to get everybody to listen.

b) Introduce yourself to the staff: sound technicians, stage managers, tent monitors, DJ, etc. That helped me to develop rapport with them. They will then be more tuned to understand your needs.

c) Introduce yourself to the speakers and performers (dance-performers in this case). Let them know where they can find bathrooms, water, tissues, food etc.

d) Go over the order in which they will perform. But be prepared for contingencies. During the event one of the group was not ready to perform their dance and so I had to switch it with another group and accordingly my introductions.

e) Confirm their allotted time and ask each how they would like to be notified when they are nearing the end of their allotted time.

f) Ask if there are any special needs or special stage set-ups.

3. During The Program: Be Gracious and Alert.
a) Welcome the audience. Greet them warmly. I greeted in two languages, as there were people, who understood only English, then there were those who understood only Punjabi (language) and finally there were there those who understood both languages. Infact, I used another urban slang to greet teenage audience (”Whatup yawl?”). This worked great for informal event like a birthday party but might not work great for a formal event. The idea is to make them feel welcomed, respected, and connect with them and have some fun.

b) Introduce yourself and tell them how the session will progress (speeches, dance performances, cocktail, food, breaks, etc.) so that they know where they are headed and can feel comfortable.

c) Establish the rules (those introductory announcements regarding cell phones, etc.) Be brief and get the ball rolling.

d) While introducing speakers: introduce them, stay on stage if they need assistance to setup mic, stand etc. Then, get off the stage. Introduce each speaker with equal enthusiasm. Listen to their speech carefully (if possible) so that you can bring the audience out of one speech and into the next. You have to transfer audience’s energy from one speaker/performer to the next.

e) Be alert and have some backup scenarios worked out. If something unexpected comes up, be ready to deal with it. So, if there are distractions, try to remove them (toddler wandering around in front of the stage). Or, acknowledge them so that the audience won’t wonder, worry and therefore, not be able to concentrate on the speech.

f) Have a few jokes or short story ready to be told. This came in handy at times when I had to waste some time waiting for the dance group to get their act together or for the DJ to find the song for next dance-performance. I had jokes in two languages – English and Punjabi. Infact, one of the anecdote that I shared was liked enough that the party host (producer) told me to translate it in English too. Jokes and short stories might not be a good idea for formal audience. For formal events, use it if absolutely necessary.

g) Last, but not the least – have a good time. Remember that your enjoyment of the program reflects on everything you say and do.

4. Closing The Program: Thank everyone.
Briefly thank everyone (performers, producers, sound technicians, etc.) including the audience. Give any brief closing announcements and wish them well on their way.

All in all, it was a great experience. I did make few minor mistakes, things did go wrong and to be frank, I was a little nervous. But in the end, I learned from my mistakes, I learned how to overcome the challenges in real-time, and above all I overcame my fear. I can read 400 books on public speaking but they still won’t match the experience of speaking in front of 400 people. Feel free to suggest tips that worked great for you as an emcee.

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" TOO OFTEN WE ENJOY THE COMFORT OF OPINION WITHOUT THE DISCOMFORT OF THOUGHT. " - JFK. Thinking is required, commenting is optional. Please leave your thoughts...

  1. 1 On September 21st, 2007, How can you avoid Miss South Carolina Teen USA debacle? said:

    [...] in front of about 400 people on 15th Sept, 07. Find out how i performed and what i learned here.  Email /  Print Share: Digg Reddit Rate this post: (1 votes, [...]

  2. 2 On September 27th, 2007, sunny s tumber said:

    paji u did an awesome job at manraj’s party I was really impressed when bitu paji put u on the spot about translating your story and telling it in english..the dj really put a damper on the party with his equipment..well hope all is well!!


  3. 3 On September 30th, 2007, Preet said:

    Thanks Sunny. It was a great party, I enjoyed it!!

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