Suppose your supervisor told you, “You know that we have our company banquet scheduled for next month. Before she transferred to another state, Evelyn did a fine job as master of ceremonies for five years. Of course, we need a replacement emcee now, and I have selected you.” Would that assignment intimidate you? Not if you followed these six vital tips.
Spotlight others, not yourself
Yes, there will be many times during the evening when all eyes and ears will focus on you. However, it’s your job to shift the attention elsewhere. Your task is to feature others who are attending-guests from outside the company, award recipients, board members, underwriting sponsors, and the planning committee, for example. Using a show business comparison, you are a supporting actor, not the star.
Realizing that your function is supportive relieves much of the pressure you felt when your boss tapped you for this role. Instead of having to perform flawlessly every minute, you will concentrate on helping others look good.
Be clock conscious
You will endear yourself to the audience by honoring the schedule. First, start on time. Think of how annoyed you become as a guest when an emcee says, “We’re going to start a few minutes late, because some of our guests haven’t arrived yet.” You wonder, “Why wait? I got here on time, and plenty of other people did, too. By delaying the opening, you’re not honoring our promptness.” So beginning at the stated hour will please the crowd that has gathered already. Additionally, you will indicate that you have taken charge of the program, and will stay in control.
In addition to starting on time, keep the program on schedule. If the servers seem slow in delivering the food, check with the catering official. When the question and answer period drones on, politely note that “our speaker will be glad to answer other questions in the reception that follows our formal program.”
Monitoring the program’s pace will guarantee ending on time. Not only will you look like a veteran emcee, you will generate strong approval from those who have to drive a long way, get home to their children, or rest for an early appointment the next day.
Remain totally alert
Novice emcees might make the mistake of assuming, “One or two drinks will relax me. I’m feeling lots of tension now, so I’ll stop by the bar on the way to the head table.” You’re right that alcoholic beverages could relax you. You’re mistaken, though, if you think that’s entirely to your advantage.
For one thing, keeping your elevated tension level can become beneficial. You will feel extra energy, which helps you stimulate your audience as you preside. Very importantly, note that one or two “adult beverages” might weaken your memory, prompt you to slur words, and even lead to distasteful remarks you wouldn’t make otherwise. So play safe. Stick with water or soft drinks. You can celebrate later when you’re home remembering your uninterrupted poise and fluency.
Be careful with humor
Some humor is necessary and helpful. You would bore your audience if all your comments remained bland and serious. Who knows, you might get bored yourself. However, you will want to use good judgment in your effort to be amusing.
Keep several cautions in mind. Don’t tell jokes, because plenty of audience members will have heard them already or read them on the Internet. Too, your timing has to be perfect for a joke to work. Notice as well that most jokes have somebody as a fall guy, and that somebody could be attending. Stay away from sarcasm, because you might come across as vindictive. Rather than using jokes or sarcasm, turn to short quips, even some which occur to you during the event. Possibly the safest quips of all will be self-deprecating humor, where you poke fun at yourself goodnaturedly.
Check the technical equipment beforehand
Devoting just a few minutes to checking the technical equipment will increase your comfort level, as you minimize the likelihood of momentum-killing glitches that embarrass you and make the group restless. If you’re using a PowerPoint show, make sure the computer and projector synch nicely. Click through the entire show, to determine whether adjustments are necessary. Put new batteries in your remote control. Have the sound technician test your voice volume level with a microphone check.
Use your natural conversational voice
Keep in mind that your audience wants to think of you as a close friend. Close friends talk with each other without pompous tones. Put aside the temptation to sound like a professional broadcaster. If your organization had wanted that sound, they would have hired a radio or TV personality. Bombastic oratory went out of style decades ago.
Remember, that technical equipment you checked an hour or so before the event will give you all the amplification you need. Just relax and speak to three hundred people with the same volume and enunciation you would use with three people.
To sum up: Your employer honored you by asking you to emcee the annual event. You can make your first time effort both successful and enjoyable. Put others in the limelight, be clock conscious, refrain from intoxicating beverages, use humor cautiously and tastefully, make sure the technical equipment is working, and speak conversationally. When the evening ends, you’ll start looking forward to your next opportunity to emcee an event.