Mastering the Master of Ceremonies

I believe nearly all events could benefit by investing in a professional MC but realistically, not all events can.

The following article originally comes from someone who has been very generous towards me with his advice in the past, one of Australia and New Zealand’s top corporate MC’s, Brett Rutledge. The article outlines some very good reasons to hire a professional but if you have to have a go at it yourself or get a staff/committee member to do it, then there are some excellent points to take on board.

If you would like to talk about hiring an MC for your event, I’d love to have a chat.

Mastering the Master of Ceremonies

by Brett Rutledge

Firstly, despite the prevailing opinions of many in the corporate world the MC is pretty much the most important person at your function. They are the major reason your function succeeds or fails. They should be the first decision you make rather than the last. They should be the first consideration of your budget rather than the last. They should be a professional – not someone from within your organization that you think could ‘handle it’.

The MC is the only person who doesn’t get a break, has to listen to everything and handle any eventuality. What is more they have to do all of that in the most public way possible and without the option of a second take. The truly good MC’s in Australia and New Zealand can be counted on two hands. That is how hard the job is and that is how rare the good guys are.

That being said, if you do have to MC an event here are some tips.

Your job as the MC is a very simple one – to make everyone else look good. Which, of course, means that your job is far from simple because not everyone makes an effort to look good on their own. The number of times I have had to desperately try and make sense of someone’s inane rambling for an audience, massage a run sheet that was never realistic or even deliver someone’s keynote for them beggars belief. But as an MC that is what you have to do… make everyone else look good, no matter what.

As the MC you are the ultimate authority in terms of what happens on that stage. It is your stage and everyone who speaks is a guest on it. That means there are two things you need to do for your ‘guests’:

1. Make them feel welcome and looked after
2. Tell them the rules

Most people try to do the former and almost everyone ignores the latter. If your speakers don’t know the rules i.e. timing, purpose, role, etc. it is very difficult to make them look good. So take the time, in a friendly way, to make sure they know and understand what is required from them on your stage. They will thank you for it.

Introducing people is remarkably simple. Simply explain what the subject matter is, why that subject is important to the audience and why the speaker is entitled to speak about it. Keep it brief, to the point and don’t make the mistake of stealing the speakers thunder with a lengthy opinion piece of your own. If you are introducing a dignitary then generally all you need is their name and title. Remember the last words out of your mouth when introducing anyone is their first and last name i.e. “ladies and gentlemen, would you please welcome the Managing Director of Widgets Inc., Bob Smith”.

Thanking people is not so simple. It requires you to pay close attention to what they are actually saying and to find an emotional connection that you can reflect on. In other words, you need to talk about what the speaker meant to an audience or meant to you. Do not provide a laundry list of key points they made or try to summarize the takeaways. Be emotional, be personal and thank them in a way that actually means something.

Good continuity requires relevance. Whatever comes out of your mouth has to reflect in some way what has gone before and what is to come after. You don’t start crapping on about the weather and you don’t start telling jokes unless there is a good reason to do so. The whole point of continuity is that it has to go somewhere. There has to be a logical thread to what you are saying and a point that is being made. Granted, that logical thread can be tenuous at times but it still has to be there.

Ultimately, the MC sets the tone and the energy levels for the entire audience. It is a journey on which you are the guide. Audience’s look to MC’s to help them, lift them, calm them and any number of other adjectives but more than anything else an audience looks to the MC as their ‘voice’. You speak on their behalf and say the things that they might be thinking or wish they could have said. It is a great responsibility and one that is not to be taken lightly.

Six Tips For Being a Great Wedding MC

Six Tips For Being a Great Wedding MC

You’ve been asked by the happy couple to be the Master of Ceremonies and you know your performance can make or break the wedding reception. Here are some rules to follow that will make them glad they chose you for the job.

1. Have a detailed running sheet and make sure everyone has the same one

The couple have a lot going on and there are 101 ways that you can end up with a different version of the run sheet to what everyone else has. Make contact with the Function Manager at the venue personally and make sure you are both on the same page (so to speak). Arrive at the venue early and check again if there have been any changes discussed with the couple that didn’t get passed on to you.

Your version should include some extra details such as what you need to check on between the listed items on the run sheet. For example: Is the kitchen running on time with the main course? Is the photographer ready for the cake cutting?

Like anything good, it is the preparation that is key to being a good MC. But once you’ve done all that, be ready to be flexible when something throws things off course.

2. Offer great service and keep things on time
As the MC you are usually both an organiser and a speaker. Part of your job is to make sure everything runs to time. Also, things like reminding the father of the bride that he is to give a speech in ten minutes so he can be ready, are much appreciated.

3. Get the introductions right

The wedding MC is responsible for announcing who people are and introducing them before they give a speech or a toast. Make sure you have sufficient information on all the relevant people, and the correct pronunciations of their names.

4. Keep your speeches and toasts short.
As a general rule, keep your own speeches short. As the MC you are not there to steal the show but to unobtrusively keep the reception moving along, and to allow others time to take centre stage. 

5. Help the guests feel comfortable and connected.
At weddings many of the guests won’t know each other. Take responsibility for helping them feel comfortable and connected. Help them get to know each other and get to know who else is in the room.

6. Don’t go over the top with jokes
MC’s often make the mistake of thinking that they have to tell a whole series of wedding jokes. They don’t. There are other ways to produce humour. For instance, by telling funny stories about the couple when they were growing up or during their time of courtship. However, don’t humiliate them and don’t make the stories too sexual or risqué.

If you do tell jokes make sure they do not offend anyone. Pick them very carefully indeed and don’t tell too many. The occasional joke is all that is needed.

David Wise

David Wise

Owner, Wise Words Communications

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