So you are going to have an awards dinner, an installation dinner, or a fundraising event. You and your steering or executive committee have selected the venue, written the invitation, and agreed on the menu.
As an after thought, you think about the Master of Ceremonies.
What do they do anyways? Can’t we get someone to do it for free?
The MC is the glue that holds an event together and keeps it moving in an entertaining way. When they do a good job, they are more or less invisible.
The Bad ones are remembered . . . and for the wrong reasons.
Like the association head who thought hiring a popular
Radio personality was a good idea. Except that he
came to the black tie event in a casual sweater and khakis.
Or the former professional athlete who put in no time to the script he was given ahead of time, and mispronounced the names of award recipients.
Read on and benefit from the following tips. The first tips will help you select and nurture an effective MC who will be a positive addition to your event. The second set of tips will help you be an MC that will put both you and the organization in a positive light.
Tips to selecting an effective MC:
- Select an MC for the right reasons. You may be tempted to select someone with a high profile like a local TV personality. That may work for you. But make sure you have seen them in action in a live venue. Often anchors can only work from scripted material. They can’t react to a live situation or a live audience. Flexibility is an MC’s best friend.
- Select someone who understands their role: to facilitate and to do so in an entertaining way. When you hire an MC, that person is not the feature of the evening. The awards they facilitate are the feature of the evening. You don’t want the MC to overshadow your own winners.
- There is a saying that the art is in hiding the art. A good MC makes it look easy. That doesn’t mean it is easy. You want this person to facilitate the show, not steal the show. They are like a tour director that will take the audience from each item on the agenda to the next item and eventually to the end of the program. This means you need to select your MC as early as possible, and get them the script ahead of time.
- Each person speaking needs to have a script with their part in one color font. Perhaps the MC will be in pink and the president will be in blue. A quick look at a 28 page script will show the MC when they are up and when others are speaking. This will decrease or eliminate people on the dais asking if they are next, or stepping on each other’s lines.
- Font size should be large. Assume everyone doesn’t read as well as they used to read! And many of us don’t want to wear glasses when we don’t have to wear them. Make the font size large, 18 or 22, so that your MC or others speakers on the agenda will not have to re-do and re-print the script.
- Be professional in formatting the script. Instead of handing out stapled scripts, take your group to the next level of professionalism. Put each person’s script in their own 3 ring flexible notebook. The MC and other speakers can then look professional as they approach the podium. Also, the audience won’t hear the pages turn every time they have to fold over the stapled pages.
- When you reserve the venue, add a practice in the same room to the contract. You want at least your key people to practice in the facility and practice with the equipment that you will be using.
- Edit Edit Edit—take a long objective look at your agenda. What have you been doing every year that just does not need to be done anymore? Do you read the names of every award recipient since the beginning of time? Perhaps you could reduce that list to those who are still among the living?
- Talk to your MC ahead of time. Make sure that you share your vision of the evening and their role.
- At worst case, you can always blame everything on the MC and hire a new one next year!
Awards, fundraising, and installation events do not need to be boring.
Tips an MC should know:
- Don’t indulge in more than one drink prior to MC duties.
- Even though you are facilitating a lunch or dinner venue, you should not be doing much eating! You don’t want to conduct your duties from the podium with food stains on your lapel or food between your teeth.
- Don’t drink too much water. The program can’t wait for an MC in the bathroom. Do you remember the year that Barbra Streisand was in the bathroom when her Oscar nominated song was sung by Celine Dion?
- Know that it’s not over when it’s over. As with any time in the spotlight, guests will be watching you long after your official duties are over.
- This night is not about you–add color and charm to the evening with out being the focus of the evening.
- If you need glasses—where them. Or at least take them with you to the podium.
- Practice difficult names ahead of time. Remember there is NOTHING people like to hear as much as the sound of their own name, pronounced correctly.
- Meet as many of the people ahead of time that you will be introducing. It is embarrassing to introduce the wrong person.
- Add your twist to the script. Add quotations, anecdotes that apply, interesting statistics, and this day in history. Your job is to make the script come alive.
- Be flexible enough to react to real time opportunities. Listen to what speakers say, listen and watch what is said and done on the dais. You add value with unscripted, appropriate remarks.
Roberts Rules of Order declares that a female in the role Master of Ceremonies,is indeed a mistress! Your mother will be so happy to know that you have finally arrived at this official title!