by Steve Adubato, PhD

Emceeing an event sounds a lot easier than it really is. If you have ever had to do it, you know what I mean. There are professional emcees who have dedicated their professional lives to mastering this challenging craft. But most folks, be it in business or social settings are asked to emcee events without any training, coaching or the most basic advice.

By the way, being a great public speaker or presenter is not the same as being a great emcee. The next time you have to emcee an event, keep these tips in mind:

  • Being an emcee doesn't mean you are supposed to do most of the talking. Your job is to keep things moving and put the attention on those the event is recognizing. Keep your introductions brief-1-minute or less. People hate long introductions. Don't you?
  • Speaking of introductions, it would be good to actually know something about who is being recognized or honored at an event before you show up. Read about their backgrounds and understand why they are being singled out by the organization asking you to emcee. It's terrible when you see an emcee reading and fumbling over an introduction because he or she is clearly not familiar with the material or the honoree.
  • Make sure that you are clear on the overall objective of the event. Once you do that, get into the spirit of things. Touch base with event organizers and make sure you are all on the same page.
  • Create a relaxed, informal mood. Don't be afraid to smile when you open up things. Talk about why everyone has gathered and how great the event is going to be. Stay upbeat and positive. It will have a big impact on your audience. Your genuine enthusiasm will be appreciated.
  • While your job is to be informal, you are not there to be a comedian. Avoid joke telling. It's too risky. Instead of telling jokes, the best kind of humor involves reacting to the things that happen during the event. That way, there is a common frame of reference for everyone.
  • If someone who has the microphone is going on too long, you as the emcee may have to at some point pass a note to the speaker asking them to "wrap it up." If that doesn't work, you may actually have to stand and move closer to the speaker. Sure, it is a little awkward, but it is a lot better than letting a person go on forever and ruin the event.
  • If a presenter or speaker is especially flat or dull, your job as emcee is to pick up the pace and energy level in the room. Don't let things spiral downward. Too often, emcees allow the boring speaker to bring an entire event down. They don't understand the power they have to turn things up a notch.
  • Keep your eyes on the audience and observe how they are responding to things happening at the podium. If you see people in the audience you want to recognize or make reference to, do so. The more personal and customized your comments, the more intimate the event will be.
  • At the end of the evening, just don't let people walk out because the program is "finished." Take 30 seconds or so to wrap things up and once again congratulate everyone who was recognized or honored at the event. Thank everyone for coming and keep things on a high note.