The Excellent EmCee

The Master of Ceremonies (MC, EmCee) is an important job — all too often left as an afterthought… after all the planning and sometimes right up to showtime.

Then someone will think, “Maybe we should have somebody running this show.” And someone, who is not prepared, is “voluntold” to herd the cats, er, I mean, usher the presenters on and off the stage. There’s much more to being an EmCee than herding cats! 

An Excellent Emcee engages, enchants and enhances the audience experience.

Time is important. Perhaps there’s a banquet. The kitchen is ready to serve at 6:30 but the speakers are all competing for Windbag Awards. After all that wind, dinner is cold and patrons are cranky. The EmCee can avert this by designating a timer to advise presenters when their time is up and they’ll be “encouraged” to vacate the stage! Follow through with the first windbag and the rest of the show will likely run on time.

It’s nice if presenters are properly introduced. This is a skill that requires preparation. A good EmCee will rehearse the introductions in advance. Yes, rehearsal. We’ve all heard introducers struggling with names and places, long run-on-and-on sentences and other readable but not speakable language.

The best introductions are those where the introducer has bothered to learn something personal about the presenter that doesn’t appear in the event program. The audience can read. Come up with something different. It’s as simple as asking presenters what they do for fun or what surprising thing can we learn about them. You’ll be amazed at the gold you’ll unearth!

A good EmCee is familiar with the entire program, knows who is drawing for the door prizes and  knows where the door prizes are. The EmCee is well briefed on the Health and Safety message and location of facility services.

Sound checks are the responsibility of the EmCee, ideally with all presenters so that if there are special needs, the EmCee is aware and can assist in accommodating them. The EmCee is the ad hoc assistant to anyone on stage. They need help negotiating the stairs; they need water; they left their notes off stage; their microphone isn’t on; their name tag is upside down – you name it.

The EmCee is like a Boy Scout: always prepared. I learned early in my speaking journey that “something will go wrong.” Rather than being devastated when it happens, accept it.  The EmCee’s job is to be agile, with a pocket full of Plan B’s and C’s!  Rarely is anything Life or Death, and a professional EmCee can camouflage most minor errors. Really talented EmCees turn disasters into entertainment. The most memorable highlights of an event are often the running gag provided by an early disaster.

The EmCee is the face of the eventthe audience assumes you’re responsible for it all. You’re the host. Always be welcoming. What is your face doing when others are speaking? Watch video of yourself to determine if you smile enough.  Practice smiling.  Are you watching the speakers when they’re performing to model the behaviour they want from their audience?

A genuine interest in people is a good trait and an absence of hubris is helpful. It’s not about the EmCee; facilitating the performance of the presenters and guiding the audience through the program are the main objectives.

When there are lulls in the program, like the PowerPoint projector isn’t working, a well prepared EmCee fills the gaps with audience-appropriate jokes, stories and interviews to keep the audience engaged. More preparation and training. Another talent is compressing the program so it doesn’t appear rushed, just efficient.

Needless to say, dressing the part, choosing appropriate language, and professional conduct are imperative. Prior to and during an event, self-care is vital:

  • sleep adequately.
  • eat nutritious food.
  • drink lots of water.
  • practice good dental hygiene.
  • avoid alcohol, coffee and foods that can affect your voice, like dairy products, which cause phlegm.
  • limit stinky food (onions, garlic, coffee, beans).

Have fun! If you have fun on stage, the audience will have fun. And an audience having fun is malleable, willing to be led and somewhat forgiving of imperfections.

Finally, be agreeable, flexible and professional throughout the event, no matter how long it takes, no matter what’s gone wrong, and no matter what difficult people have crossed your path. A smile, a kind word and a sincere “thank you for the experience” will go far to bolster your reputation as an Excellent EmCee.

Toastmasters is a terrific place to learn, develop and practice EmCee skills. Find a club near you by visiting 

Don’t have time to develop your own EmCee skills?  Contact us!  We have experience EmCeeing events from birthday parties to weddings to conferences and awards dinners.  We chair Annual General Meetings too – Robert’s Rules of Order and all!

Shelley Goldbeck and Susan Cramer

S2 Seminars, Grow Exponentially – use both sides of your brain!, is a partnership between Shelley Goldbeck and Susan Cramer. To learn more about running your small business (or conducting your event!), contact us today.



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