Strategies for Being an Effective Emcee
If you think being a corporate emcee is no different from a
regular performance (or that any “funny guy” at work can do it),
think again. Being an effective emcee requires a distinct skill set.
Think about it…as the emcee, you set the tone for the entire event.
You have to be able to cut or expand your planned material on the
fly, often based on circumstances you have no control over, such as
a last minute agenda change or technical problems. All in all, it’s
a stressful role, and you have to pull it off with ease.
Unfortunately, many people believe that anyone can emcee an
event – that the funny guy at the office can handle the role or that
any entertainer can jump in and do it. Such a mindset does not give
the role of emcee the respect it deserves. No wonder so many emcees
do an average job at best.
When it comes to effectively emceeing an event, you need to
do your homework. You can’t be so confident in your regular material
that you blow off the emcee role as “easy” or “a cake walk.” Being
an emcee really is a big deal, and you need to approach the role as
such. The following guidelines will help you emcee any event
so you appear professional, confident, and in control of the agenda.
Prepare for the
the emcee, one of your main roles is to introduce the performers or
other people who will be on stage. Therefore, contact the people you
will be introducing ahead of time and learn at least three key
things about them: 1) an accomplishment, such as an award or book,
2) a personal fact, such as where they live, and 3) something that
appeals to the emotional side of the audience, such as mention of a
son or daughter or a personal anecdote. The idea is to get some
personality behind the person so every introduction doesn’t sound
Even though many people claim that they don’t care what you
say for their intro, the truth is that everyone cares. So if someone
says to you, “Oh, just say whatever. I’m easygoing,” do not take
this for an answer. Dig deeper. Keep asking questions. Go to the
person’s website and see what information you can find (although be
aware that many people have outdated websites).
Additionally, meet the person you’re introducing before the
event, even if it’s just 10 minutes before you go on. You can gauge
a lot from someone just by meeting them. For example, if you meet
the person and realize that he’s very straight-laced and does not
joke around, you have a clear indication that it’s not okay to crack
jokes during his intro. If possible, take a couple of minutes to
tell the person what you plan on saying for his or her intro. Most
people don’t like surprises, so this little investment of time can
yield great dividends later.
Don't do what
everybody else does:
You’ve seen “that
guy” before. You know the one…he starts emceeing the event by coming
out on stage and saying, “How’s everybody doing tonight? Boy…I just
flew in from Chicago, and man are my arms tired!” Whatever you do,
don’t be “that guy.”
Think of all the common entertainment situations you will
have to address as an emcee, such as people coming late and leaving
early; announcements for intermission, lunch, and merchandise;
explaining the rules of cell phone use, picture taking, and video
recording; etc. Prepare clever ways to handle all the situations you
need to address.
For example, if your specialty is magic, you can have a
disappearing cell phone or threaten to make any late comers or early
leavers become invisible forever. If you’re a guitar comic, you can
write a silly song about turning off your cell phone and what the
boss will do if you don’t. If you’re a ventriloquist you can have a
dialog about the house rules with your puppet. Remember that you’re
getting paid to emcee the event; therefore, the more you can tailor
it to your specific audience, the better. At the end of the show,
you will stand out as a polished emcee. The audience may not know
why, but they will know you were different... and better!
You may have tons
of material to draw upon, but if it's not flexible, adaptable, and
audience appropriate, you may be in trouble. As the emcee, you
are responsible for the pace of the event, making sure everything
runs smoothly and swiftly. That means being able to continue onstage
if extra time between acts is needed (technical issue, previous
program ran short, etc) and being able to wrap up immediately when
the stage is set. If you don't already have an assortment of
30-second gags or 2-minute bits to draw from, you need to take the
time to prepare these now. Then you'll be confident, relaxed, and
ready when your event producer/director says, “I need two minutes
Additionally, you want your material to appear customized for
the event you’re emceeing, even if it is your “stock” emcee
material. Remember that the corporate market can sniff out fluff
material. So if you do your cruise ship material during a corporate
event, you’re going to bomb big time. Therefore, use the jargon and
acronyms your audience uses. Name drop (the CEO, the VP of Sales,
the receptionist, etc.). Mention experiences or industry trends.
Make the audience know that you “get” them and are one of them. Show
them that you put some work into this. You want people to think you
did the show just for them.
Know the etiquette
of being an emcee:
Just like any role,
the emcee role has certain do’s and don’ts. Here are a few to be
The stage is
your domain when you’re an emcee. It looks bad when you leave
the stage before the next guest or act comes on, or if you’re
not there to take the person off stage.
Dress the part.
If you’re doing a corporate show, look like one of them with a
suit and tie, or skirt and blouse. If it’s a casual event, dress
Don’t be a
jerk. Be nice to everyone – not just to the person who hired
you, but also to the tech people, the wait staff…everyone. If
you get the reputation of being a jerk, you won’t get called
night before if possible. Don’t cut it close time-wise. Have
your props shipped ahead of time.
to play the part. As the emcee, you’re the “fun one” – you’re
the glue holding the event together. If that’s not your natural
style, fake it until you make it.
Go Forth and
Being an emcee
is a lot of fun…and a lot of work. But with some good old fashioned
preparation and healthy dose of creativity, you can be the emcee
everyone remembers – and the one who gets hired again and again.
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