HIRING AND WORKING WITH MCs
Are you organising an event that you'd like to be distinctive, successful and memorable? The catering's important and you've got to make sure your sponsors and exhibitors are happy. Those presenters, workshops and keynotes need to be set up for success and the audiences primed to listen and participate. The glue holding all this together from both a logistical and engagement perspective is your MC. There's a diverse range to choose from including not having one at all. What do you stand to risk or gain? Against what criteria do you assess potential MCs?
I've been MCing events professionally since 2003. I'm not saying I'm the world's leading expert on the subject but I've seen a wide range of events have a diverse range of experiences with the choices they've made and the processes, personalities and relationships involved. This article is just a series of observations and suggested learnings, as much for myself as anyone else who may happen to stumble upon it and read it.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR EXPECTATIONS BE OF THE PROFESSIONAL MC YOU'VE CHOSEN FOR YOUR EVENT?
In addition to the obvious benefits of time management and organization, an MC should liven up any series of presentations with enlightening introductions and relevant business-related humour. An MC must be an asset with tangible business benefits.
All too often events run late. A professional MC must ensure that your speakers stick to time. Furthermore, your day should proceed seamlessly as your MC expertly introduces your speakers, smoothly transitions from one to the next and connects all to your event’s objectives – creating continuity, attentiveness and relevance.
An MC must maintain the attention of any audience by providing the brain some much needed novelty between presentations. The MC's introductory and conclusive remarks and activities should leave a memorable, humorous, and applicable message in the minds of your audience, augmenting their enjoyment of your event as well as their appreciation of the other speakers' presentations. If you’re selling something, be it ideas or products, your MC is the one to ‘close the deal.’
Search And Rescue
Perhaps the greatest benefit of a corporate MC is their damage-control capabilities. If one of your speakers is late, absent, or otherwise incapable of performing, your MC should be able to help to fill in the gaps with their own relevant material so that your audience need never know there is a problem. (The art is in concealing the art.)
Accustomed to live performance and entertainment (and having learned from the mistakes of others), an MC is a valuable resource for planning the proceedings of any event. Whether making decisions about how much time to allocate to each presenter or who to hire or seating arrangements in a banquet hall, a professional MC should have the experience and creativity to help you with most aspects of event arrangements. Remember: they perform at events for a living, whereas you may be a first-time planner/organiser. Utilize their expertise and suggestions as much or as little as you want, but never hesitate to ask for their opinions.
Many events spend more on table settings than on their MC but how many events owe their success to the table settings? An MC should benefit you and your event in ways you cannot even imagine. They should ensure the continuity of the proceedings, keep your audience attentive and entertained, incorporate their own exciting abilities like comedy, and lend professional opinions about any and all aspects of event planning. When considering how to improve your events, take into account the numerous ways in which a professional master of ceremonies can create a fun, productive, and memorable atmosphere for any occasion.
I do a lot of behind-the-scenes work that I find my clients appreciate. For example, four exhibitors recently felt short-changed at the low foot-traffic their locations were generating. They'd paid thousands for their locations near the entrance to the exhibitors hall, only to discover that another unofficial exit / entrance had been created. Result = next to no foot traffic + unhappy exhibitors + concerned conference organisers.
On hearing this, I schmoozed them and set up a scavenger hunt guiding delegates to their stands for answers. I cribbed a few prizes as incentives for the 'hunters.' Result = Everybody happy X repeat business X ongoing vendor support!
I find my business background helps me - approachability and credibility. I can't sing like some MCs but I know business people and their issues and hot buttons. Why? Because I am a business person. As such, I know that the obvious audience isn't the only audience. There are the sponsors, vendors, exhibitors and the organisations that are paying the registration fees for the conference delegates. An MC that can sing and tell jokes is fine but superficial. What conference organisers need is someone who can do that and keep in mind the other customers that the conference organiser needs to satisfy. I know my success is contingent on the success of my customer's customers.
And, if a speaker fails to show up or is delayed (as happens ALL THE TIME), I can replace them or cover for them with a 30-90 minute presentation on lessons from comedy for Engineers. (Or Manufacturers, or Leaders, or Lawyers, or whomever...)
And if you want me to perform some comedy solely for entertainment after a conference dinner or awards, then I can do that at no extra cost as part of my inclusive fee. That's added value!