Last month I had the pleasure of being the Master of Ceremonies (MC) at the Australian eChallenge awards dinner. It was a HUGE night. There were eight different streams, each with three to seven finalists, pitches from the finalists, live voting, past winner presentations, eight different award presenters, videos and a band.
Thankfully I did not need to manage the backend and the technical support flowed seamlessly allowing me to manage the stage. If you are ever in the situation where you need to MC an event, here are some tips to help:
- Meet with the organiser as soon as possible to ask for a running sheet
- Clarify: timing, stage set up (i.e. microphone, lectern, stairs, entry and exits), usual name pronunciations, expectations
- Prepare your notes: print them double spaced and in large font, bind them into a booklet (plastic sleeves can be too shiny and difficult to read)
- Prepare your bookends: bookends are the start and finish of the event and an opportunity to inject a little bit of personality and humour
- Get em’ seated: inform people that you will be starting shortly and ask them to take their seats
- Open with a sentence and pause: “good evening and welcome…” followed by a long pause. This enables people to finish their conversations, turn to you and engage.
- Set context: EG: the challenge is Australia’s premier and longest entrepreneurial program and tonight we celebrate the 16th Australian challenge awards
- Start with a grab – you opening ‘bookend’: EG: “I was chatting with an entrepreneur recently and asked her how her new App was going. “Agghhh” She replied, “it’s all push, push, push!” “Kind of like childbirth?” I asked. “Yes, but without the drugs.” She replied.” I then spoke for two minutes on ‘blood sweat and tears’ the similarity between launching an entrepreneurial business and giving birth. (Yes, I ran it past the client first!). Finishing with “Thankfully we have the team at the Australian eChallenge to help you navigate the highs and lows and deliver your business safely.”
- Make the speakers look good: introduce and welcome speakers, ensure smooth segue between events, keep your interaction to a minimum, announce meal breaks and timing
- Close with a link back to the start and give thanks – Bookend #2: EG: “Every birth needs a great support team…. ” I then introduced ECIC Australian eChallenge team as obstetricians, birthing consultants and midwives and thanked them.
- Be prepared to shorten or lengthen your segues.
- Have back up fillers (relevant quotes or stories) in the event that the speaker doesn’t show or the video doesn’t work.
With such a tight schedule there was little time for rest or interaction and the evening passed in a blur. I was happy that the evening went well and we managed to get everything covered in the time allocated. As always, the best reward is a happy client. I got home shortly before midnight to find this note in my inbox:
“Dear Sharon, You did an absolutely fantastic job this evening! Your performance was absolutely brilliant!! A big thank you!”
Makes all the madness worthwhile!