I was asked to serve as master of ceremonies for a recent Professional Speakers Association meeting in Cape Town and really enjoyed the experience!
It got me thinking of what I consider the main tasks of an MC to be. So here they are: introducing the speakers, ensuring the event runs smoothly and managing time, and keeping the audience engaged while not stealing the spotlight from the speakers.
I believe a speaker ought to be introduced the way they want. So, as an MC I prefer to get an introduction directly from the speaker, rather than simply drawing a few key facts from their bio. And why do I feel that way? Well, often the introduction can enhance the impact a speaker has right from their first word – and that saves the speaker having to “set the stage” themselves when they start. So I was really grateful that PSASA Cape Chapter President, Bronwyn Hesketh arranged introductions from the speakers to assist me in my role as MC – thanks, Bronwyn!
I also believe that it’s the responsibility of the MC to ensure the event runs smoothly an on time, as far as possible. At the PSASA event a new initiative was introduced to the attendees and, while I would have loved to have opened the floor for questions, the reality was that we didn’t have time on the agenda. So, hard as it was for me not to get side-tracked, I requested that we investigate other ways for the association members to learn more at a different time. And we ended on time – but only just!
Finally I think there is a fine line that MCs need to tread between entertaining the audience and yet not “stealing the limelight” from the speakers, who are the real stars of the event. I think what I love best about serving as MC is the ability to refer back to things that have happened earlier in the event that are relevant to what the next speaker will say or has just said, especially if they can be used in a humorous or entertaining way. I find it a great way of keeping the audience engaged and breaks the tension of a more serious event. But, as I said, the trick is not to overplay things and detract from the message the speaker is giving – that’s not my job as MC!
I know most experienced MCs will read this and go, But that’s so obvious” and maybe to them it is – to me it’s still new enough that it fascinates me and makes the MC role not just exciting, but also a whole lot of fun.
I’m looking forward to having the chance to MC another event really soon!