You have a big job ahead of you! Congrats on the excellent Preparations that went into the day that is finally here (more on that in Part 1 if you haven’t seen it yet).
Here’s a quick video to show some of the possibilities of what you can do as Emcee
Here is your 10 Item Guidebook to being an AWESOME Emcee, as the Show has finally arrived, here we go:
- Sound Check – Get there before anyone else, other than AV, who pretty much live there. Show up in an outfit that commands respect but also shows your flair for being awesome. I say dressy enough you could do the gig in the outfit but have something even more spectacular for stage. Let AV know what you need, I prefer to use the podium as a place for notes, printed out timeline and introductions, as well as have my iPod ready to play when a music break might be needed. Most Emcees prefer lavaliere mics, I don’t because I’m doing so much singing and like to always have a Handheld Mic at the ready in case a lav stops working. Whatever you prefer for sound, make sure the AV Guys realize you’re on the same team and they will save you time and time again. Check for teleprompter needs, walk the stage to know the space, and be as quick and painless as possible to work with. And smile, smile, smile.
- Back Stage – Find where everything is set for everyone else, and make sure you have a spot close to the opening in the drape to get on stage fast. I request a banquet table, light, outlet, wifi password, and chair for my area. Some clients even give me a green room all to myself. If I am the Emcee for 3 days I make sure to understand where everyone will be, including the CEO’s, Speakers, Performers, Merchandise, as well as Trade Show, other important pieces most don’t consider. Back stage I also assist in being the Excitement Generator for each Presenter. In other words, my job is to help everyone going on stage to feel they will be awesome. That means I’ll fix the collar of the billionaire Founder and put him at ease by laughing with him, or checking the teeth of the over-lipsticked female who is about to launch their newest cosmetics line, perhaps I see the National Anthem singer is freaking out so I’ll go over and do a little dance with them to calm them down….these things are important, and although back stage where no audience will see make you an invaluable part of the team and an added benefit to ensuring a great event. P.S. Ask where the crew eats so you can eat there too!
- Opening Monologue – Often the first person on stage is the Emcee. This allows you to establish the energy and flow of the entire event. This is an incredible place to be, although intimidating if you are replacing an executive as everyone is watching to see if you have what it takes, but overall this is where your abilities as a Presenter shine through. Always have a killer story, amazing musical number, or engagement experience ready for the audience in this moment. You may have 3 minutes, or potentially 15 – I say fight for the longest amount of time they’ll give you. In this piece you introduce the Theme of the event, social media goals (please use this hashtag when posting), some housekeeping (restrooms are to your left, please keep your lanyards on, show up in time for general sessions to win prizes), and then allow them to get to know you. My favorite piece in this spot is an engagement energizer where we play music on a fun loud track while running around doing selfies with those in the audience and then sharing with the world that they’re missing out not being at this event – very fun. You decide what your routine will be here, but most likely, this will be the longest amount of time you’ll have on the stage all day, so make it count!
- Keep The Energy UP! – Your main job is to be the glue that keeps the event flowing, fun, and timely. It doesn’t matter if the doctor or rocket scientist that spoke for 79 minutes longer than he should have just put the room to sleep – this is why they hired you. Now you enter the stage and everyone knows something cool is going to happen! Whether a giveaway of prizes, a dance break, some comedy routine or powerful story, you tie in what you just learned from backstage while listening to the presenter into how it makes sense for the event and as it leads to the next person you are to bring out. Here are just a few examples of my doing this:
- Involving the Previous Presenter – the Doctor pictured at the top of this post is beloved in his company, as well as has the bass voice of a stadium announcer. Upon hearing his voice backstage I asked if he’d be willing to sing Johnny Cash with me following his presentation, “Folsom Prison”, of all songs. He said he’d be happy to try. After his great speech we sang the duet and he killed it. Crowd went nuts. It was a good idea.
- Come on stage in Client’s Merch – in this picture I used the robe from my room, but it was because we were doing a giveaway of all their clothes and I had all layered on top…so I stripped down for about 3 minutes of bizarre, yet tasteful, hilarity. Tossing the shirts, jackets, sunglasses, and other out to the laughing audience, it made a for a great bit.
- Utilize Client’s Products as Part of Your Routine – this one concept has become something of a lynchpin piece for me. I will poke fun at their products, especially since a majority of the events I’ve done as Emcee have been for the MLM or Direct Sales industry and their health products. I like all of them, and they often taste good, but I’ll always find the funny slant, as in this photo I called these Momma Bears instead of the Manna-Bears and then ate way more than the prescribed amount. Sometimes I’ve taken it too far and client has asked me to pull back, but that was at the beginning of my career, and after doing a few product placement pieces, have found the right place to push and make fun, while still helping drive products. One client said my product piece helped them sell over $100,000 in the store following the bit. That made them happy.
- Introduce Each Presenter as Excitedly as Jimmy Fallon Would – Watch The Tonight Show and see how pumped Jimmy is about each and every guest. Even those whom none of us know receive a red-carpet introduction making you think this must be the most important person in the world and I’m an idiot for not knowing who they are. Jimmy makes them the Star of the show while always holding his own (even when we know he’s more talented than anyone on earth), and makes each guest feel essential to the success of the show. He is a cheerleader, he is captivated, he is caring, and just watch him to see how you do an introduction.
- Get the Client to Dance – If you can show the audience that the Executives have a sense of humor, and they are willing to play along, the crowd will go crazy, the executive will become a Legend, and you will be invited back indefinitely. Pictured here is an Exec whom I asked to dance Michael Jackson with me, and he brought the house down. Also here you will see where I introduced an executive with a song from his part of the world and we danced together, this always seems to work big time.
- Be Ready to Save The Day – I believe the reason I am asked back by so many companies isn’t just because I can bring energy and laughs, although that’s a big part of it, rather it is my ability to always be ready to save the day when something bad happens. In other words, there will always be a glitch – this is a LIVE SHOW – and if you’re the one with the ability to “kill time” in a comfortable way, then you become beyond invaluable. Once I was to introduce a legendary Hall of Fame Basketball Star. As I went to his bio in the teleprompter it read, “He’s NOT here. Stall.” Lucky for me, I have about 10 bits that allow me to stall for a good 45-60 minutes in total. Same thing happened when Chuck Norris didn’t show up on time. <STALL> Yes, that is code for, “Please make it seem like nothing bad is happening, but our 6-figure keynote just missed his flight”. So I went ahead into my normal Keynote, and 45 minutes later in the prompter it read: “Chuck Norris just arrived. You’re an mc god. Please Intro him.” Hahahaha. The ability to save the day has allowed me to be referred by AV companies, event planners, and taken with one executive to 5 different companies as he considers me his secret weapon. I only say this because any of us can be this prepared, but we have to be ready to be very uncomfortable in front of 10,000 people in realtime and make it seem like it’s part of the act.
- Be the Fall Guy for Tough Names – This might be one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever shared, but it’s a real issue. Executives have Awards needing to be handed out but have no idea how to say the names, whether in Japanese, Spanish, German or even English, it can make an executive look like he doesn’t know the company and people if they can’t pronounce the names. So why not offer to be the guy to screw it up? I have done this for years, while execs snicker behind me in the receiving line as I’ve chopped painfully through all types of names and languages. I get let off the hook because attendees know I am not a part of the company, but since they already like me as the “Fun Guy” Emcee they forgive me even when destroying names. Yes, it’s best if you can learn how to say names prior, but in this case the names weren’t shared before, so this was so so bad. Never have I had it worse than this clip trying to say these names off a teleprompter of people from Ghana. Still makes me shudder….
- Always Keep the Mic & Take The Awards as Seriously as Recipients do – For years I have let clients know their awards shows are too long and boring. They know this but can’t figure out how to make it better. We have had all the Silvers and Golds and Platinums march across the stage waving as fast as possible, when there are 9,000 recipients it can be a very long process, but then there are moments where people truly need to be recognized for their hard work and get to speak. In this instance my goal is to be the biggest fan of the winner, to be just as happy for them as they are. I also insist the event planners allow me to keep the mic in my hand while I hold it in front of the award recipient, in order to pat them on the back for encouragement, always smiling and being kind, but also to tap them on the back letting them know it’s time to wrap up. At times I have had to gently push the recipient. while smiling and nodding, to keep walking when they’re just to say their name and where they’re from, but then they go into their lifetime achievement speech at the wrong time….They will grab the mic out of my hand and fight me for it, but I won’t give in. This is one of the most important pieces of being an Emcee – always control the mic. If you don’t, the whole night could be gobbled up in lengthy award speeches and loss of control of timeline. As long as you have the mic you can keep time.
- Timeline Nazi – I don’t like the word Nazi but it applies in this instance. As Emcee my goal is to be the glue, to be the energizer bunny, to make it fun. But more than anything I am to Keep Time. My sessions will NEVER go over if I have anything to do with it, and I often do, so I can control the tempo and pace. That means cutting my routines I had planned short in order to fit in all that was supposed to happen in the session. Nothing I have prepared is as important as getting people out the door at Noon if lunch is in the other room or the General Session needs to be turned before the 2 PM start. I will not cut off an Executive unless the Founder tells me to, and I have before. I will not cut off a Keynoter unless they have gone 10-15 minutes over and the planner says I should. I have had to do some gnarly things to keep events on time, but if you’re in the audience you are watching for events to end when it said it would, as is the events team, dining team, production, flowers, awards, contractors, etc. There have been cranes waiting for an event to be on time to load 7 give-away cars. I had to cut off the CEO for that one, and he didn’t realize he had taken so long and thanked me for getting things back on track. And then he sent me a $10,000 tip after the event. Glad I did my job on that one!
- Customize At All Costs – I have shared some of the ways I do this already, but the company Younique really allowed me to take it to a new level. To have 10,000 women screaming with laughter at whatever you do and say about their products is really fun. In the videos below you will see how my team spent time going to their corporate offices and doing Pre-Production Videos that they used for launching the event and announcing I’d be returning as Emcee. We then showed the videos as my Opening Monologue in case they hadn’t seen them. And then I did my best to top my “contouring” routine from the year before, but this time by sharing a message of leaving things behind and moving forward from what they learned at convention, illustrated by my shaving my beard on stage while applying make-up as well. They went bonkers over this and it was the only portion of the event I had as a 15 min. set. The video after that is my convincing the Founder, a very shy and reserved quiet yet very kind man, genius and financial wizard, to dance with me as a Blues Brother in Chicago. It was EPIC and beautiful. I hope you enjoy these videos. This remains, in my opinion, one of the best sets I’ve ever done by way of customizing for a certain client. Question is – how can you do the same for yours?
- Use Every Arrow in Your Quiver – Perhaps you’re watching some of these videos, looking at the Emcee section of my web site, and reading this thinking, “There’s no way. I don’t have all of this to perform or deliver.” My challenge to you is to understand the following: YES YOU DO. You just haven’t tapped into it yet. Use whatever you see from me and make it your own. Dancing? Singing? Comedy? Storytelling? Product Use? Customization? All of this is me being silly and yet still somehow sophisticated. If you have been chosen as the Emcee then YOU HAVE THIS TOO. Don’t be intimidated, just be inspired, and figure any way you can to be awesome, which is probably many more things than I have. Like I say in my Promise speech, “You have Talents I don’t have, I have Talents you don’t want.”
BONUS Thought: ALWAYS suggest having a Co-Emcee for Awards Ceremonies
Few suggestions have saved me more than having someone on stage with me. Whether it’s a newscaster, former beauty pageant winner, or even an Executive from the company who understands the lingo they didn’t have time to give you prior, it is always so helpful to share the stage with someone for Awards Ceremonies. Recently I was expected to be Emcee, as well as Entertain in segments, as well as be Auctioneer. The buck stopped at Auctioneer. Know your limits, tell the client what you’re great at and what you’re not good at. And then rock the house with your strengths and they’ll love you forever.
WOW that was a long post! If you made it through then you know how every AV Team has ever felt at the end of a 3-day convention about the effects of marbles on turtle migration in the Andes. I applaud your efforts and accomplishments, and am excited to hear if and how this has helped you. In addition to this writing, I wanted to also share my friend, fellow Emcee Thom Singer, CSP, and his 10 Tips to being a Master of Ceremonies (much easier to read!) and a few items I didn’t touch on that you need to consider.
See you in Part 3 when we cover Post-Show Follow Up! Don’t want to miss that.
~ jason hewlett
Jason Hewlett, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, is a Keynote Speaker for the largest corporate events in the world. His primary message, The Promise, is essential for Leadership, Management, Sales, Marketing, Direct-Sales Companies, and is a combination of engagement and entertainment meets inspiration. Jason has even received standing ovations from IT guys. He has been acknowledged as life-changing by Conference Attendees, C-Level Executives and Hollywood Elite. jasonhewlett.com
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