Breakfast meetings are corporate networking events that take place in the morning. They are usually held in a hotel. Important speakers are invited to deliver presentations about relevant business topics. A Master of Ceremonies is required to take control of the event. As the MC, how do you host such an event successfully?
If the meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30am, arrive at least an hour early. Check out the meeting hall, test your microphone and meet the organizers. When the guests start appearing, introduce yourself, welcome them to the event.
Some breakfast meetings require guests to register and give out their business cards for a raffle that will be held during the meeting. One of your first tasks is to direct guests to the registration desk with a reminder that they may win big if their card is drawn. Organizers use the registration exercise to harvest contacts of business executives so be enthusiastic about encouraging guests to register and hand over their cards. Even during the meeting, you can continue to remind the audience to register.
The first part of a breakfast meeting deals with the food. After guests have settled at their tables, announce that breakfast is ready. They will approach the buffet tables to serve themselves but you won't join them. Remember they are there to network but you are there to manage the event
You are effectively on duty. You may get engrossed in a conversation while eating and forget that you were engaged to do a specific job - host the event. You may be called upon to suddenly make an announcement and if your mouth is full of food, how professional will that be? You may even accidentally spill coffee on your suit and have to take to the stage with a big brown stain in full view of the audience.
Hungry because you didn't grab a bite? Tough. There will be plenty of time after the event to sample the breakfast fare.
Halfway through breakfast, you'll start the meeting by welcome guests once again. Run through all the announcements that need to be made - fire exits, directions to washrooms, requests for cars blocking exits to be re-parked and registration reminders. If the event is sponsored, acknowledge the sponsoring company's representative and invite them to make a presentation about their organization. You can also remind guests to visit sponsor stands for more information about their products and services.
You're now ready to bring the speakers onto the stage. Even if the organizers gave you their profiles, it's a good idea to touch base with the speakers during breakfast to confirm those details. To do an excellent job, you must have the speaker's name and its correct pronunciation, their title and professional achievements.
Introduce every speaker using this formula: Profession-Experience-Relevance to Audience-Speaker's Name. It builds drama and gets the audience's attention because they will be curious about who that person is. Here's an example of a brief but solid introduction:
"Our first speaker is a serial entrepreneur. She has spent the best part of 2 decades building, running and selling successful companies. We are privileged to have her speak to us about identifying opportunities in a challenging business environment. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together as we welcome...Dr. Rose Donkor."
While the speaker is talking, it’s likely that the audience will have all manner of questions to ask. You can handle this at the end of the talk by asking guests to raise their hand if they want a question answered. If nobody ventures, be prepared to ask the first one or two questions. When the audience starts firing away, limit them to one question per person plus a follow-up question so nobody dominates the interaction.
Another way of getting a wide variety of queries is to pass around slips of paper to the audience. Ask them to anonymously write down their questions while the speaker is presenting. At question time, the filled paper slips will be retrieved and read. The advantage of this system is that guests who are nervous about speaking in public can still have their concerns tackled. Also there's no pressure on you to ask a question to get the ball rolling.
Before you announce the business card draw, clarify the rules. When I MC at a breakfast meeting, I usually bar the organizers, the media and myself from taking part in the raffle. I also stress that if a winner is not in the room at the time of announcement, that person forfeits their claim to the prize. A full house always adds excitement to the draw.
Put the business cards in a bowl and ask members of the audience to come up and pick winners. Always leave the grand prize as the last one to be announced - it adds drama to the event!
After introducing the person to present the vote of thanks, you can close the breakfast meeting by asking your audience to stop by the sponsor stands on their way out. Wish them a productive rest of the day and you're done. You can now have your own breakfast, you've earned it!