Very often I get an email, a text or a call from someone who wants to know what to do to become a Master of Ceremonies. Since nobody goes to school to study the ins and outs of this profession, this article is a response to all those enquiries as well as preemptive strike for future questions!
Why an MC?
As the Master of Ceremonies, you are the person responsible for managing a formal event. That event could be a corporate one like a product launch or an inauguration; it could be a social function such as a wedding reception or a birthday dinner. Your main duties include telling guests why they've been invited, introducing speakers and making sure the event starts and ends on time.
To be an excellent MC, you should have enough knowledge about the event to speak intelligently about it. You should have sufficient background information about the speakers in order to introduce them well. You should also be skilled at managing time so that you don't lose control of the event and make it drag.
What an MC is not
The Master of Ceremonies is not a stand-up comedian. By all means be entertaining but remember you are not the entertainer. This means you shouldn't put yourself under unnecessary pressure to have a stock of jokes ready to be unleashed whenever there is the slightest gap in the program.
You run the risk of turning a serious event into a comedy club if you start off with one or two jokes to lighten the atmosphere. Your audience may then expect you to make them laugh any time you come on stage to talk.
It is possible to see the funny side of almost any situation without actually cracking a joke. Humorous situations occur around us all the time. You are on your way to becoming an excellent MC when you observe these things and comment on them naturally during your delivery.
I'm sorry to disappoint you but as the Master of Ceremonies, you are not the main attraction of the event. Simply put, you are not the star. Your job isn't to hog the headlines. Rather, your role is to shine the spotlight on the VIPs occupying the high table as well as the guests in the audience.
Make your speakers smile when you introduce them professionally; let your guests appreciate the fact that you respected them by starting and ending the event on time. That's what you're engaged to do; just do it consistently and you will be known for excellence.
What it takes to become an excellent MC
Just like any other profession, you only become a skilled MC through study and practice. Without a doubt, the most important subject you should study is human behaviour and how people think. Are you asking what this has to do with picking up a microphone and speaking to an audience of strangers? But think carefully about it.
Any event you will ever host will revolve around people. The event planner, your audience, the speakers, you name it.
If you want to get a detailed brief about your event, you better know how to relate with the organizer to get that information. If you want to create instant rapport with a roomful of strangers, you better know how to gauge your audience’s mood in order to make the right connection. If you want to rein in a speaker who has been talking for too long, you better be on top of your game in the people skills department.
The more you study and know people, the better you will be as a Master of Ceremonies.
Another important subject worthy of your study is public speaking. You won't get very far as an MC if you can't overcome your nervousness and fear in front of an audience. You'll have no chance of success if people can't hear you even though you're speaking into a microphone. So learn the art of public speaking by reading books on the topic, listening to instructional CDs and observing people who speak for a living (broadcasters, actors, the clergy, politicians).
Unlike other professional speakers, you don't have the liberty of speaking as long as you want when you get on the stage. Remember you are not the reason why people have gathered. As the MC, you link the various parts of the program to give it structure. In effect, you are the glue that binds the disparate pieces of an event together. Glue that is effective will not be visible. Therefore your motto really should be 'GOS-KIS-GOS'. In other words, "Get On Stage - Keep It Short - Get Off Stage"
After all the studying and observing, you now have to practice. You have to hunt for events where you can deploy your skills as an MC. The good thing is you can start small and grow gradually.
Remember every formal event needs a Master of Ceremonies. Start with your family and friends. Any anniversaries, birthdays, funerals, naming ceremonies or weddings coming up? Volunteer to be the MC. Forget about getting paid. That comes later. For now, use these social events as a laboratory where you can test your skills in a relatively safe environment where you will be familiar with your audience.
What about your workplace? Any opportunities there for you? Of course! Awards ceremonies, breakfast meetings, inaugurations and product launches are just a few corporate events that could benefit from your MC skills. Let your colleagues know what you can do
One day, someone will surely hand you the baton of opportunity; when you meet that moment, say a prayer of thanks, hold on to that baton and make sure you cross the finish line with it. You will be well on your way to becoming an excellent Master of Ceremonies!