What's private, intimate and restricted to relatives and friends?
A birthday party.
When you are engaged to be the MC for such an occasion, you may be tempted to under-prepare. But that would be a mistake. Take a party as seriously as you would a conference. Remember, you're there to do an excellent job. Here’s what to do so you don’t mess up.
Before The Day...
Have a meeting with the organizers. That could mean a telephone conversation, WhatsApp messages, email exchanges or a face-to-face encounter. Ask lots of questions like the following:
Answers to these and other questions will give you a flavor of what is being planned. Go on to ask for a draft program of the event.
You may encounter some resistance from the organizer who may be wondering why you need a program when it's just a small matter of friends and family turning up to eat, drink and make merry. Respond by telling the organizer that the program will not be printed out for guests but will serve as a guide for you to keep the event running on time.
If they don't have a program, offer to draw one up. A simple template you can use is below:
The section titled 'Optional Speeches' is reserved for relatives or family members who'd like to say a few congratulatory words to the birthday celebrant. Make sure you have a brief profile of the person who will be talking so you can tell your audience what connection they have with the celebrant (Did they go to school together? Business partners? Family friends?)
On The Day...
Get to the venue at least an hour ahead of time. Let the organizers know you've arrived early. That will be one less thing for them to worry about. Introduce yourself to all the service providers - caterer, ushers, waiters, DJ, band.
It's advisable to be on friendly terms with the DJ. Why? For starters, you need him or her in order to test your microphone because you'll be using their public address system. In addition, you'll need them to lower the music whenever you turn on your microphone. And on top of all that, it's just easier to work with people when you have a cordial relationship with them don't you think?
Get a little background information from the band so you can hype them when you have to introduce their act.
Review your program, alert the person saying the prayer to get ready, get the green light from the organizer and you're good to go!
During The Event...
After the opening prayer, you step in to deliver the Purpose of Gathering. This is where you set the tone for the celebration. You tell the audience why they have been invited and you give them a sense of what to expect. If you sound energized and excited, your enthusiasm will rub off on the guests and your party will get off to a great start.
As the Master of Ceremonies, you're responsible for the audience's mood and how the event flows. If they are bored and the event lacks structure, you've failed in your job. From the moment you introduce the next segment after your introduction right through to the end, you'll be managing the mood and the flow. It requires that you think a few steps ahead and that you pay attention to details.
For example, if there are any optional speeches, you should inform the speakers in advance of the amount of time they have to speak. Make sure they stick to it.
A Few Don'ts To Remember
Don't announce its time for dinner without checking whether the caterer is ready with the food. You may cause a problem with hungry people lined up at an empty buffet table and stressed out caterers cursing you under her breath for rushing them.
Don't announce it's time to cut the cake when you haven't checked to make sure the knife is available.
Don't pop the champagne without ensuring that your guests have glasses from which they can drink to the health of the celebrant.
Overlook these obvious things and the mood and flow of your party could be affected.
Should you have a vote of thanks at a party? I'll suggest a one word answer: No! I've attended birthday parties which ended abruptly after the music was stopped for someone to deliver a vote of thanks. Remember what I've been saying about mood and flow?
If the organizer insists on a vote of thanks, insist that the person celebrating their birthday should be the one to do that job. Preferably right after responding to the toast and then encouraging everyone to continue having a good time. The DJ then puts on a hot track which should get the dancers onto the floor. And the party goes on till the last person leaves.