How to Be a Good Emcee
October 7, 2008 by S.I.D.J.
A guide to being master of ceremonies for any event. Learn how to leave your stage fright at home and impress everyone with your magical charisma!
- Know your event – These instructions apply to all types of ceremonies, from graduations to bar mitzvahs to celebrity roasts. The key to being a good emcee is confidence. Knowing whats going on (and thus what you should talk about) is everything. Theres nothing more embarassing than announcing to 100 people that Joe Blow is about to juggle bowling balls, only to have Jane Doe come out singing a song.
- Establish your contact well in advance of the event day. Your contact will tell you the schedule and order of events, allowing you to be prepared. Your preparation will let you focus on interacting with the crowd, instead of trying to be entertaining, and figure out whats going on at the same time.
- Smile constantly – Smiling shows the crowd that you’re at ease and having a good time. You want them to be at ease and have a good time, so you’ve got to set the example. If need be, imagine in advance several happy or funny scenarios. Play out these scenarios in your head while you’re talking to the crowd. Remember the old speech class advice – imagine everyone in the crowd is in their underwear. Your light-heartedness is sure to rub off.
- Don’t write a script – good emcees don’t read lines from notecards. Remember, you are there to help everyone have fun by keeping them posted on whats happening, and helping them remember the highlights of whats already happened. Good emcees write an outline, then practice their ad-lib over and over until it feels right. When a good emcee reaches the stage, they are primed and ready – their outline is only there to bail them out if they forget something.
- Practice in front of the mirror – A few hours of mirror practice will allow you to evaluate all the areas we’ve learned about. Are you smiling? Do you appear light-hearted? Do you seem too rigid? Does it look like you’re reading from a script?
- What are your audience demographics? As an emcee, you are expected to make the occasional joke, or to comment on the performance at hand. In order to seem at ease and light-hearted, it’s usually appropriate to push the boundaries of acceptable humor; but don’t take it too far. As an example, a sexual innuendo is going to horrify your audience at a middle school talent show; however it might go over great at a company party with an open bar.
- Don’t forget your main job is to talk to the crowd. You’re keeping them informed about the ceremony, and giving the talent or featured individual time to prepare to go onstage. Talk to the audience like they are your friends. They’ll have a great time, and you’ll feel like you helped them have it!