preparing for and emceeing events on stage and online is that you have to be authentic, come in with high energy, warmth and enthusiasm, maintain focus throughout the event, truly listen to speakers and audiences, and convey key messages in an engaging soulful way that inspires action.
“How do you emcee an event?” is a question I often hear from people who want to learn more about the art of hosting live events. Honestly, what I’ve learned preparing for and emceeing events on stage and online is that you have to be authentic, come in with high energy, warmth and enthusiasm, maintain focus throughout the event, truly listen to speakers and audiences, and convey key messages in an engaging soulful way that inspires action.
Event planners want engaged audiences and dynamic inspiring speakers, so by staying laser focused in the moment, an effective emcee reacts quickly, summarizes messaging impactfully and improvises with humor, ease and grace. Believe it or not, there’s more to hosting an event than just those skills, so let’s take a closer look.
Over time, I’ve learned 3 important things about how to emcee an event. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Authentically Engage the Audience
How important is authenticity in connecting with audiences while you emcee an event? I would argue that it is the number one way to draw people in both on stage and online when emceeing events. People want to feel something and connect emotionally with others. There is electricity in people coming together for a common experience. It’s a palpable energy that stimulates our neurons and a feeling that all humans crave. How can we create that feeling at an event, whether in-person or virtually online? An impactful emcee has a deep desire for audiences to get the most value they possibly can from their time spent at an event. The more powerful and real we can make the experience and investment for audience members, the better.
One way to grab attendees’ attention from the beginning when you emcee an event is by starting the event with enthusiasm, excited anticipation and soulful connection. It’s important to lay the foundation of what event attendees can expect throughout their time at the meeting, conference or gala. There are other ways to get audiences to engage and respond by asking poll questions, developing an activity like a game or exercise that illustrates a key message, or using humor to lighten the mood and break down inhibitions so that people are more receptive to absorbing themes and takeaways. This all sets the tone for the rest of the event.
2. Have Energy and Enthusiasm
Bringing loads of energy and enthusiasm when you emcee an event is something that can’t be taught. An effective emcee brings energy, enthusiasm, warmth and charisma to attendees. For live in-person events, many people have traveled long distances to attend. With virtual online events, attendees may be watching at home or work where distractions lurk at every corner. Keeping the audience energized and engaged is a key role for your event host!
Sessions tend to be packed with information - sometimes technical. Even with the best intentions, sometimes internal or external speakers run long. An experienced emcee will come on stage or online with high spirits, unfazed by any agenda changes or technical difficulties, and make introductions, communicate schedules, next steps and important housekeeping notes, and open and close each day and session with soulful energy. By lightening the mood and encouraging attendees to connect with key messages and take action, an emcee helps people make the most of their time at the event. People get so much more out of events when they feel positive and energized!
3. Maintain Your Focus
Your event host is the lynchpin and glue that ties everything together during the event. A dedicated, engaging, charismatic host and emcee will bring your message to life, drive the agenda with enthusiasm and focus, and authentically represent your brand to make a professional, credible, measurable impact. Plus, there’s so much competing for attendees’ attention during events. One singular moderator and host will bring everything together.
I often invite event planners to consider this - you’ve secured the on-site venue or online platform, the tech team, entertainment, guest speakers, logistics. Who’s going to provide the continuity and dedicated focus to ensure the event flows smoothly and goals are met? Who will keep track of every word said on stage and every emotion evoked, summarize efficiently and effectively, transitioning from speakers and panels, guiding attendees on their journey? Who will keep attendees engaged and energized late into the night at an awards gala or at a virtual event that's gone a bit long?
Emcees work closely with event coordinators and backstage staff and online tech specialists, communicating throughout the event to ensure proper timing and smooth transitions. Everything is rehearsed, timed and planned when you emcee an event. However, unexpected circumstances always present both in person at live events on stage and at virtual events. Dedicated event professionals who are in place fulfilling their roles ensure that any unexpected circumstances will be handled swiftly and with ease and that the entire event runs smoothly. Live and virtual emcees work hand in hand with the events team to ensure strong communication and a successful event.
Frequently Asked Questions about Emceeing an Event
How to MC a Corporate Event
There are many types of events that benefit from having an engaging, soulful, credible emcee. Corporate events are at the top of the list. Types of corporate events include customer conferences, internal sales meetings, awards galas, press releases and annual association meetings. Event organizers spend lots of time and money planning these events and need their key messages to be communicated in an engaging manner that inspires audiences to act - customers to buy, salespeople to sell, employees to learn and become more productive.
Companies, organizations and businesses sometimes consider asking an internal employee to host their business events. Just because Bob or Susie from inside the organization speaks well and is personable does not mean that will translate into being a proficient orator under pressure on stage, gracefully guiding an event. Hiring a proven professional to emcee an event ensures an organization gets a confident skilled communicator who knows how to handle unforeseen variables with grace and improvisation, and is adaptable with a keen ability to read the room.
Clients often come to me looking to offer their event audiences something different at their annual meeting or conference. They want to change up their approach, shake things up, offer diversity, a breath of fresh air, a refreshing enthusiastic new take. One comment I hear often from attendees is “What department do you work in?” Of course, I’m hired to come in, but that affirms the importance of a professional host integrating seamlessly into an organization when emceeing an event. Hiring a dedicated, professional, credible host to emcee an event also frees up an organization’s leadership and employees to focus on connecting with attendees and colleagues at events off stage. It becomes a win-win for everyone.
What is a Virtual Emcee?
In the last few months, virtual events with virtual speakers have become a hot topic in the events industry. Everyone is talking about pivoting to virtual. While the same speaking skills translate from emceeing an event in-person to virtual, there are a few additional considerations that event planners should consider when hiring a virtual host to emcee an event. Does the virtual emcee have the tech savvy and equipment that manage the A/V requirements that broadcasting from in-home demands? Considerations include at least one professional HD or 4K camera, lighting from multiple sources, crisp audio, hi-speed internet for live streaming, natural background and green screen options, TelePrompter (usually run by the emcee) so the host can look directly into the lens. Has the virtual emcee hosted live streaming broadcasts in-studio and in-home previously?
As Carlos Tabora of Virtual Event News says, “Virtual events can have many moving parts with both ‘TV-produced quality’ and ‘reality TV-like’ components. I highly encourage meeting and event planners to consider hiring a professional event host that can tie together your messaging throughout your event while managing attendee expectations.” He adds, “When it came time to ‘open doors’ to our #VirtualPivot event, Amy did what she does best – engaging with speakers and attendees with her energetic personality and just making us look good. She truly was the glue that kept the event running smoothly from start to finish.” Event planners like Carlos are turning to event hosts, moderators, and emcees with on-camera broadcast experience to help transform their virtual events into memorable engaging experiences. Hiring a professional to emcee an event, whether in-person or virtual, helps clients and planners ensure that event goals and metrics are met and that attendees come away with value, inspiration and motivation to take action post-event.