Master Your Message for Maximum Impact

Master of Ceremonies Tips

Congratulations! You’ve been named Master of Ceremonies. It’s time to bask in the limelight. Well, for a minute or two, anyway. Because come the evening, all the responsibility for a successful event rests on your shoulders! So here are ten tips for hosting any function in which you’ll be introducing other speakers.

As host, you play a critical role in setting the tone for the evening. You have a very large influence on the success of the evening in general. The key thing is to prepare properly. Unless you’re a professional and do this all the time, you need to spend some time to reflect on your role, get a few notes together and do some background research on the people you’re introducing.

If this were a film, you’d be the Director. The position of Master of Ceremonies is a management position, to a certain extent. You’re responsible for getting the best out of the cast, as well as making sure the audience is happy.

1. Your role with the introduction is threefold:

  1. Tell the audience why the speaker is appropriate and why they should want to hear from him/her.
  2. Make the speaker feel like a million bucks
  3. Set the tone for the evening.

Shot of a man giving a speech

2. Don’t simply READ a prepared introduction. You need to bring it to life! Make it relevant!

I’ve often seen hosts take the lectern somewhat unprepared and introduce the keynote speaker by reading a prepared document. The level of commitment leaves a lot to be desired. It does absolutely nothing to build up the credibility of the speaker from the audience’s perspective or build up the speaker’s confidence. If your speaker has a prepared introduction of their own, get hold of it beforehand and become as familiar with it as possible. BUT, read it ‘as is,’ with energy. Too many speakers have had their opening humorous remark dismantled by a host that didn’t set them up as they had hoped.

3. Don’t make your introduction too long but do make it personal.

We don’t need to hear absolutely everything the speaker has ever done in life – just the things that are pertinent to our enjoyment of this particular speech or presentation. We’re not going to remember it all, so why bore us with it? I’ve seen hosts go on an on and on with credential upon credential. After a while, it becomes one big blur.

4. Start with building rapport.

As host, you’re responsible for warming up the audience, for setting the tone for the meeting. It’s your job to establish rapport. Is this going to be a serious get-together or a laugh-fest? It’s your job to set the stage so that the audience knows what to expect and how to react.

5. Lead the applause.

Another key responsibility is to lead applause. This is so the audience knows when to applaud and when not to. It also can add a lot of energy to the event. But that depends on you. The audience will react to you as their leader. If you lead them energetically, that’s how they’ll respond. If you lead the applause rather demurely, they’ll follow your lead.

6. Make sure the speaker has water and adjust the mic before you leave.

Your job is to make the speaker as comfortable as possible, and part of your responsibility is to make sure he/she has a fresh glass of water either on the lectern or on a small table to one side. Dry mouth is a common affliction of any speaker, no matter how experienced. Your thoughtfulness will be greatly appreciated and enhance the performance.

7. Don’t leave the lectern until the speaker arrives and remember to greet him/her.

Never leave the lectern unattended. Stay until your speaker arrives and then shake hands and offer a word of greeting or encouragement. The speaker is your guest and you are the host. Be the best host you can be! It will make a big difference.

8. Smile, project energy and confidence.

You set the tone for the evening. If it’s an awards dinner (an exciting event), you need to exude excitement. But whatever the mood, be sure the project confidence and energy. Smile. But make sure it’s natural. Have fun. This is your party and as a proper host, it’s your job to make it fun! Just by being up at the lectern, you will command the attention of your audience.

9. Bridge properly.

Once you start the introduction of your speaker, finish it. Don’t go off on a tangent and then finally get around to finishing it. Your guest needs to be introduced in a manner that will have the utmost meaning to the audience. If you begin with other club business, try to bridge into your first speaker appropriately. It always nice to tie your speaker to a particular interest or issue of the audience – to make the appearance of your guest all the more timely. After the speaker has finished, an appropriate wrap-up that reinforces the message of your speaker is always appreciated.

10. Make sure other stakeholders are aware of the agenda.

There’s nothing worse than not alerting other organizers of any particular needs of your speaker. For example, if your guest has visuals and needs the lights dimmed, make sure you have someone standing by to do so on an appropriate signal. All stage “business” should be worked out well beforehand and if it’s at all complicated or requires split second timing, be sure to rehearse it in advance.

Do these ten things and you’ll be known as an expert Master of Ceremonies.

  • Richard July 29, 2013, 11:21 am

    Wow, that surely is helpful. Great tips;)


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