How To Be A Great Emcee: 5 Qualities Event Hosts MUST Possess

Emceeing . 8 Min. Read . By: Devon Brown

Have you ever wondered why some events leave you buzzing with excitement, while others just, well... don't?

I've spent over 20 years mastering the art of event hosting, introducing legends like Tony Robbins, Gary Vee, and the stars of SharkTank to the stage, so I've learned a thing or two about what makes a great event.

And what I’ve discovered is that the secret ingredient often isn't just the content or the speakers, but the person holding the mic – the emcee.

The emcee (aka the host) is more than just a voice.

They’re the heartbeat of the event.

But what exactly makes a great emcee? 

Well, that’s what we’re going to cover in the next few minutes in the guide on how to be a great emcee. 

I’m about to walk you through the five essential qualities that all exceptional emcees possess. And these aren't just practical tips; they’re core principles that transform events from good to unforgettable.

In a nutshell, they are:

1. Deep Preparation: Uncover the crucial insights that help you make the event a hit. It’s more than just knowing the agenda.

2. Selflessness: Learn why stepping back can sometimes mean leading the way.

3. Adaptability: Discover the secrets to thriving in the world of live events. Every curveball is an opportunity for a great emcee.

4. Audience-Centric Introductions: It’s not just who you introduce, but how. Find out what really grabs and keeps audience attention.

5. Energy Management: Mastering the mood – learn how to read and steer the energy of any room, from subdued to electrifying.

Every great emcee has these 5 qualities. 

But it’s not enough to just know them, you need to embody and master each one. Let's dive into how you can integrate these qualities into your performances; and unlock your full potential as a truly great emcee.

Ready?

Let’s dive in.

QUALITY #1: DEEP PREPARATION

The Foundation of Every Successful Emcee and Event Host

As an emcee, your first step towards success is deep preparation. 

It's not just about memorizing the schedule or the names of the speakers; it’s about understanding the event's purpose, audience, and culture. This sets a professional emcee apart from an amateur. 

Doing Your Homework

Preparation begins with thorough research. 

Here are some ways to make sure you’re as prepared as possible:

  • Communicating with Event Coordinators: One of the first things you should do is have a detailed discussion with the event coordinator. Ask specific questions like, "Who is the target audience?" "What are the main goals of this event?" and "What atmosphere are we aiming to create?" This gives you a clear understanding of the event's objectives and how you – as a great emcee or event host – can align your role to enhance them.
  • Engaging with the Audience Beforehand: If the event has a Facebook group or social media presence, dive into it. This not only gives you a feel for the audience’s expectations and interests but also helps you tailor your approach to engage them better. 
  • Reviewing Past Events: If available, try to watch videos or read about the previous editions of the event. This helps in getting a sense of what worked well before and what you could improve. It also provides an idea of the event's overall tone and style.
  • Setting Up Meetings for In-Depth Understanding: If you can, try to set up additional meetings to delve deeper into the details. It's crucial to know everything from the event's theme to the specific outcomes the organizers are aiming for. These meetings can be eye-opening and are an essential part of your preparation process.

Being well-prepared means fully immersing yourself in the event’s world. 

It's about doing your homework so thoroughly that you become an integral part of the event's narrative. This level of preparation not only boosts your confidence but also means you can handle any situation with ease, and that improves the experience for everyone involved.

QUALITY #2: PUTTING THE EVENT FIRST

It’s About the Event, Not You.

One of the biggest mistakes amateur emcees and event hosts make is thinking the event is about them. However, the truth is quite the opposite. 

A truly great emcee understands that their primary role is to serve the event and, more importantly, the audience in attendance. It's about setting aside your ego and consistently asking yourself, 

"Is this what's best for the event?"

Adapting to the Event's Needs

Remember, your time on stage might change unexpectedly. 

Sometimes, a speaker may overrun, and your stage time gets cut short. In these moments, it's crucial you don’t make this about you. 

Use this as an opportunity to show off your skills at summarizing key points or sharing a thought that leaves a lasting impact on the audience.

This means the event continues to flow well. 

On other occasions, you might find a speaker is late or finishes early, and suddenly, it's on you to keep the event moving smoothly. 

This is where quality #1 – being prepared and knowing your audience pays off – allowing you to fill in time effortlessly.

Mastering the Art of 'Story Banking'

One effective technique you can use to fill in unexpected time is 'Story Banking.' While preparing, make sure you have a repertoire of personal stories that you can link to the event's theme. This can be a lifesaver.

For instance, if you know a speaker is going to discuss avoidance in relationships, you can ‘bank’ a relevant personal story to share on stage. 

So if the worst happens, and you need to fill time, you can say…

“You know what, that last talk about avoidance in relationships reminds me of how I used to show up in my relationships…”

These stories might look as if they’re about you, but they’re not. They’re about connecting with your audience and making them feel something.

If you’d like to learn more about how to fill in time on stage with ease, then check out this article which gives you two essential techniques.

But for now, remember, leave your ego at the stage entrance. 

Great emcees know it’s not about them, it’s about the event. 

QUALITY #3: BEING PREPARED FOR CURVEBALLS

The Emcee’s Art of Quick Adaptation

If you’ve hosted events before, you’ll know to expect the unexpected!

And as an emcee, one of your key roles is to seamlessly “cover” for the event when things don’t go as planned. Whether it’s a technical hitch, a late speaker, or any other unforeseen issue, your ability to handle these curveballs can significantly impact the event's success.

Beyond 'Story Banking'

Engaging with the Audience

While 'Story Banking' is a great tool for filling time, it’s not the only trick in your arsenal. Let’s imagine you’re hosting an event for entrepreneurs. 

During your preparation, you find out the audience is interested in innovative business strategies. Now, if a speaker is running late, you can use this insight to engage the audience with targeted questions.

For example, you might ask, 

“What’s the most innovative strategy you’ve implemented in your business this year? Would anyone like to share their experience?”

Then follow it up with simple probing questions,

“That’s such a great idea! Can you tell us more about how you…”

The Benefits of Audience Engagement

This approach does more than just stall for time; it creates a dynamic and interactive environment. It shows that you, as an emcee, are not only well-prepared but also deeply in tune with the audience’s interests. 

Plus, it turns a potential problem into an opportunity for meaningful interaction, keeping the event’s momentum going and painting you as the emcee who never loses their cool, even when things go sideways.

QUALITY #4: AUDIENCE-CENTRIC INTRODUCTIONS

It’s About Them, Not the Speaker

As an emcee, one of your critical roles is introducing speakers.

But here's where many emcees miss the mark – they focus too much on the speaker's credentials rather than what the speaker can offer the audience. The key to a great introduction is not just who the speaker is, but what they will bring to the audience's lives.

The Mistake in Traditional Introductions

Here's a typical, less effective way to introduce a relationship expert:

"Please welcome Dr. Jane Smith, a psychologist with a Ph.D. in Relationship Dynamics from Harvard University. She has authored six best-selling books and is featured in numerous academic journals.”

Sure it might sound impressive, but it’s bland and boring.

The Engaging, Audience-Centric Approach

Now, let's look at a more effective, audience-centric introduction:

I’m thrilled to introduce Dr. Jane Smith, who will show you how to reignite the passion in your marriage in just 30 days. Today, Dr. Smith will share practical strategies that have helped countless couples break free from the routine and rediscover the excitement in their relationship. With her in-depth research at Harvard, best-selling guides on relationship rejuvenation, and a proven track record in helping married couples find joy and connection again, Dr. Smith isn't just an expert – she's your pathway to a more vibrant and loving marriage. So please, put your hands together and welcome to the stage…

Why This Speaker Introduction Works

The difference is clear. 

The second approach captivates the audience, making them eager to hear what the speaker has to say. It promises them real value – something they can take away and apply in their lives. 

Great emcees understand that a powerful introduction sets the tone for the speaker and primes the audience for an engaging and enlightening experience.

Want a simple and powerful way to introduce speakers? I’ve got you covered. Discover my 1+3 Formula, it’ll change the way you introduce speakers forever.

QUALITY #5: MASTERING ENERGY MANAGEMENT

Matching the Event's Vibe

A crucial, yet often overlooked, aspect of being a great emcee is understanding and managing the energy of the event. It's not always about keeping the energy high; it's about matching and slightly elevating the energy to suit the event's mood and the audience's expectations.

Adapting to Different Event Energies

High-Energy Events: Imagine you're at a women's empowerment event where the vibe is upbeat and dynamic. In this setting, your role is to amplify this energy. You might find yourself dancing in the aisles with the attendees, leading energetic cheers, or using lively, motivational language to keep the excitement high.

More Reserved Settings: Conversely, at a business conference for seasoned professionals, the energy might be more subdued and focused. Here, your approach would be calmer and more measured. Your interactions might include thoughtful questions, insightful comments, and an energy that reflects the serious nature of the topics.

Adapting to Different Event Energies

Effective energy management involves being in tune with both the event's planned tone and the spontaneous mood of the audience. 

It’s about being flexible and responsive, knowing when to lift the spirits or when to maintain a more reserved ambiance. This makes sure the event flows perfectly and keeps the audience engaged from start to finish.

The 5 Essential Qualities That All Great Emcees Possess

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, these qualities aren't just tips; they are core principles that can transform events from good to unforgettable. By mastering them, you position yourself not just as a speaker, but as a memorable and impactful presence on stage.

Here's a quick recap of what we've covered:

1. Deep Preparation: Do your research and get prepared. Make sure you find out the event's purpose, audience, and culture.

2. Selflessness: Leave your ego at the door. Prioritize the event's success over personal accolades.

3. Adaptability: Be flexible and get prepared for anything. If you can embrace the unexpected, you’ll turn challenges into opportunities.

4. Audience-Centric Introductions: Connect the speaker to the audience's needs. Tell the audience ‘what is in it for them’.

5. Energy Management: Be the master of your event’s mood. Fine-tune your energy so you resonate with every attendee. 

Build these 5 qualities into your emcee arsenal and you'll become more than just a voice on stage; you'll be the heart and soul of the event, leaving a lasting impression on your audience.

Ready to Elevate Your Emcee & Public Speaking Skills By 327%? 

Want to learn more on how to be a great emcee? Then check out my "Be Awesome On Stage: The Masterclass".

It’s the world's #1 public speaking course, and its unique system has turned hundreds of novices into great speakers, even if they started with zero confidence. 


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Devon Brown (“Duh-Von” not “Dev-in”) is a speaker, author, entrepreneur, former hip-hop dancer, and World's #1 Event Emcee. Once described as a sort-of ‘MC Hammer meets Tony Robbins’; his style is 50% education, 50% entertainment, and 100% must-experience. Be sure to connect with Devon on social media.

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