How to Be a Great Event Emcee (15 Tips from the World’s #1 Seminar MC)

Personal Development . 8 Min. Read . By: Devon Brown

For those who don’t know me, I have been an event emcee for over 14 years and have risen to become the World’s #1 Live Seminar Event Emcee.

I have shared the stage with Tony Robbins, Dean Graziosi, Les Brown, Brian Tracy, Rachel Hollis, and many other greats.

Through my experiences (and some mistakes), I have learned how to become a great event emcee. I want to share those lessons with you today in the form of 15 tips that will help you succeed.

And oh yeah, just a quick heads up that (as you probably noticed), I'll be using the two different spellings, "MC (short for Master of Ceremonies)" & "Emcee", interchangeably - since they're both accurate.

15 Tips on How to Be a Great Event Emcee

There are many different kinds of emcees:

  • Wedding MC
  • Seminar MC
  • Trade show MC
  • Product launch MC
  • Awards MC
  • And probably a few more!

No matter what type of emcee you’re aspiring to be, these following tips will help give you a leg up on the competition.

Tip #1: Do Your Homework on the Event

One of the smartest things you can do before you meet or interview your prospective client is to do homework on their event

Look at their website and the event page, past testimonials, their Facebook community, and whatever resource is available to you.

One main reason is to determine if you are a good fit for the role of emcee and if they are a good fit for you. You may be tempted to apply for every emcee position available, but you should consider your strengths, weaknesses, and your personal style.

This doesn’t mean you need to be a part of their demographic, but you will need to be able to communicate and relate to their demographic. 

Heck, I emcee for events all across the spectrum...

From an all-women weight loss convention that has a live DJ, all the way to a medical convention for dentists.  And although I'm  neither a woman on a fitness journey, nor a person who even knows what the hell an upper bicuspid is, I know I can relate to those audiences. If I couldn’t, I would have passed on the opportunity. Knowing how to connect to your audience is an important part of being a great event emcee.

Another reason to do your homework first is so you can ask intelligent questions during the interview process. Not only will you learn more valuable information, but you’ll also impress the client.

Tip #2: It's Not About You

How to be a great event emcee

ALWAYS REMEMBER, it’s not about YOU... it's about THE EVENT!

As emcees, we love the stage more than most and, in most cases, we’re on stage even more than the speakers.

But just because you're on stage a bunch doesn't mean it's all about YOU!

Never self-promote while on stage. You were hired for a job, and that job is to represent the event. Doing this well means that the audience is getting the most out of the event, and that the people who hired you are having a more successful event (according to whatever measuring stick they're using).

The best way to promote yourself to be hired for the next event is to BE OF VALUE. Not to give people your Instagram account from stage.

Tip #3: Come With The Proper Energy Level

Here's my #1 rule when it comes to energy levels.

With Regard To Your Energy Level As An Emcee...

Come with more energy than the room, but not so much that you blow them out of the water.

If you’re emceeing an event for dentists, it’ll likely have a different energy level than if you’re emceeing a fitness seminar for 20-year old women. So, set your energy level in relation to the room, and then build up from there.

My rule of thumb is to set my energy 2 levels above wherever the room is and then gradually build it up.

So, for a dentist seminar, if they are at a level 2, I start at a level 4. For a young female fitness seminar, if they are at a level 7, I am at a 9. Then, I raise them higher and higher as I emcee up to the optimal level for the event.

What you don't want to do, is come into an even that's at a level 4, and then hit them with a 10 right off the bat. That'll turn off much of your audience.

Tip #4: Dress the Part

A fellow speaker gave me the best fashion advice that I’ve abided by ever since. He said, “As an emcee, you should be the best-dressed person in the entire event.”

At the time of his advice, I was well-dressed, but only as equally well-dressed as the audience. I learned that day to step it up a notch.

How to be a great event emcee: Devon Brown event emcee smiles

I actually seized the opportunity to make my physical appearance part of my brand image. So now, I wear a certain style to all of my events

If, however, your client requests you wear certain attire, like an event t-shirt, then by all means, wear what they ask! I gladly forgo my brand image attire to meet my client’s requests.

Just be sure to factor in as much comfort as possible (without sacrificing too much style!)—especially with your shoes, since you’ll be on your feet a lot.

Tip #5: Always Arrive Early

There’s a famous Vince Lombardi quote that goes, “If you’re on time, you’re late.” You should take this to heart as an emcee.

Always arrive early enough to do a soundcheck, feel the stage, and envision yourself interacting with the audience. Treat it like a mini dress rehearsal, with your mic on your head or in hand, using the tone of voice you’re going to use, walking around the stage, and so on

I have to travel for most of my events. So, I always fly in the day before the event. My clients love that I am ahead of schedule, and it’s a big reason I get asked to return for event after event.

Tip #6: Mix with the Crowd Beforehand

How to be a great event emcee: Devon Brown on stage with a crowd behind him

The hardest part of every event is the first time you get on stage. 

The audience likely doesn't know you, and you've only got a few minutes to connect with them and have them like you.

To help overcome that first obstacle, I intermingle with the crowd beforehand.

I jump in on conversations and try to pick out the “fun people” in the crowd that I can call upon if needed. Getting one fun person to cheer can lead to the whole crowd cheering. Not to mention the fact that having a few people who already feel comfortable with you makes your job of connecting that much easier the first time you get on stage.

Mixing with the audience helps me warm up and helps warm up the crowd. You may even be able to raise their energy level even before getting on stage! Remember, even when intermingling beforehand, your energy level should always be a step or two above everyone else’s.

Tip #7: Script Your Opening

This is one of my favorite tips on how to be a great event emcee because it really sets apart the professionals from the newbies.

As I said, the most challenging part of an event is the first time you step on the stage. In those opening minutes, it’s up to you to set the tone and set expectations for the event. So, I strongly suggest you script your opening.

A well-thought-out introduction is engaging, informative, and motivating. Right off the bat, you want to identify with your audience and why you’re all there. Summarize what the event is and get them excited about what they’re going to gain from it.

Then, you can give a short introduction of yourself and how you came to emcee this event. I also like to do a call and response to really engage the audience. And lastly, I rehearse with the crowd how we should welcome someone to the stage (standing up and cheering, of course).

Keep it simple while trying to explain why this event is different or special. Memorize the opening if you can - that way it "feels" like you're just talking off the top of your head as opposed to reading from a piece of paper or a cue card.

Tip #8: Talk to the Speakers Beforehand

If possible, talk to the speakers beforehand. Some speakers try to just hand you their bio, but that’s not good enough. There are a few things you need to clarify before you introduce them…

  • Are you pronouncing their name correctly (and the name of their business, brand, or college)? Flubbing the speaker’s name can throw the speaker off their game and leaves you in an awkward spot.
  • Are parts of their bio more applicable to what they’re speaking on than others? Some bios are miles long, and you don’t want to bore the audience with excessive information.
  • What’s the main thing people are going to get from their talk? People pay much closer attention when they understand how they will benefit from listening.

Getting these three items locked in will make your introduction of the speaker that much more powerful for the audience.

Tip #9: Be Confident and Own Your Mess-Ups

How to be a great event emcee: Devon Brown’s mess-up face

As an emcee, you are going to mess up! You are going to fumble your words and make mistakes. And that’s okay!

Seriously, it’s okay! All you have to do is own your mess-ups.

If it’s a serious mistake, like messing up a speaker’s name, simply apologize and correct the mistake. If it’s a silly mistake, then laugh with the crowd!

Confidence and fun will go further with a crowd
than perfection ever will!!”

One time on stage, I meant to say, “accelerate your success.” You know what words actually came out of my mouth?... “accelerate your sex”!!

Needless to say, I could’ve melted under my embarrassment...

I could have made myself (and therefore the crowd) uncomfortable...

Instead, I owned my mistake, and we all had an extra, unexpected laugh. It turned out to be one of the most memorable parts of the event!

Tip #10: You're an Emcee - Not a Stand Up Comedian

When you’re emceeing, you’re not there to do a set; you’re there to help the event.

Sure, you should embrace fun opportunities, but you shouldn’t try to force them.

You’re there to add value by keeping the event moving along and the crowd engaged. So, focus on the value you’re providing, not the laughs.

Tip #11: Work Even When You're Not on Stage

It’s okay to take a break when you’re not on stage, but you should still consider yourself on the clock.

When you’re not on stage, you can (and should) do a number of things, such as:

  • Review your notes
  • Prep for the next speaker
  • Interact with the audience
  • Listen to the audience during a speaker to gauge energy level and adjust accordingly

Working - even when you’re not on stage - will elevate you from a good emcee to a great emcee.

Tip #12: Have Fillers Prepared (To Buy Time)

It’s not uncommon for technical difficulties or other hiccups to occur during an event. When they do, it’s your job to keep the audience engaged and their energy level up.

You don’t want to draw a blank when trying to think how to kill time. So, I recommend coming prepared with fillers.

Some ways to kill time:

  • Ask questions (i.e., who came the farthest, is it anyone’s birthday) 
  • Ask about takeaways (i.e., what did you get from the last speaker?)
  • Activities (i.e., dance, stretch, tongue twisters, riddles)
  • Share relevant stories

My go-to filler is dancing! I have a hip-hop background so I share my moves with the crowd and teach them fun little dances.

Dancing works great for me, but you should always choose a filler that comes naturally to you.

Tip #13: Be There for the Event Host

I have worked with brand new and highly experienced event hosts, and guess what is true for all of them… their job is hard!

One of the biggest reasons they keep asking me to come back is because I try to make their job easier.

I literally ask the question, “What can I do to make things easier for you?” I ask this question before the event, during the event, and at the end of the event.

Don’t be a prima donna. Be there to serve!

How to be a great event emcee: Devon Brown and Tony Robbins

Go into full-service mode and see if you can make the event host’s job any easier. If you do, you can guarantee they’ll want you on their team for the next event and recommend you for others.

Tip #14: End as Strong as You Started

After a great event, you don’t want to end on a low note. So, just like your opening, you should script your closing, too (or, at the absolute least, have a few inspiring words planned).

Leave the audience with something uplifting and inspirational, whether it’s a success story, an uplifting anecdote, or thoughtful encouragement. Again, try to memorize this if you can.

If the host hasn’t already, give thanks to everyone who made the event possible. Thank the host, the speakers, the AV team, and don’t forget the audience!

Tip #15: Be Authentic (Do You!)

How to be a great event emcee: Devon Brown on the stage with the engaged audience

Last, but not least important tip on how to be a great event emcee: you can’t just try to copy other emcees. You have to do you!

Sure, you can get inspiration from other emcees and speakers, but in the end, you have to be authentically YOU.

Whenever I'm giving this advice, I always think of the movie Cool Runnings, when Derice, the leader of the Jamaican bobsled team, was trying to copy the Swiss bobsled team to win the gold.

He thought to be the best, you have to copy the best, but he was wrong. To be the best, he needed to be his best self. In other words, he had to bobsled like someone who was Jamaican, not Swiss. Once he accepted that, his team rose to the occasion.

The same is true for you.

When you are authentically you, your audience will rise to the occasion with you. By being authentic, you give them permission to be authentic, and that is how to be a great event emcee.

Be The Best You...

I am always working toward being the best me and love to help others do the same - ESPECIALLY when it comes to getting better at speaking in public

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  1. This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read regarding emceeing events. Thanks so much for sharing your insight!

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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.

Devon Brown with Arms Folded

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