Hiring an emcee for your upcoming event, whether it’s a wedding, business seminar, corporate event, or anything else, can truly elevate the event to the next level.
However, you can’t just hire any emcee/host that meets your budget or you come across first.
An emcee is like the glue that holds an event together, and the emcee you hire needs to check off a few requirements to ensure that they can not only handle the task but also create a first-class experience for you and your attendees.
So, let’s jump into it and unpack some of the most important traits to look at when you’re hiring an event emcee to make sure you find the perfect match for your event.
1: Event Emcee Experience
Let’s go ahead and start with the most obvious trait to look for first.
Emceeing/hosting is a skill. Like any other skill, it’s developed and improved over time. You’ll want someone who has become proficient at the skill of emceeing. In other words. You want someone who has experience.
Emceeing an event, conference, seminar, wedding, etc… is NOT just about reading notes from a cue card. It’s about things like audience engagement and energy management.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a company say something like:
“Hey, why don’t we just get Bill from accounting to emcee our upcoming conference. He’s so much fun at the holiday party.”
Here’s the thing…
Being fun at a holiday party and knowing how to properly introduce a keynote speaker are two completely different things.
Don’t get me wrong, everybody needs their first shot. If you’re hosting a small event on a very limited budget, then it might be a good idea to give that newbie emcee a try. But if you’re running a high-level event, then make sure the person hosting it is at least on the same level.
Like I said earlier, the emcee is the glue who holds your event together. There’s a big difference between the white (semi-sticky) glue 5 year-olds use, and the kind of “impossible-to-undo” super-glue used by professionals.
2: Event-Specific Experience
I’m putting this one second because, in all honesty, it’s not quite as important as having someone with general experience as an emcee.
However, it is ideal for you if the emcee has handled events like the one you’re putting together.
Obviously, the tone of different events can differ dramatically. A fun birthday bash is going to require a very different tone than a graduation or corporate event. And while a great emcee will have no issues hosting a corporate event one weekend and a birthday-bash the next, the BEST choice for you will often be the host/emcee who specializes in YOUR type of event.
I get flown around the world to host business/marketing/personal development multi-day conferences and seminars. So, given my skill-set and the number of times I’ve been on stage, COULD I host/emcee a wedding?
Of course, I could (and I’d do a great job).
But I can guarantee there are dozens of people who could host weddings better than me because all they do is host weddings.
Here’s another way to look at this idea of “event-specific” experience.
If you’re putting on a conference for sales professionals, and you’re deciding between two emcees who have similar experience. But one of them has a background in sales. Then go with that one.
Because they’ll be able to better relate to your crowd, they’ll have a similar life experience to draw from, and your audience will be able to feel that.
If having an experienced emcee is the cake, then having an experienced emceed familiar with your specific niche/event-type is the icing on the cake.
3: Your Personal Ability to Communicate with Them
Throughout the pre-event planning stage, you’ll be working closely with your emcee. They’ll make suggestions, listen to your plans, and coordinate with your team. As a pivotal part of the event, that’s necessary.
As such, you should feel comfortable communicating with them, and there should be some chemistry there. You don’t have to feel like best friends or anything, but there shouldn’t be any butting of heads or feeling as if one side is being steamrolled throughout the communication process.
Take time to speak to the emcee and make sure they’re someone you’re going to be able to effectively communicate with closely.
4: Listening and Communication Skills
Have you ever gone to a comedy show where no one is laughing and the comedian just keeps doing whatever they had planned? It’s dreadful! The same thing can happen with an emcee if they’re not capable of listening and communicating effectively.
The audience and guests will continuously provide feedback throughout the event, as well as team members, and it’s important that the emcee you hire is capable of picking up on what’s working and what’s falling flat.
That leads us to our next point.
5: Improv Skills
Here’s a FACT that you already probably know: Live events with audiences don’t tend to go as planned.
I’ve hosted countless events and the only thing that truly shocks me is when everything runs 100% smoothly with zero hiccups.
Not only does your emcee need to be able to notice when things are going sideways and know how to navigate through them effectively, but they need to be able to come up with something entirely off script on the fly.
An emcee who can improvise is far more capable of handling the various challenges that will pop up throughout your event, and that can be pivotal in ensuring that your audience is kept engaged from start to finish.
For example, what if one of your guest speakers is running 10 minutes behind or the next speaker’s microphone is broken and the AV team needs 4 minutes to swap it out?
What if the audience doesn’t respond well to a speaker and you need their energy to pick back up.
A good emcee will be able to improvise their way through any of those scenarios. This is why “Bill from accounting” may not be your best choice (no matter how fun he is at the company holiday party).
6: Understands Energy Management
I often tell people that my job as an emcee is not to M.C.
Here’s what I mean.
M.C. stands for “Master of Ceremonies”. And while that is technically my job title, my real purpose when I’m on stage is to be the M.E., which stands for
“Master of Energy”
One of the main jobs of the host/emcee is to manage the energy in the room so that that audience is as receptive and engaged as possible.
You’ll want to find an emcee who understands energy management. The best way to do this is to ask them if they have any unedited footage of their interaction with the crowd. Because many emcees won’t have that kind of footage, you’ll often have to use your best judgement
Note: “Energy management” does not mean being LOUD. It has to do with connecting with the natural energy of the room, and raising (or lowering) it based on what’s best for the event.
7: Event Planning and Sales Skills
This is a bonus, but if you can find and emcee who has these two skill then, depending on your event, you’ve hit the jackpot!
Let me explain.
An experienced emcee will host as many events in a year as most you’ll likely put on in a life-time. Because of all that “event putting on” experience, they’ll have insights on thigs like
One of the reasons I’m personally successful as an emcee, is that I’ve been behind the scenes for some of the biggest, most well-produced conferences and seminars. So when a client needs help planning the event (or selling their product during their event), I can easily step up and lend a hand.
Like I said, this is a bonus.
Most people reading this article won’t need help with event organization at all. But if you do, then an experienced emcee can help a lot!
Get Help Hiring Your Next Emcee
All of this is a lot to take in, and until you’ve hired a few emcees, you might make mistakes. If you want a little help, feel free to reach out and ask me any questions you might have. I have years of experience as an emcee, public speaking coach, and various other positions in the industry, and I’m more than happy to point you in the right direction!
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