Master of Ceremonies or Monkey of Ceremonies?

Have you noticed emcees(MCs) in action?

Most of them are somewhere between the two extremes- they are somewhere between being the Master of Ceremonies or the Monkey of Ceremonies. On one end, we have the masters who make the event a roaring success, on the other end, we have those who make the event a disaster. If you are asked to host an event, you will surely want to become the Master of Ceremonies, someone who is in charge and complete control of the event.

Being a professional MC requires coaching, mentoring and practice. Still it is a skill that can be learnt. That would take time and effort. However, here are some quick remedy tips so than you can avoid the usual mistakes most amateur MCs make.

These tips will help to you be a far better Master of Ceremonies than most people and prevent you from ending up as a Monkey of Ceremonies.

1. Be the torch, not the star

torchRemember this well. As the MC, you are not the star of the show. You are a like a torch. You should let others shine. That would take away a lot of “performance pressure” from your shoulders. Also, you won’t feel the need to be perfect, you  will find the natural ‘you’ and develop your own personal style.

2. Ask for prepared introductions

Ask the organizer, speaker or performer for their written introductions. Some people will give you their auto-biography instead of short introductions. Take charge to edit the auto-biography and convert it to a short introduction. (You will otherwise bore the audience to death and they will dislike you for doing that.) Whenever time permits, seek prior approval for the introductions you are planning to use. 

3. Invite them to take the stage and do it like a professional

Most MCs don’t have a structure for introductions. When you invite a speaker or performer to take the stage, have a uniform structure for the introduction. Your aim is to bridge the gap between the Stage owner(speaker/performer) and the audience. Let us assume you are going to invite a speaker on stage. Tell them about the speaker, his or her background, accomplishments and the purpose of the speech today. Up to this point, you do not name the speaker. This provides the suspense required to hook the audience. Thereafter, invite the speaker by name. Now, ensure that the name of the speaker is announced as the last word in your introduction.  This becomes the cue for that person to stir, stand and  walk forward to take the stage. Most MCs, get this fundamental rule wrong. They will start telegraphing about the speaker, soon the audience loses attention, they do not realise when they need to applaud and the speaker gets restless because he is clueless as to when he should start walking towards the stage.

4. Know that Change is the only constant

Yes, things will change. Don’t freak out. Don’t argue. Don’t complain. Come prepared for the unexpected. Program segments can be moved around, they can be cancelled and  yes, some key people will not turn up. Don’t fall in love with the schedule because it can change. There can be technical problems too.  Be like the General in the battlefield with fallen comrades. Remain calm, take charge and move on. This is a situation where your professional emcee training should help you. 

5. The mantra of Professional MCs


I tell this to my students in my Certified Master of Ceremonies Program. This is bit crude, but it explains the point. When you make mistakes, when things go wrong, when you start to feel stupid, always remember this mantra.Even if you s&!£ in your pants, put a smile on your face“. Always appear to be in control, not in pain and panic. Even if you make a mistake, do not invite the attention of onlookers to your mistake, mishap or misery. That usually amplifies your problem. Behave like a professional who is in charge and in control. Put a smile of your face and carry on. You need to develop the skills to take charge and stay in control. You are the face of the event organisers. Your attitude and leadership can make or break the event.

6. Have your Recovery Lines ready

When mistakes do happen and you get caught out in the act of making an obvious mistake, use your Recovery Lines. These are funny lines or stories you say to laugh off the mistake. Audiences loves MCs who can find the funny in the ordinary. Come prepared with the funny lines you can use. Storytelling and humour is a vital ingredient for great emceeing. You will get the professional edge when you equip  yourself with techniques of crowd work, improvisation, stand up comedy and the ability to facilitate fun activities at a moment’s notice.(Click here for some sample videos from live events.)

7. You are not alone

Remember, you are not the only person in the room. Have volunteers to help you. Have ushers, and people who do the leg work while you are on stage. Have a word with them *before* the event. Connect with people in the room *before* the event. They can be of immense help to you later. Have a word with the audio technicians too. They can even help you sound better.

You can use these quick tips to spruce up your next event. However, this is not a complete list. If you would like to become a fabulous master of ceremonies, there are several more time-tested techniques and processes that can make you a fabulous Master of Ceremonies. Check them out here.

What tips have you learnt being an MC? Let us know your views by commenting below.

© 2014 – 2017, Manoj Vasudevan. All rights reserved.