Q: This might be an unusual one, but as it’s related to my career, I said I’d run it by you. Next week, I’ve been asked to act as MC for an event we are running. All our big customers will be there, and so will all our head buck cats. I want to make a good impression. It’s a huge affair – about 400 people and the full audio-visual treatment. I was picked because I’m a pretty good talker but this is a whole other level of stuff. Any tips? (M McM, email).
A: An accomplished public speaker to whom I mentioned this email said that “M McM should run a mile – nothing ventured, nothing lost, is the motto here”, writes Liam Horan, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
I disagree. Fair play to you for accepting the challenge, M McM. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Do a good job and you will get kudos and respect.
Preparation is vital. Here are 20 pointers. I regularly do MC and it’s impossible to get everything right each time – but it’s a good checklist to get you thinking. A good MC:
- Brings energy into the room;
- Is an advocate for the audience – constantly doing things to make the event enjoyable for them;
- Makes speakers feel relaxed;
- Gives speakers a positive and encouraging introduction;
- Doesn’t worry if something goes wrong – they just fix it and move on;
- Doesn’t obsess about finding the exactly right word – flow matters more;
- Knows they’re there to facilitate, not to dominate;
- Double checks beforehand to get people’s names and titles right;
- Thanks who they have to thank by writing a list beforehand – and getting someone else to double check it;
- Gives speakers clear guidelines on how long they have to speak;
- Knows that there is probably one speaker who might just go on too long;
- Doesn’t just allow that catastrophe to happen, if they can avoid it all – they address it with the speaker beforehand, or the organiser, or someone. See the next few points;
- Knows that an audience can be lost in a millisecond;
- Knows that it can take an age to win back an audience, if at all;
- Knows that they have no entitlement to an audience. They’ve got to earn it. The audience may be physically sitting there but, in their heads, they might be miles away dreaming about lost lovers or an imminent shopping list;
- Ergo, approaches the engagement with a sense that the audience is already halfway out the door and gone home – and prepares to fight to bring them back;
- Sees a problem – a crackling microphone, a speaker standing too far from a mic – and fixes it, or works around it, before it gets out of hand;
- Doesn’t spend too long introducing someone they’ve just described as ‘needing no introduction’;
- Transmits confidence that everything will be fine – takes responsibility for carrying the event;
- Uses humour when the opportunity presents itself.