Following on from my previous blog about audience interaction and engagement, I want to highlight just how influential an MC can be.  They have the power to set the tone, engage the audience and facilitate the smooth running of the event.

Many of these insights come from the larger scale events I’ve attended – conferences over one or several days.  An MC here is crucial to the overall success of the event.  Some of these tips are still just as relevant to smaller meetings and events – how you welcome and interact with participants will play a big role in how they feel about the meeting.

What does an MC do?

Flow – The MC is there the whole way through the programme.  They run all the bits in between sessions, facilitating smooth transitions between speakers.  I’ve written in a previous article about the importance of a great introduction to speakers.  This is part of the MC’s role.  They’re also the person the speaker hands back to once they’ve finished. 

Information – As well as being the lynchpin for the speakers, a key part of what the MC does is keep the audience informed.  Whilst we are now used to using different digital platforms, there are many out there and each is slightly different.  They are developing all the time, improving and adding new features.  The MC reminds the audience how to use the technology, for example how to ask questions, networking features, appropriate use of the chat.  They remind us of the programme and signpost what’s coming up and when, e.g. when to be back from a break.

Engagement – In large scale events in particular, it’s unlikely the delegates will be able to have their cameras on and see each other.  The MC can make sure they still feel involved.  Some of the best MCs I’ve seen have pulled up questions and comments from the chat or social media. They’ve shared the interactions with the rest of the audience, thanked those commenting for getting involved and responded.  These audiences were much more likely to stay engaged throughout, compared to those events where the attendees were not interacted with in this way.

Hiccup management – What happens when it goes wrong?  As I highlighted in blog 2, in this digital world, no matter how much preparation you put in, you cannot control broadband outages and technology fails.  Speakers may get lost in the ether for a while.  If this happens, the MC steps in. The audience is not left in an awkward silence wondering what’s going on. 

What do the MCs do if this happens?  More of the same.  This can include:

  • Promoting what’s coming up during the event
  • Asking the audience how they’re enjoying themselves
  • Discussing topics which have brought people to the event
  • Celebrating the successes of audience members
  • Talking about the organisation hosting the event and more ways for the audience to engage with it going forwards

What should you expect from a good MC (or how to be one)? 

Prepared – Although they may come across as natural and spontaneous, good MCs will have spent a lot of time preparing.  Co-ordinating with the event organisers, getting to know the technology, researching the speakers.  They are likely to have pre-prepared scripts and back-up plans.

Calm – When things go wrong, the MC will be in charge of communicating with the audience.  They remain calm under pressure and keep the audience entertained and engaged whilst the team behind the scenes fix the problem.  The audience barely noticing there has been a problem is the sign of a great MC.

Multitasking – What can go wrong without a great MC?  People unsure how to use the technology, awkward pauses between speakers or when things don’t go to plan and ultimately an audience less likely to be engaged in the event.  A MC makes an event seamless.  They must be brilliant at multi-tasking – keeping an eye on the time, the chat, however they are communicating with the organisers.

An MC might not be the big attraction that brings an audience to an event or remembers about it.  A skilled one will ensure the event is not remembered for the wrong reasons.  That’s why having a great MC is such an essential part of creating fantastic virtual events.

Photo by Tyler Casey on Unsplash

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