When it comes to facilitating events, having / being a great MC is crucial. I’ve written previously about the role of the MC in providing the links between the programme in a large event. This one is focussed on facilitating events with a single speaker.
The MC is the first person to speak to the audience and should get them ready for the main event. Remember to say who you are, your connection to the organisation hosting the event and why you are there, i.e. as MC to facilitate the session (it’s surprisingly easy to forget to introduce yourself!).
Let the audience know anything they should be aware of in advance – the “housekeeping”. In person this is often information about fire drills and exits and asking the audience to switch off their phones. Online it might be etiquette for cameras, microphones and use of the chat.
If you have some time to fill whilst the audience is arriving and settling, you may wish to interact with those already there. Ask some questions – either getting a show of hands or one word answers. Get the audience in the right frame of mind for the speaker they are about to hear, perhaps with a story or exercise (that can be done from their seats) related to what they are about to hear.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the introduction is one of the most important roles of the MC. This is how you set the scene for the speaker and get the audience excited about what they are going to hear. In your introduction, you should answer the question “why should the audience listen?”. Consider what the audience needs to know:
- Who is the speaker? What authority do they have to speak on the subject?
- What are they going to talk about? How is this relevant to the audience?
- Why does it matter? What makes the topic useful/interesting/important for the audience?
You should always ask the speaker how they would like to be introduced. A good speaker may well have a brief biography and talk synopsis prepared for you. I also think it is important for you to do your own research – the more you know about the person, the more you can personalise the introduction and make sure it is relevant to the audience. You will come across far more naturally if you are speaking from what you know that simply reading out what the speaker has sent you. Do not shy away from telling the audience why you are interested and excited to hear the presentation.
As the MC you cannot limit your involvement to just the beginning and end of the session. You need to listen to the speaker throughout. When the speaker is finished and hands back to you, show that you have been listening. Think about:
- What did you appreciate about their talk?
- Why it is relevant and helpful to those who have been listening? Pick out one or two of the highlights of what the speaker has said and relate it to the audience.
- What did you find particularly insightful and how will you use it? You can be personal in what you say – it is helpful to an audience for you to share your own stories and perspective.
Depending on the size and style of the event you may wish to ask the audience for their input – what were their biggest take aways from the talk?
There may be time in the session for post-presentation questions. This should be part of your preparation with the speaker – are they going to interact with the audience throughout the talk or would they like to take questions at the end? Do they want you as MC to facilitate this? If so there is some additional guidance on this within this blog.
Just as you were first on stage, so you as MC will be the last. It is your role to wrap up the event, bringing it to a conclusion in a satisfactory way for the audience.
You should thank the speaker appropriately, inviting the audience to show their appreciation (typically by applause in person, perhaps in other forms online, such as via the chat). This might also be by way of a small gift or token of appreciation (I’ve seen gifts such as chocolate or donations in the speakers’ name to a charity for example). Whatever way, it is important to let the speaker know their time and expertise has been appreciated.
This is also your opportunity to remind the audience about anything the organisation hosting the event would like them to know – for example forthcoming events, where to find more information and/or how to get further involved with the organisation.
Bring the event to a conclusion on time and leaving the audience satisfied that they’ve gained value for their attendance. This way they are more likely to attend similar events in the future.
This series has been about facilitating events – semi-prepared speaking. This form of facilitation relies on a mix of preparation and listening/reaction skills. I’ve covered different types of events which require an MC. Some themes come through in each type (covered in detail in different articles in the series):
- Preparation – research and meet your speakers. Explain how the event will work and build rapport in advance.
- Introduction – provide a thoughtful introduction, letting the audience know why they should be engaged
- Reaction – always listen carefully to your speakers, follow-up with comments and questions based on what you’ve heard
- Conclusion – leave a great lasting impression for your audience with appropriate summary, thank you and future opportunities for the audience.