So you’re having an event, and you’re spending all of this money on renting a hall, catering the event, serving the alcohol, getting a sound company, etc. Why not save a few bucks and have Bob from your company be the emcee for the evening? Bob is funny, and people like him– it’s tempting. Here’s why you should NOT go down that path. Consider these 5 reasons to give Bob the night off, and spend a few extra bucks to hire a professional Master of Ceremonies:
1) Pressure: Bob is really funny in small groups. But when the house lights go down and the mic goes hot, it’s a completely different game. Only a very small percentage of people are equally comfortable standing on stage speaking clearly in a formal situation as they are joking around the office with a couple of their co-workers. There is nothing more painful than seeing a coworker struggle on stage in front of his or her peers. No matter who is being honored that evening or what the company is celebrating, it will all be overshadowed by this distraction.
2) Being funny vs. having material: Bob may be very clever around the water cooler, at lunch, or in a board meeting. There is a big difference, however, between someone who is a witty conversationalist, and a comedian or emcee with actual material. Having an act is the difference between the amateur and the professional. The amateur requires a particular set of circumstances to be present in order to be “on.” The professional creates laughs and audience rapport from scratch every night at show time, regardless of the circumstances. A professional always has enough core material to fall back on in an emergency.
I have seen the following set of events happen many times over— Bob is asked to be the emcee for the big company event. Bob thinks “Wow they think I’m funny! I’ve always wanted to try stand-up comedy! Now is my chance.” So Bob takes it upon himself to write some jokes and create an act for this event. So that means not only is Bob writing comedy for the first time, he’s attempting his comedy at the big event for the first time. NOT GOOD. No matter how naturally gifted you may be in the humor department, professional comedians and presenters will always stress that there is no substitute for years of experience on stage. Working your material over years and years in front of live audiences is the only way to attain the polish of a true professional. This leads directly into…
3) Experience: A professional emcee has hosted countless events, and the problems that arise are always the same- timing issues, technical issues, etc. Chances are that the seemingly catastrophic “problem” that happens in the moment is standard operating procedure for a professional emcee. What could potentially turn your first-time emcee into a deer in headlights is simply no big deal for the professional. The more events an emcee has hosted, the better s/he learns to handle all types of situations that routinely come up again and again. Because you have outsourced the most stressful job of the evening that night to a competent person, everyone can relax and enjoy the evening. And isn’t that really the point, anyway?
4) Perspective: Comedy is very closely tied to perspective. Having a neutral 3rd party on the mic creates an essential distance between the emcee and the material that is extremely advantageous for comedy. For example, if someone within the company is poking fun at another department, it could come off as hurtful or condescending. However, if a neutral 3rd party pokes fun at the same department, it comes off as playful. Or how about a joke at a company rival’s expense? Again, it could seem bitter or overly antagonistic coming from an employee, but it becomes “ok” when someone else is delivering the joke. Providing some distance between your company and your emcee creates a nice buffer zone for whatever happens on stage.
5) Different = Better: Different isn’t necessarily always better, but in this case… it is! Hiring a professional emcee sends a signal to your attendees that you are taking the event seriously. When your emcee is introduced with TV credits or a show in Las Vegas, it naturally elevates the caliber of the event. Your attendees perk up and think, “Oh wow, this is something special!” An exciting tone is set. By the same token, when Bob comes on stage and starts talking, you’re inviting shouting from the audience, inside jokes among peers, and a very casual office party feel which will lessen the professionalism of the whole evening.
When planning an event, the emcee is all too-often an afterthought. Event planners spend so much time organizing the venue, the catering company, the centerpieces on each table, the gift bags, the programs, etc. All of these pieces are important, but at the end of the day, people are going to remember how they FELT at the event. The job of creating that emotional connection falls largely on your emcee for the evening. He or she is the face of your event, the person who sets the tone and guides the audience throughout the night.
With live events, the only thing you can ever be sure of is that you really can’t be sure of anything! After all the homework is finished to ensure the event goes as smoothly as possible, life happens. The dinner starts late, the speaker finishes early, the awards presenter skips a section, the video doesn’t work, the microphone is cutting in and out for no reason whatsoever! It worked just fine at sound check– why now??
The only way to gain true control of your event is by choosing a Master of Ceremonies with the experience, material, and poise to deal effectively with any situation that may arise. Wouldn’t you want to leave that responsibility in the hands of a professional? A professional emcee will keep your event running smoothly and on time, every time.