Unusual Careers: Tips from a Professional Emcee
By Aishwarya Singh
The thrill of being on stage steering a ceremony and swaying the audience to one’s direction can be very heady. And before the microphone check, there are a couple other checks that an emcee ensures: Look your part according to the occasion – check; Hair and makeup – check. And more significantly the things to say and how to keep the proceedings on track require masterful thinking – a process that begins when one starts to prepare for the show and stays with the emcee till the very end of it.
As the master of ceremonies, you run the show and you run it live, there are no takes so a word uttered cannot be retracted; you are responsible for introducing people – can’t make a mistake in that department, people can be touchy if you pronounce their name wrong and making sure the proceedings are smooth and on time is of utmost importance. So obviously, there’s a lot going on and an emcee has the ultimate control on how the show pans out.
And if you take it up as a career choice, there’s a lot of fun you have along the way navigating the choppy waters in an unusual profession but the one attribute that keeps you going is sensitivity towards people.
After all you are a people’s person, so you have to understand on a level how you can relate and connect with your audience. It is important that you respect your audience while being friendly and sincere.
Speaking of choppy waters, besides cut-throat competition and competitive fee structures, there are rising expectations you encounter from agents and clients alike. Some expectations though are funny and that’s where the fun comes alive, for instance most of the times you are asked by event management agents to dress matching the colour of the logo of the corporate you are working for, and when you reach the venue it turns out that you are wearing a colour exactly like the table covers, seat covers and other objects that are part of the decor, and even end up merging with the backdrop!
On a serious note though, you have to strategise to stay in business, constantly market yourself, keep yourself updated as a public speaker and have good negotiation skills. You are your own product and you are the marketer, business developer and salesperson for yourself.
The other significant trait that you work on throughout your career is your voice modulation and intonation. Your strength to connect with people through the power of your voice and the art of modulation keeps the audience interested in your role as the skipper of the show. But don’t forget that content is king even for the master of ceremony and the quotes, anecdotes, jokes and shayari where appropriate will give you an edge over others.
Sometimes the knowledge of content relevant to the theme of the show at hand helps save the show when there’s a technical glitch or a long pause, the stories can bridge the unforeseen gap and add to the flow of the program. But whether the jokes and stories should be crisp or can be long but interesting depends on the ability of the emcee to gauge the time to be filled and the mood of the audience. In short, the audience needs to be constantly engaged.
Every show must be a memorable spectacle and emceeing keeps you thinking on your feet and that kind of adrenaline is sure to keep one alive. As a career choice emceeing may appear daunting at times but it’s a wonderful privilege and a journey of experiences to treasure for life.
And in my 8 years long career as an emcee, I have come to amass the enormous wealth of learnings that help add on to my skills constantly. Because every show has its lessons, at the end of it you appreciate yourself for what you did right and ponder on what could have been done better. It’s almost like a performance review of your craft. Every show is different, carries varied themes and so an emcee is a very versatile personality.
If I had to leave you with three tips on how you could improve your performance:
Reading, reading and more reading would top that mini list: The more you read, the better you get with your impromptu speaking skills. There is preparation before each show, but what helps you when you have to improvise is prior knowledge and that will come from reading more.
The other critical tip would be listening: and not just listening intently to the brief of the client or agent but while the show is on, the quality of listening to the speakers and thus staying present in the show would make you add to the flow of the show, and in turn will most definitely help you establish the link. Why I say this is because as I have come to learn, emceeing isn’t just about saying your lines.
And the final pointer would be carrying to the show the vision that you would enjoy your performance: Because if you enjoy what you do and are confident, your audience will be instantly connected and you will have fun hosting the show.
Views expressed are personal.
You can reach Aishwarya Singh through her website or on twitter @emceeaishwarya