How to MC a conference

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MC a conference: Key principles

I have sat through so many conferences where the master of ceremonies clearly does not know how to MC a conference. I'm so pleased, therefore, that you are reading this so that you can be a brilliant conference MC.

The type of conference will obviously determine how you should MC it. However, there are many key principles you can learn that apply to virtually every conference. I will select some of these here for you so you can be confident that you have an essential outline on how to MC a conference.

There are many more ideas in our book "A beginner's guide to being a brilliant MC" which you may like to read to add further to your knowledge.

Once you know how to MC a conference I hope you will be full of confidence and able to shine. Your audience will want you to be a star MC so that they can enjoy the conference.

How to MC a conference: Prepare

The first step in learning how to MC a conference is to understand how important it is that you prepare thoroughly. If you don't do adequate preparation you can be left short on the day or feel embarrassed because you don't understand what is happening.

The level of preparation that is required in order to MC a conference is probably far more than you've ever imagined.

When you are the MC of an event, whether it's a conference or seminar, it is essential that you understand the theme of the conference, the purpose of the conference, and the audience who will be attending the conference.

These three aspects of the conference are only a very minor part of the areas that you must understand in order to MC well, but they are all essential.

I remember one MC who didn't seem to know who the audience was at a conference. The MC jokes that he used were irrelevant. He made no personal references to anyone who was in the audience. And, when he was giving his MC introductions he read a script and stumbled over some of the words in the script which were complicated and difficult to pronounce. This is not how to MC a conference!

In conclusion, the first tip on how to MC a conference is very simple. Prepare as much as possible so you know everything about the conference in advance of the day. This is simple but it is not easy. It requires considerable effort and time. I'm sure you're up to it!

How to MC a conference: Relax

When you see this second tip on how to MC a conference you may groan if you are feeling nervous and up-tight about the event. However, it is important for you to be relaxed.

There are many methods that you can use to relax before the event. Some of these methods may be used immediately prior to the event when you're doing your warm-up exercises. If you need to know more about warm-up exercises these are covered in the MC e-book for you.

The reason you need to relax is that the audience does not appreciate a tense or terse MC.

Also, on the day, if you are tense you are more likely to get stressed if anything goes wrong. The one thing that I have learnt from running, emceeing and attending conferences, is that very few finish without something going wrong. The event emcee has to cope with anything going wrong.

The more relaxed you are about emceeing the conference the easier it is for you to go with the flow on the day.

Being an MC of an event is quite a responsibility as it is the event emcee who has to ensure that everything goes smoothly. It is hard to do this if you are anxious and nervous.

I once had to MC a large international conference in the Perth Convention Centre. It was a complicated conference with many foreign delegates attending who had difficult names to pronounce. Pronunciation of unusual words is not my strength. Prior to the conference I felt daunted. At one stage I even offered my resignation because I was sure I wasn't going to be any good! However, my resignation was declined. Instead, I started practising a loving-kindness meditation. Every time I thought about the conference I sent loving kindness to the event. On the day it worked and I was relaxed and had a good time, and got great feedback from the audience.

In conclusion, the second tip on how to MC a conference is clear. You need to do everything you can prior to the event to be relaxed and at ease and get rid of nervous tension.

How to MC a conference: Get the names correct

When you are the event emcee it is important that you can pronounce correctly the names of everybody you are going to introduce, mention and thank.

This is not always easy to do because some names will be difficult and you may need to practise the pronunciation several times. There may be many names that you need to get correct.

The event emcee also needs to make sure that he or she gets the titles of any dignitaries who are attending the conference correct.

It is important therefore, when you are the MC of an event, that you know who is attending! I know this sounds so simple but you will be surprised to find out that there are MCs of events who do not do this essential groundwork. Make sure you're not one of them!

In conclusion, the third tip on how to MC a conference is straightforward. Find out exactly who is attending and make sure you can pronounce the names of those who need introducing and welcoming.

How to MC a conference: Know the protocol

The fourth tip in knowing how to MC a conference centres around the protocol for introducing dignitaries.

You need to make sure that you know the order in which you should introduce any dignitaries as there are often protocols around this. Distinguished guests and VIPs, such as ministers of the government, presidents, CEOs, Vice chancellors, politicians, mayors, members of a royal family, or the like, will have a certain order in which they should be introduced.

When you are the MC of a conference you must also know the correct titles of all VIPs and dignitaries.

If you are not sure of either the titles or the sequence in which you should introduce these important guests the simple thing to do is to ask. The executive assistants and personal assistants associated with each of these dignitaries can be contacted in order to find out. They will be used to knowing the exact titles and sequences.

When you are deciding how to emcee a conference ask people for help beforehand. Do not risk offending any guests by getting their titles or the sequence of their acknowledgement wrong.

In conclusion, the fourth tip on how to MC a conference is easy to state but takes some time to do. Ask for help and guidance to ensure that you introduce all VIPs in the correct sequence and get their titles correct.

How to MC a conference: Listen to and absorb the speeches

This fifth tip on how to MC a conference is also vital. One of the primary roles of an MC at a conference is to introduce and thank the guest speakers.

Many conferences have many speakers and the best ways to introduce and thank speakers requires a lot more detail than we can give here. Thus, after reading these tips please do feel able to go to all the details in our MC e-book. Knowing how to introduce and thank speakers in a brilliant way is not as easy as it sounds and many event emcees do it poorly.

The one tip here, though, is to make each introduction and each thank you specific and personalised to the individual concerned. Do not just give a general, "Thank you for your time" or "What a wonderful speech" when you thank someone. Instead thank them for something specific that shows you have listened to and absorbed their speeches.

In conclusion, this fifth tip on how to MC a conference is more complex and involves your paying full attention on the day to each speaker. You need to find something very specific to thank people for at the conclusion of their speech.

When you are the MC of an event or conference make sure you know exactly what to do as there is a lot involved, and more than most novice event emcees realise. Our book is here to help you.