The Master of Ceremonies

Learning Objectives

  • Identify effective ways to introduce an event.
  • Demonstrate how to emcee an event.

Introducing an Event

When introducing an event, you have four main goals. These goals are the minimum ground you need to cover in your introduction. How you do so, and whether you do more, will depend on the amount of time you have to speak.

  1. Make the audience feel welcome and appreciated. Your opening should welcome the audience and thank them for being there.
  2. Express thanks and appreciations. You should also recognize anyone who deserves thanks for putting together or hosting the event.
  3. Explain the goals of the event and/or of the hosting organization(s). Here’s where your introduction will deepen and expand if you have the time for it. You might tell stories or share data about the impact of the organization whose event it is or talk in more detail about what participants can expect from the event to come.
  4. Create excitement and anticipation for the event. Your focus should be on the event that you’re kicking off; stay focused on the future, not the past, and on the event, not yourself.

Some events, especially academic events and some non-profit or political events, begin with an Indigenous Land Acknowledgement. A land acknowledgement or territorial acknowledgement is a formal statement, often spoken at the beginning of a public event, that it is taking place on land originally inhabited by or belonging to indigenous people. To learn more about Indigenous Land Acknowledgement, the Native Governance Center has put together an excellent guide.

Master of Ceremonies

Being the master of ceremonies (often abbreviated as an emcee or MC) is a task best dealt with by an experienced speaker. But it is possible to host an event as a beginner and live to tell about it!

Being an emcee will use everything you learned about speaking for special occasions and more. The most important thing to remember is this is more of a marathon than a sprint. You need to keep the energy high and the mood positive throughout the event. So start with being excited, and if you are scared, GREAT! Channel that energy into the excitement you need using the preparation tips below.

Speaker and author Kwesi Millington offers the following seven tips for being a great event emcee:[1]

  1. Know the Agenda. The more detailed, the better: you should know what should happen at what time and how long each part should take.
  2. Keep Your Energy High. Millington suggests self-talk and music to pump yourself up to bring 100% energy to the event.
  3. Memorize Your Opening. Some parts of the event will be impromptu or ad-libbed; your opening, though, should be scripted and rehearsed. The opening sets the tone for the whole event, so it’s important to get it right.
  4. Learn About the Other Speakers. Millington suggests learning one fact about each person you’re bringing to the microphone, so that you can personalize your introduction.
  5. Always Be Communicating. Even if you’re not on stage, you should be mixing with the crowd and keeping the energy up.
  6. Interact with the Audience. The best way to keep the energy high and the mood positive throughout the event is to involve the audience, whether by asking questions or getting them to move around.
  7. Close with Inspiration. As you close up the event, try to leave the audience with something to think about, something to lift them up.

How to: Kwesi Millington, How to Emcee an Event

You can view the transcript for “How to be the Perfect Emcee at an Event or Wedding” here (opens in new window).