Crucial Tips for MC’s
Awards Ceremonies are a very important events for everyone involved and the role of the MC at the event is crucial to it’s success.
Awards Ceremonies can range from glittering gala evenings with hundreds, if not thousands of guests, supported by state of the art Audio Visual Technology, including lights, video screens and teleprompters. Or it can be a small affair, a segment of a Conference dinner or the informal wrap up of a community day.
In all these events, the role of the MC is to be the steady hand at the helm. Adding energy when needed, keeping things moving along and keeping the audience involved. There are many “moving parts” and the Emcee really does need to be on their toes. And not just at the event. During the planning and organising, the MC can also make a big difference and provide valuable input.
I’ve done many nights like this over the last 20 years, in different parts of the world, including – New Zealand, South Africa, Cambodia, Australia and the USA. I’ve made a bunch of mistakes and have learnt a few tips and techniques that I will share with you now.
Get help Onstage
Try to have at least one helper onstage with you during an awards ceremony and preferably two. A committee member or organiser is best. They can hand you the certificates, trophies , ribbons etc, in the correct order, so you don’t need to leave the microphone to go and pick them up. Likewise, they can usher people on and off the stage, help people on the stairs, put them in the right position for photographs etc. These are all things you would normally do anyway, but having help is great and it keeps you “in charge” on the microphone. If the MC is moving off to pick up a prize or to show someone where to stand to get their photo taken, the audience will see this as an opportunity to talk to each other. Keep the focus!
Get Friendly with the Photographer
As mentioned above, your client wants great photos of the winners. Talk to the photographer about what is the best place for them to stand etc. He will appreciate your help and in most cases they will go out of their way to get some great shots of you as well. It’s a Win-Win.
Get Information early
It’s great to have the names of nominees etc as early as possible, so you can practice any tricky pronunciations etc. The organiser of the awards tend to be secretive about the winners, but try and find this out too if you can. Getting too much information at the last minute can lead to mistakes
Spotlight the Winner
If you are lucky enough to have Follow Spot operators, they should be told in advance at which table the winner is sitting. Or at the moment they are announced via a Talkback System. This adds immensely to the sense of occasion and also helps cover that awkward walk to the stage. Once the Spotlight is on them people feel the pressure to get on with it and get moving to the stage.
Get People to the Front
If you have a number of Awards that are not a surprise announcement, time can also be saved by having the committee member round them up and have them standing side of stage before you start the segment. Long Service Awards are an example.
For large events where there is an Audio Visual Team they probably have the music sorted out for Walk On and Walk Off. However for smaller events that you might be the MC for, they possibly have not thought of this. I have a number of tracks pre-loaded on my ipad that are suitable for Awards Nights and have used them at quite a few events. The client was thrilled that I was ready and saw how it added to the atmosphere. I currently use an app called Play On Cue which is very easy to use, you can either do it yourself from the lectern or show someone how to use it. There are plenty of other suitable apps as well.
Having Walk On music really helps cover that gap between a winner being announced and them getting up onstage.
A “running gag” is one that gets repeated with different variations. Because you are doing a series of introductions / segments, this can be a good time to do it.
It can just be a phrase that gets repeated each time or something like a different quote. I’ve outlined where you can find some of these later in the article.
Thank You Speeches
These can either be the highlight of the event or a real drag on the timing. Check with your client if prize winners are expected to give an acceptance speech.
If they are and you are pressed for time, make sure you pre-empt the timing factor as you start the ceremony. Mention that speeches should be short.
Don’t be afraid to cut people off if they are rambling on. One trick is to not leave the stage while they talk. Stand just to the side, so you can quietly ask them to wrap it up if needed, or touch them gently on the elbow to give them the big hint.
As with most issues that arise during an MC engagement, a few words early on can pay big dividends later on.
You might want to stress early on that time is tight, so if your name is called, please come to the stage quickly. As mentioned previously, you might place a hint that acceptance speeches should be short. I also try and get the audience onside and realise that they play a big part in helping the night run smoothly.
The Big Award
In your pre briefing with your client, check what is happening immediately after the final award. This is important. The last Award can be very significant for a person, a franchise or a company. Salesman of the Year, Achievement Award etc. It can boost a persons career or business, as they can use it for publicity. After that Award is finished, people want to talk. They want to talk to the winner. They want to complain to the person next to them that the judges picked the wrong person etc. In other words it’s hard to get the room back on focus.
If you can, try and have a break scheduled then. If you have any general or housekeeping announcements to make, try and do them before the segment starts rather than as it ends.
Awards Nights Jokes & Quotes
In the Expert MC Toolkit and Resource Manual you will find several pages of material that are perfect for Awards Nights.
On page 43 of this ebook there are quite a few lines that I have used at many sessions.
For instance the “Mosquito” quote is perfect if they giving an encouragement award.
“The Pledge” is also very strong if the audience already know you and get into the spirit of it.
Also check out pages 50-53, the “Success, Attitude & Motivation” section. There is enough material there to add a suitable line before each winner is announced.
“Their Name as an Acronym” on page 60 is also good for these situations.
Remember, you don’t have to get a laugh with every line, you are after different dynamics, highs and lows, laughter, Ah-ha’s & tears.
You know, the first few Awards Nights I ran, I found them very hard. Hopefully with these tips and tactics, you will find them a lot easier.