The Expert MC’s Guide to Pronouncing Names Correctly

How to be an Expert MC, Emcee

Dale Carnegie’s sage advice …

“Remember, that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”

… has been trotted out by sales, networking and influence trainers for the last 80 years since his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was first published.

And what great advice it is. But, interestingly, modern technology like MRI scans have now proven that our brain actually does respond to hearing the sound of our own name in different ways than how it does when it hears the names of others. Different parts of the brain actually activate. And this still happens while we are asleep! Carnegie was really onto something.

As part of my pre assignment briefing for corporate MC assignments and sometimes in the sales process, I often ask a client who they have used as their MC in previous years. The follow up is to ask “what did you like about them” and “what didn’t they like?” A common complaint is the mispronunciation of speakers names when introducing them and this is often the cause of an MC not getting rebooked for assignments!

So here are a few tips on Getting it Right!

Web Sites

These two sites are both useful and quite comprehensive.


This next site is more for Celebrities, Sportspeople etc


Here is a general Pronunciation guide that includes People, Places and Stuff with some great resources hidden away.



YouTube can be quite a useful tool especially if the person is a celebrity or politician. Look for news clips and listen to how the anchor tackles a difficult name. Try and get more than one source if doing this. I often use this if I am doing any Government or semi Government assignments.

Just Ask

Straight from the horses mouth is always best if you have opportunity to meet your speaker before hand. People love it and appreciate being asked. (see my Derivation Strategy below)
I love it when they say “Ahh… just like my grandfather would have said it” when you ask if this is the correct pronunciation.

Having a voice recorder or phone ready to grab it is also handy if you have a really tricky one.

Another strategy is to get the conference team used to the fact that this is an important factor. They will then listen out for the name when the speaker first arrives and can often then introduce you to the speaker using the correct phrasing. Or perhaps they have talked to the speaker before on the phone.

Phonetic Spelling

It’s useful to have some form of Phonetic Spelling System that you can use in your notes. Which syllable is stressed etc.

Here’s a link to the Wiki page where you can have an explore of some of the major systems ranging from the mindboggling International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) through to the more useful Initial Teaching Alphabet and various Re-spelling systems. This is probably overkill for most MC’s needs, most just develop a simple crib system of their own, but it’s interesting to see what could be used if needed.


Timothy Hyde

Widely acknowledged as one of Australia's busiest & best MC's and a global authority on the MC Industry, Timothy Hyde shares his expertise and insights into this fascinating Professional Speaking niche via this site and a dynamic YouTube channel. His best selling book The ExpertMC Toolkit and Resource Manual has helped thousands of people worldwide improve their Emcee skills and in many cases, start earning a living by taking on the role.

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