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The World of the Emcee – Singapore

With Emcees working in every country on earth, I thought it would be fun to run a series of articles looking at different regions. Are there the same opportunities everywhere, what are the cultural differences and is there anything we can learn from other market areas?

I’m also interested in hearing about the journey other professional Emcees took to get where they are today.

To start the series, we travel to one of my favourite cities, the bustling commercial hub of Singapore, with a guest article from Lester Leo. There are some great insights here.

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Being a professional Emcee in Singapore

My name is Lester Leo, and I’m a professional emcee based in Singapore. However, I’m not just restricted to events in Singapore. I’ve hosted events all across the region, in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

Being an emcee is a job like no other. Every event is different, from the venue down to the audience, which makes this job really interesting! 

It brings me great accomplishment whenever I’m able to deliver an event well. So in this article, I’ll be sharing more about my life as an emcee in Singapore.

First, I would love to share how I got into this business. The first time I held a mic on stage was back in school when I was 17 years old. I was scared out of my wits, and I was shivering on stage. Everything was a blur, but I remember vividly that when I asked the 1500 people to scream, all of them went crazy. 

That was the first time I realised the power of the microphone. I continued hosting events for passion till I graduated from Business school. 

I held a full time job and emceeing was something I did on the side. Slowly, more and more companies recognised what I was doing on stage and I was given more and more opportunities. 

My side hustle then slowly became a full time hustle. 

I’m essentially self-employed, and I am the business. So if you are thinking of becoming a professional emcee, remember that you are the main product of your business. Since you are the main product, conduct yourself well and proper, especially on stage.

To succeed as a professional emcee, you have to have passion. Being on stage as an emcee is not everyone’s game. But with passion, you have the motivation to make every event go well, and I hope to continue hosting on stage for as long as I can. 

I emcee primarily in English and Mandarin. I’m fortunate that we have a good education system that teaches in English, and we also take a compulsory second language (for me, Mandarin) in school. 

In Singapore, most events will be in English. When I use mandarin on stage, it will be for Singapore’s elderly population that mostly speaks only mandarin, or if there is a Chinese delegation from China.  

When I host internationally, my neutral english accent would get the job done.

The events market in Singapore is very matured. Singapore is a MICE (Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) destination, with many conventions and exhibitions held here annually. 

In addition, Singapore is a regional hub for many global companies, and these companies host many events locally too. 

There are many events held in Singapore annually, and these events all require the services of professional emcees. Let’s explore them:

MICE Events

Singapore is one of the world’s top destinations for MICE events. Some accolades include the Best MICE Destination in Asia Pacific (Travel Weekly Asia Readers’ Choice Awards 2018) and the Asia Pacific’s Top Convention City for the 17th consecutive year (International Congress and Convention Association Global Rankings 2018).

We do have major venues in Singapore just for MICE, like Suntec City Convention and Exhibition Centre, Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre and the Singapore Expo. 

Professional emcees will find a big market just for MICE events alone.

Corporate Events

With Singapore being a regional hub, many organisations host corporate events. An example would be a product launch, where the company launches a new product into the market. 

If the company is a large MNC, it is also common where the company opens a new office or factory and as part of the launch they invite a government Minister to officiate the opening.

Corporate appreciation events are also very common, where the company would throw a party as a thank you to their partners for the support the past year.

Conferences and seminars are also organised to share knowledge of a particular topic/theme.

Corporate events would be the bulk of events in Singapore.

Dinner Events

We have a type of event called Dinner & Dance. Having spoken with my regional counterparts, what happens at a Dinner and Dance is very unique to Singapore. It is organised annually by companies as a get together for their employees in a night of fun and merry-making. Most sizable companies would host a Dinner and Dance every year and a professional emcee would come in to spice things up.

The highlight of such an event would be the games played on stage with company employees and the lucky draw. These are must-haves in every dinner and dance. 

So this being a fun type of event, I usually dress up according to the theme. See some of my fun costumes!

Government Events

Governmental events are also a way of outreach to the public. I have hosted government outreach events and also events where government officials are the Guest-of Honor.

I have also hosted events with high level government Ministers from other countries. Usually, they come in for a bilateral meeting or as part of a diplomatic visit to Singapore. I have hosted Ministers from Poland, Japan, Malaysia and Philippines, just to name a few. 

Protocol is important for such events. The good thing about such events is that because protocol is involved, what happens on stage will rarely stray from the script.

Virtual Events

With the Covid-19 pandemic, most events this year (and probably the next) are now virtual. So being a professional emcee, one has to be versatile and move with the events. I’ve had the opportunity since March 2020 to host many virtual events. The skill set required is roughly the same, except for the fact that I can’t see and “feel the energy” of my audience. Being a host for a virtual event, we do what we can and should, even though we can’t see our audience.

So here’s a glimpse into my world as a professional emcee, and I hope you like it!

If you are thinking of becoming an emcee wherever you are in the world, remember that if you have passion for the stage, the stage will reward you many many times over.

The writer is Lester Leo, Professional Emcee Singapore.

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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