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« 12. Leaders as masters of ceremonies »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. Author of THE BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO BEING A BRILLIANT MASTER OF CEREMONIES.

The emotional intelligence of a leader can have a high impact on his or her ability to engage an audience.

One role that leaders often seem to be given is that of a Master of Ceremonies. Whether it's the organisation's awards night, company breakfast, company conference, product launch, staff farewell or even a staff wedding, members of the senior team often end up as a Master of Ceremonies.

How does being a leader with high emotional intelligence have any impact on the role of Master of Ceremonies?

It has a high impact because being a Master of Ceremonies is about engaging people and building up their enthusiasm for what is happening. Engagement and enthusiasm are emotions. Being a good Master of Ceremonies involves mainly managing others' emotions, i.e. those of the audience.

Your emotional intelligence also always impacts on your communication skills, what you say and how you say it will have a significant impact on your ability to carry out the role of Master of Ceremonies well.

Top tips on how to be an engaging Master of Ceremonies

This article will examine the Master of Ceremonies duties you may undertake as a leader and how to engage the audience.

While it will be specific to being a Master of Ceremonies, including being a wedding MC, the principles will apply to any public speaking where you, as a leader, need to engage the audience.

Master of Ceremonies tip 1: Laugh at your own mistakes.

I was privileged to be speaking at the National Conference for Library Technicians (ALIA) once and to be in the hands of a well known and superb Master of Ceremonies, Grant Stone.

He made an error introducing me and said I'd written a book on "Midwife and happiness".

When I told him I knew nothing about midwifery he laughed, as we all did, and he then proceeded to give a dissertation on the birthing of my book "Midlife and Happiness".

We were in stitches.

Take the role of being a Master of Ceremonies seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. Laugh at your mistakes and go with the flow. This makes it easier for the audience too.

In other words, manage your own emotions and keep them light and positive. This is all part of having high emotional intelligence.

Want to be a brilliant master of ceremonies? Then get this internationally acclaimed guide to being a brilliant MC.

Master of Ceremonies tip 2: Manage audience emotions.

As the Master or Mistress of Ceremonies you are in charge of the emotions of the audience. The information you have to give is not just for the sake of information. The information is being given so it can have an emotional impact on the audience. 

  • It is given to engage the audience.
  • It is given to inspire and motivate the audience.
  • It is given to capture the imagination of the audience.
  • In the case of an awards night or wedding it is given to help the audience or guests feel proud.

It is your role as the Master of Ceremonies to engage the audience and their emotions.

This is why your emotional intelligence matters. Can you manage the audiences' emotions? Audience engagement doesn't come easily to those with low emotional intelligence.

What can you do?

For example, when you are introducing someone, map out what to say that will help the audience feel enthusiastic about hearing the person. Decide what it is that will:

  • Delight them?
  • Arouse their curiosity?
  • Inspire them to want to listen or be a part of whatever happens next?

Use questions such as these to guide you in selecting the content of your introductions. If what you have chosen to say will bore the audience, leave it out.

Engage the audience, don't bore them. People don't listen when they are bored.

Master of Ceremonies tip 3: Be relevant.

It is so easy to go through the motions when you are speaking to an audience or being the Master of Ceremonies. However, audiences don't like this. They want you to be specific and relevant to them.

For example, if you are the wedding Master of Ceremonies, the guests will want you to mention all the relevant family members, give interesting facts and stories about both the bride and groom, highlight the important people amongst the guests, and tell them some secrets or mysteries about the best man or the bride's father, or whomever is giving a toast.

In other words, your duty as the Master of Ceremonies is to do everything you can to make the audience, and in this case, the bridal party, feel that this is a unique and very special event. They want to know that what you are doing is especially for them, and that you are not going through the motions.

Want to be a brilliant master of ceremonies? Then get this internationally acclaimed guide to being a brilliant MC.

Master of Ceremonies tip 4: Jokes aren't needed.

I often get asked for jokes, by Masters of Ceremonies. However, I always respond in the same way, and that is, that a good Master of Ceremonies does not need jokes. Humour and laughter, yes; jokes no.

Humour can come from things that happen at the event or from funny stories about the participants, speaker, company, yourself, the executive - anyone relevant.

Jokes can offend and fall flat. They are a risk, so if you must tell them do so with great skill and care.

If you're not a good joke teller or your jokes may upset or irritate people, stay well clear of them. Use your emotional intelligence; don't just decide to say whatever you fancy.

The Master of Ceremonies must not offend.

Master of Ceremonies tip 5: Get the timing spot on.

An important part of the Master of Ceremonies duties is keeping everyone and everything to time.

Audiences hate speakers and occasions that go over time. Decide well in advance what the minute-by-minute schedule is. Then decide, again well in advance, how you as the Master of Ceremonies are going to keep everyone to time. Then let all speakers, including sponsors, know of the chosen methods and stick to them.

It takes courage and caring to be a brilliant Master of Ceremonies, that is why your emotional intelligence matters.

Do not be a flimsy MC who sits there hoping people will stop but doing nothing about it. You will frustrate your audience.

Featured Video

Gain more tips on being a Master of Ceremonies in this YouTube video. I am being interviewed by professional speaker and psychologist, Steve Wells, and we take a light-hearted tour through some of the things you need to do as a master or mistress of ceremonies.

Be a high EI leader and develop your emotional intelligence now - become a superb and skilled master of ceremonies and engage your audience.

Want to be a brilliant master of ceremonies? Then get this internationally acclaimed guide to being a brilliant MC.