« 11. How to be a good corporate Master of Ceremony »

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. She is the author of "Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking" and is one of only 800 people in the world with the highest level of accreditation in the professional speaking industry - CSP - Certified Speaking Professional.

Are you going to be a master of ceremony at a conference, awards night, product launch, seminar series, concert, farewell, or similar event? What a wonderful honour, but a daunting one!

Don't stand with your hand in your pocket

It isn't always as easy as it seems.

There are a lot of duties involved and a great number of practical aspects to pay attention to.

There are also a lot of emotions involved in events and functions.

There is a distinct advantage if the master of ceremonies has high levels of emotional intelligence so he or she can handle all the emotions, all the people, and all the problems really well.

Yes there is a great deal to take care of.

You are not just there to boost your ego or to give announcements.

You are there to help the audience feel engaged with, and feel informed about, everything that is happening. These are emotions!

Here are some emotional intelligence tips to help you be a brilliant master of ceremonies at a corporate or business event or conference.

Emotional intelligence skills 1: Know your role

The role of a master of ceremonies is not to simply watch the clock or to give information.

It is the prime responsibility of the master of ceremonies at any corporate function or business event, to:

  • Keep the event flowing so people feel relaxed.
  • Keep the energy of the audience up.
  • Ensure that everything runs smoothly so people stay feeling comfortable with proceedings.
  • Help the audience feel welcomed.
  • Help speakers feel appreciated.
  • Make the sponsors feel proud to be involved.
  • Keep the audience under control without upsetting them.
  • Smooth over problems that arise so people don't worry.
  • Keep everyone happy.

... and this is only part of it!

Yes! Your role is to handle the emotions and manage them well, every step of the way. This can take high levels of emotional intelligence.

If you need a fuller description of what your responsibilities are, these are covered more fully in our popular E-book, "The beginner's guide to being a brilliant master of ceremonies".

Want to improve your confidence as a public speaker so your audience wants to listen to you? Book into our public speaking development package

Emotional intelligence skills 2: Identify the core groups

There are a lot of emotions that you are in charge of; one such emotion is the feeling of being welcomed.

Help the audience to feel welcomed. Identify the core groups in your audience and welcome each one.

It isn't sufficient just to say, "Welcome to you all ...". It is not a genuine, heartfelt welcome, it is a comment made by a master of ceremonies just going through the routine.

Instead, welcome specific individuals and specific groups, not just by title but with relevant information.

For example, you might say, "To those of you who have travelled all the way from Newcastle and fought your way through the fog, a big welcome".

Some masters of ceremonies read a sheet of paper to announce and formally welcome guests.

Please do it from your heart and with a sincere and genuine sense of welcoming. Smile, name people personally, say why it's good they are here, look people in the eye and have warmth in your voice.

Welcome people rather than announce them, and do it without reading it word for word.

Everything you do influences the emotional reaction that the audience has. You need to manage these emotions in a positive way, that is why emotional intelligence is relevant to being a master of ceremonies.

Emotional intelligence skills 3: Mention the audience's needs

A master of ceremonies has to connect with an audience in order to engage an audience.

One way to do this is to show that you know what matters most to this particular audience, and what they are thinking or feeling.

For example, if you are the master of ceremonies at a breakfast seminar you might say, "I know some of you left home very early this morning to get here, and are hanging out for your first coffee of the day, so we are going to start with breakfast".

This is all helps to manage audience emotions. Yes even simple things like this make a difference. It is all about the practical application of emotional intelligence so you leave your audience feeling understood, cared for and engaged.

It is far better for the speakers if you have taken care of the audience so they are in a good frame of mind to listen to what they have to say.


Watch more tips on how to be a superb master of ceremonies:

Emotional intelligence skills 4: Mention audience perspective

Another way to engage the audience and connect with them is to acknowledge any negativity they may be feeling.

The audience may be listening to a speaker at a function and have cynical views or objections in their minds about what may be presented. Sometimes if you, as the master of ceremonies, can bring that objection out into the open, they can let go of it.

You might say something like, "You might be sitting there thinking that this is all very well but it will take too much time. You'll enjoy our next speaker then, as Ian has some fascinating statistics on how quickly the task can be done".

Yes, it is all about emotional management, and emotional intelligence really helps with that.

Emotional intelligence skills 5: Be confident in keeping to time

Some masters of ceremonies I have worked with have found it very difficult to stop speakers going over time.

In advance decide how, as the MC, you will let people know when their time is up. Then do it! Do not be scared, it is your job and speakers expect you to do it.

At one event I spoke at, the mistress of ceremony was adamant, in advance, that I didn't need to worry about time as she would tell me when I only had 5 minutes to go. I was giving a 15 minute speech and after 22 minutes, I finally gave up waiting for her and stopped. I didn't know I had spoken for 22 mins until I stopped. I had been waiting for her to stop me but she never told me about 5 minutes or when my time was up. It was very uncomfortable and I always time myself now and don't trust the master of ceremonies.

You are there, as the master of ceremony, to keep the time. Therefore keep the time. You will annoy the audience if you don't, and why risk that as it puts a bad taste over the whole event.

Want to engage your audience more easily and make your presentations more interesting? Book into our public speaking development package.

How to improve your public speaking now.

Can you afford to have you or your team unable to engage their audiences? No! Organisations need to be represented by engaging speakers in order to get their message across as swiftly and effectively as possible. This applies to you if you are an executive or a manager too - do not bore your employees, your stakeholders or your board. We have a number of options to help you:

  1. Book into our public speaking development package.
  2. There is a definitive guide: "The beginners guide to being a brilliant MC".
  3. Read the book "Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking".

For more details or to make a booking e-mail us now or pick up the phone and call us.