Hosting or MC’ing is a particular skill – ace it, and you feel like a hero. Lose your footing, and… well, not so much. In this Speechless Soundbite, co-hosts Simon Bucknall and Maryam Pasha offer some sage advice on how to MC like a boss. Hint – it involves being organised, and putting your audience and speakers first.
00:00:00] Maryam Pasha: Welcome to Speechless Soundbite's practical storytelling tips in under five minutes. At this week's Speechless Soundbite, we take a look at what makes a great host or a great MC and how you can put your panelists and audience at ease.
[00:00:19] Maryam Pasha: I would say one of the most difficult things that I've ever been asked to do. And like, that scared me when it came to public speaking, is emceeing, or hosting an event. [00:00:30] But you do it all the time, and you're very good at it. I feel like I've gotten better at it, maybe? Um,
[00:00:35] Simon Bucknall: I've seen you on some big stages, usually with three big red letters behind you, spelling out technology, entertainment, and design.
[00:00:43] Simon Bucknall: But nevertheless. But that's generous of you. Thank
[00:00:45] Maryam Pasha: you, Maryam. Let's, I wanna do your top three tips and then I'm gonna share my top three steps on hosting or MCing an event.
[00:00:52] Simon Bucknall: Yeah. I love the insight from, uh, a, uh, very experienced conference, mc called Roy Shepard, whom I met years ago when I was just starting out as a [00:01:00] professional speaker, and he described the role of an mc as being the conscience of the audience.
[00:01:04] Simon Bucknall: I love it. I think he may even use that as part of his branding. Actually. I thought it was a lovely way to think about it. You are there as a representative on behalf of the audience on stage rather than a. Another speaker on stage. So I think that that lens I think can only be helpful when thinking about your role You're there to to serve the audience I think secondly I'd say with introductions for speakers being clear on the end of the introduction to lead the [00:01:30] applause Not just Literally the applause but with your words you can do that and the simplest way of doing that is to have as your last words the name of the
[00:01:36] Maryam Pasha: speaker.
[00:01:36] Maryam Pasha: Completely agree with this. This is, this is transformative for us at TEDxLondon, like when we were writing the intros, the minute we put the speaker's name at the end, it made it
[00:01:48] Simon Bucknall: so much easier. Absolutely. And so often it's buried part way through. Oh, yeah. You get a false start and, oh, that's the, oh, no.
[00:01:53] Simon Bucknall: And the audience doesn't really know where they're up to. And then they end up hearing the name of the speaker two or three times. And that seems a bit odd. So, yeah, ideally, [00:02:00] avoid the name of the speaker until right at the end. And then it's clear that it's a big round of applause for... Yep. And then, third tip...
[00:02:08] Simon Bucknall: is, relates to after a speaker has finished. I've sometimes seen MCs think it's their role to then do a deep dive analysis on what they thought of the speaker and whether they were any good. Which is, well, in speech contests that's against the rules for an MC to do that and I think it's bad manners and unhelpful for a conference MC in the real world as well.
[00:02:27] Simon Bucknall: So I think throwing out some thoughts [00:02:30] or questions to the audience in a way that might be helpful for people, maybe, but telling the audience whether a speaker was any good. or not. It's just, it's just crazy. You know, it really, it's about moving on. People don't really need to hear that much about what the, and actually people don't really care what the MC thinks about the speaker.
[00:02:48] Simon Bucknall: The audience cares about what the audience thinks about the speaker.
[00:02:51] Maryam Pasha: Yeah, agreed. I think an MC can really ruin something, but if they're very good, you don't remember them because you're focused on everyone else. Yeah, absolutely. [00:03:00] Um, okay. Let me tell you my three, cause I agree with all of those. One of them is about your style.
[00:03:06] Maryam Pasha: So I think people feel like they have to be a certain type of way if they're going to emcee or host something That's really unnatural to them and I understand that pressure like I felt that but actually you've just got to lean into you That's when like what's gonna connect To an audience if you're trying to be like hilarious or rowdy or whatever it might be the greatest showman Yeah, it's just not gonna [00:03:30] work.
[00:03:30] Maryam Pasha: So yeah, I mean really lean into you and you have to think about that The second thing is You have to be organized if you're going to be the host of the MC. A disorganized, uh, like MC is the worst. There's so many pitfalls here. For example, I am terrible at pronouncing people's names. Terrible. I acknowledge that.
[00:03:51] Maryam Pasha: So I get every speaker to voice note me their name.
[00:03:55] Simon Bucknall: Oh, great tip. You actually have, so you've got it on record, [00:04:00] audio.
[00:04:00] Maryam Pasha: Nice. And then I do the phonetics on the card and then I practice and I practice and I practice and I get comfortable, not just with the pronunciation, but the intonation, the, the, like, especially if a speaker has like, um, a name with multiple parts to it or, you know, multiple syllables, you got to get that right, you know, and I really think also being, it's okay if every now and again you're like, oh, wait.
[00:04:25] Maryam Pasha: Are we having lunch now or something? That's fine. You can play that off. But if the whole time you're like, [00:04:30] what's coming next? I don't know. Where are we here? What's, you know, it just doesn't work. It's leafing through
[00:04:35] Simon Bucknall: a gazillion sheets of A4
[00:04:37] Maryam Pasha: floppy floppy. And really, you know, being organized so that you are thinking ahead.
[00:04:41] Maryam Pasha: Let's say you are working with a teleprompter. What happens if the teleprompter fails? You know, all those kinds of things, being very clear on knowing you want to set yourself up
[00:04:51] Simon Bucknall: for success. Yeah, absolutely. And I know that as a speaker, for the speaker lineup to know that the MC has got it. They've thought through that stuff and they are, they are there to, to support [00:05:00] the speaker if there is, if there's a need.
[00:05:02] Simon Bucknall: That's, I think, really, really impressive.
[00:05:03] Maryam Pasha: Yeah, like if you're chaotic on stage, you're not setting up, and the speaker after you is a bit nervous, it's, it's not the right. Yeah, not great. And this kind of takes me on to my last tip, which is around energy. Whatever energy you have on stage, it's going to, it's going to rub off on the audience.
[00:05:19] Maryam Pasha: So if you are really tired by the end of the day, you've got to recognize that and you've got to find that energy somewhere and bring it. If you're chaotic, if you're disordered, you know, all of that, it's very [00:05:30] contagious. And so I think being aware of managing your energy, and I know this because I've, I've failed at it.
[00:05:36] Maryam Pasha: You know, I have been at hosting and emceeing events where something has gone wrong and it's really thrown me. And it's the adrenaline, um, spike of something going wrong and having to then fix it. And then the subsequent crash of that adrenaline, I, it was really tough. So you just, you just got to know all that stuff, I think, and think about it and like pace yourself and eat and have [00:06:00] water and all of those things, you know, are going to affect your energy.
[00:06:03] Maryam Pasha: So hopefully this has been
[00:06:04] Simon Bucknall: helpful and it's a great role to take on if you get the opportunity Right because it was my first ever professional booking was to MC a conference for some financial advisors as it happens But I think if within your organization at work or whatever, there's an event going on It's rare that there's a speaker lineup that doesn't benefit from having somebody to introduce them a guide and and why not step up?
[00:06:26] Simon Bucknall: It's a great way to get stage time each contribution that you make as MC is [00:06:30] bite sized yes, you've got a few moving parts to consider but It's actually a, I think a really, really, it's really, really good experience in all sorts of ways for understanding better the, the, the nuances, complexities around audience engagement and, and, and the, and the management of an event and what it takes us to be both audience member and speaker on stage, that kind of hybrid.
[00:06:51] Simon Bucknall: I think it's a, it's a really terrific role and see it as an opportunity if it comes your way. So to recap, some quick wins [00:07:00] on being a fab host. First, when introducing someone, end the sentence with their name. Otherwise it risks being buried and your audience won't know who it is you just introed, and it helps to set up the applause.
[00:07:10] Simon Bucknall: Two, be organized. So if you struggle, for example, with pronunciation, there's some complex names, think ahead, ask them. them to voice note you their name so you can hear it said correctly. And finally, don't try and summarise or give an analysis of what someone's just said, or add a commentary. Just let what they've delivered speak for itself with the [00:07:30] audience.
[00:07:30] Simon Bucknall: Thanks for listening to this Speechless Soundbite. Until next time, speak less, say
[00:07:34] Maryam Pasha: more.