Young and Old Emcee

Young and Old Emcee

How to choose a master of ceremonies who delivers
At the 2019 Tauranga Multicultural Festival

I’ve emceed (or MC’d, if you prefer) fashion shows, award ceremonies, cultural galas, charity lunches and other events for years. I like being part of the action without actually having to win anything, sew anything or have any real talent. I’m not a hosting expert, but I’ve attended enough functions to tell you what goes on behind the scenes, and how to know when you’ve chosen the wrong person for the job.

(see video here: )

What really happens:


Controlled chaos. If you’ve ever emceed, you know nothing goes to plan. Performers are late or don’t show, judges take too much time with a decision, the microphone doesn’t work, the lighting is wonky… it’s always something. I recently emceed a cultural event where my run sheet said a man would perform a song on bagpipes. He brought his pipes and accordian to the stage. Immediately after I introduced him, he started playing the accordian. It sounded like he was practicing, but then again, I’m no virtuoso.

Script changes

Be prepared to edit and add to the script. Organizers sometimes forget to add sponsors to the lineup, and will breathlessly approach you as you’re about to grab the mic, asking, “Could you please mention Sponsors A, B, C, D and E?” Of course you will. They’ve helping pay so the audience can nosh, network and maybe sip a drink during the show.

Time changes

Performer A was supposed to take the stage 15 minutes ago, but the show started late and now everything is backed up. Try to keep to the schedule, but realize you’re not a miracle worker.


Where’s the toilet? Do you know where I can plug into a power source? Do you know when my group is onstage? What’s the square root of 680? (about 26). You didn’t put the event together, but as the person holding a microphone and a script, you look the part. Smile and answer as best you can while frantically looking for someone who can give orders.

I Can’t Hear You

This is almost inevitable. I worked in TV news for 15 years, much of that time on the anchor desk, where I didn’t have to consider eating my lavalier microphone. Some handheld mics practically require you to chomp them if you want people in back to hear.

What not to do

I attended an awards ceremony where the emcee was either a first-timer, nervous and/or super-excited about sharing herself with the crowd. She rambled about her cat, her likes, dislikes and other random opinions. Meanwhile, those of us in the audience grew increasingly uncomfortable. It was an awkward two hours. We had extra time between awards, either because a team wasn’t ready, or judges were taking extra-long to deliberate. Rather than say, “This could take a while - why don’t you mingle and enjoy a refreshment?” the emcee told more cat stories. Give your attendees a break during an unexpected long pause - music can fill what would otherwise be dead air on stage.

It’s not about the emcee. You are not the star. Your job is to make things run smoothly and make the real stars of the show look good.


When can you tell stories, swear and joke with the audience? When you’re damn funny. It helps, too, if you’re a local or national celebrity. If you’re killing it on stage, go for it - in moderation - pros know when to stop and return to the wedding reception,seminar, ceremony, show, gala, etc…

No matter what, smile. You’re paving the way to a good time for your audience.