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Master your MC Smarts

The right host can help ensure that an event runs smoothly and effortlessly—or at least make it look that way!

By Cheryl Embrett

Finding a master of ceremonies to lead attendees through a packed program takes a little know-how. We asked two industry pros for their best tips.

Do your research
Referrals are a good way to start, says Jamie Lamont, director of events at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. “Reach out to some of your colleagues and say, ‘Hey, guys, I’m looking for a really good MC, does anybody have any recommendations?’”

Many companies use internal people, which can have its pros and cons. On the upside, they have a connection to the organization and know the inside jokes, says Kimberley King, president of the LimeLight Group in Dartmouth, NS. “But you want to make sure you have an expert who can take event hiccups and make them disappear. When a technical difficulty occurs or the sponsor’s name is dropped from the script, a pro can pick up the pieces and right the wrong without notice.”

While a celebrity or name draw can boost attendance, keep in mind that there are some keynote speakers who are great MCs and some who aren’t. Ditto for comedians and media personalities. Always ask for references, advises King. “Emceeing is a different skill set than stand up, a keynote or broadcast.”

If you’re using a professional MC, make use of their expertise, advises King. “They can be great at imparting their knowledge in terms of timing—where you’ve allocated a little too much time to a certain segment, for example.”

Prep them
Make sure your MC is well briefed. They should have a copy of the script in advance—preferably the week before. It’s also important to help your “outside” MC seem like an insider at the event. “They need to be comfortable with the event objectives and what they can play with at the podium—and what’s off limits,” says King.

Money matters
“It’s pretty hard to get someone to speak for free these days,” says Lamont, “unless it’s a fundraiser and there’s a personal connection” (in which case, consider making a donation to the charity on his or her behalf). Expect to pay in the range of $5,000 to $15,000 for a professional MC. “It all depends on the role of the MC,” says King. “Is she there to keep the timeline going, add some humour and spark, or are they also lending their name to the evening and increasing ticket sales as well?”

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