I have been a professionally, paid emcee for the last ten years. As a speaker and storyteller, I do believe being a good emcee is a perfect fit for our craft. As a performer I desire an emcee to introduce me well acording to my wishes. My wishes are really straight forward Other performers might not care how they are introduced but most professionals do.
Every speaker and storyteller must have a prepared one-sheet introduction ready to give to an emcee with these instructions. "Please read my introduction just as it is written. I have worked hard at preparing my introduction to fit this event., thank you." An emcees job is hard enough without having to guess how you are to be introduced.
My personal introduction is well thought out and prepared in order to prepare the audience for my program.
Since January of 2009 at the last 12 events I was performing at, only one emcee followed my instructions! Why? Because they wanted everyone to notice them, not the performers. I know this because I asked them afterwards "Why did you modify my introduction?"
Here are some of the answers: "I always like to jazz up an introduction." Everyone expects me to introduce folks with a song." my all time favorite: "I don't read well, so I tell some jokes to warm up your intro." (He also said my name wrong!)
I have been introduced in song, by a puppet, by someone with an accent so thick, they were hard to understand and by an animal. Yes an animal! the emcee had a conversation with his goat as part of my introduction!
Here are some helpful tips (from a speakers and storytellers point of view) for those of you who emcee or want to emcee.
“First, Do No Harm”. Most important, make sure that your facts are correct and that you know how to pronounce the speaker or storytellers name. Ask them ahead of time and confirm that pronunciation. If you do nothing else to prepare, make sure that you can pronounce their name!
Smooth introductions that are succinct work in everyone’s favor. Many professional speakers and storytellers will bring you and/or send you a written introduction. Take time to read it over and check with the person on the pronunciation of any of the words that are unfamiliar to you -- making notes on the pronunciation. If the person you will be introducing hasn’t handed you an introduction, conduct a mini-interview and write down what you plan to say. Just “winging it” or going on and on about how long you’ve known old Joe and what a good guy he is, is just plain wrong.
The word “succinct” is important. At a recent storytelling event I attended, I saw the energy in the room take a huge dive when the emcee of the group sponsoring the event droned on and on about the group, about the speaker, and other information that was uninteresting to everyone. When this storyteller got up on the platform, people in the audience were practically dozing. (I am so glad I went on last!)
Being asked to be the emcee is an honor. Yours is probably the most important function of the program -- keeping every part moving smoothly. Take it seriously, prepare well, and be proud of the part you’ve played, and you will be asked again and again. A good emcee is hard to find, so be one! Also be invisiable, It's not about you!
Mike Miller is a "Full contact" Speaker, Trainer, Storyteller and Professional Silly Person based in Charleston, SC He can be reached at www.greatstoryteller.com