When you are Master of Ceremonies

Seth MacFarlane at the Oscars














Where did Seth go wrong as Master of Ceremonies?

When you are the Master of Ceremonies, you have an important role. It is a privilege to be MC at a prestigious event like the Oscar Ceremony. The whole world is watching! Seth MacFarlane has come under fire for his sexist songs, jokes and humour during the recent Oscar Ceremony. As the host, he neglected to consider what his audience would find amusing. He might have engaged some of his audience members, (some of the men who might have found it all very amusing), but he alienated so many others.

Tips for the Master of Ceremonies Role

The role of Master of Ceremonies, is not an easy one. While it looks deceptively simple, the role is quite a demanding one. Outwardly it appears simple enough. You arrive, dress smartly, stand up, say a few words and make people laugh. That flawless performance is the result of thorough preparation and thought. Here are some Golden Rules that you will do well to remember if you are asked to take on this role:

Connect with your Audience 

Connecting with your audience means you need to find common ground. Find something to laugh about that everyone will find funny. Don’t alienate your audience with off-color humour. A joke that is appropriate with your close friends might be entirely inappropriate with a large audience. This is equally important when you are Master of Ceremonies at a wedding. Often you will find three generations at a wedding reception. If Grandma won’t find your humour funny, or it is inappropriate for those under 16, use other humour. I go into much more detail on this in my book The Wedding Speaker’s Guide.

Remember that the MC is not the star of the show –  As Master of Ceremonies, your job is to create a flow for the event. A key part of your role is to bridge between one part of the event and another. As one part comes to an end, you transition smoothly to the next item.  Your comments about the previous segment sum it up and then your introduction of the next segment sets it up. You are a key part of the event, but your job is to make others look good. While you are a vital part of the success of the show, you are not the star of the show.

Consider it from the Point of View of your Audience and your Host –  Take a moment to ask yourself what your audience is looking for? What are their expectations? If you don’t know – do some homework and ask them. Find a way to contact them and start a conversation with them. Equally important is to ask the organisers or hosts what their expectations are. Don’t assume their humour is the same as yours.  Many wedding speeches go wrong as the wedding speakers never receive a brief from the bridal couple or the hosting family. Defining expectations ahead of time is a smart move if you want to succeed as a Master of Ceremonies.  If you are the one hosting an event, ensure that your Master of Ceremonies is briefed properly. I show you how here.

Ask someone who has done this before –  You will benefit greatly by speaking to someone who has already been a successful MC for your event.  Find out what worked for them and what didn’t work? Ask them what would they do differently if they had another chance. This insight could be invaluable and could save you potential embarrassment. Do your homework – be sure to have the correct pronunciation of names. Ask for phonetic spelling of names to be sure that you pronounce every name correctly.

In conclusion, the full advantage of the privilege of being asked to step into the role of Master of Ceremonies. I want to wish you the very best of luck as Master of Ceremonies! As I said before, it looks deceptively easy. Do yourself a favour – prepare well ahead of time. You want to be remembered for all the right reasons. I have created a great resource for you here.