Mastering the Art of Public Speaking: Understanding Your Role as a MC

By Spence Finlayson

NASSAU, Bahamas – When I first started my career as a motivational speaker in my native Bahamas, I was hired to be the master of ceremonies for weddings and other events.

I can remember my very first wedding that I was hired to Emcee and it was held at the old Nassau Beach Hotel on the Cable Beach Strip. I was so nervous. I was trying to remember a few jokes and also my responsibilities at the reception. From way back then, almost 33 years ago, I have learned quite a bit about being a good master of ceremonies.

Masters of Ceremonies (MC)  Duties

Some of your duties as the MC include, introducing speakers, moving the program along, filling in the gaps when there is a pause in the proceedings, making the guests feel appreciated and entertained.

I recommend that you have a meeting with the host or organizer before you actually take the stage, like a week or two in advance.

I recently had an experience that brought this point home in a very clear way.

A friend of mine was having an event at the University of the Bahamas and he booked me to be the MC. So for weeks leading up to the event, I was mentally preparing for my emcee role. I got to the venue before the host/organizer and asked a few of the workers associated with this particular event, what was my role?

They all said, “you are a motivational speaker right? Then you have to speak! “Now, preparing for the role of emcee is quite different from preparing for the role of motivational speaker.

Firstly, as a motivational guest speaker, I would have had to prepare my material based on the theme of the event, keeping in my stated objectives of the organizer. For me, it is also a different mind set that I have to bring as a motivational speaker versus that of master of ceremonies.

You must always remember that as emcee you are not the star of the function, you are a facilitator.  Just like a great point guard in basketball, who runs the floor for the team?

So, when I am the emcee, I keep that in mind, I am only a facilitator, making sure the show runs smoothly, always checking in with the host to make sure that I am carrying out all of their wishes as it pertains to the function.

So for this event at the University of the Bahamas, I had to quickly put on my motivational speaker cap and speak extemporaneously for a part of the evening.

After, 30 plus years in the business as an international motivational speaker and corporate trainer, I have developed quite a volume of motivational material and stories that I can share when called upon.

One key thing you must do in order to perform your role as an emcee is to be very observant while the event is going on, so that you may make the necessary adjustments as needed, for instance of one of the persons on the program is not in attendance, then you have to quickly get someone else who can adequately perform in their absence.

Or failing that, you must be ready and available to step in .

As an emcee, you must be very considerate of the demographics of your audience, never offending anyone. I am the butt of my own jokes, I never want to hurt somebody’s feelings because of something I said jokingly.

The type of event will dictate your level of energy. So of course at a solemn event, you will be more subdued to blend in with the occasion.

I can recall being the moderator for a mental health conference so before I began, I asked the organizer, how did she want me to be, high energy, medium or low-key. She said in the middle, medium…You must ask questions of the organizer, in order to be a good emcee.

It’s like the young DJs who seemingly play the music they like regardless of the demographics of the audience. You can’t play rap music to a group of mature individuals. So as emcee, it is my job to advise the DJs which music to play.

Always eat a good healthy meal before you take the podium as an emcee, because once the function starts, you will be very busy running the show, like the director of an orchestra, you won’t have time to stop and eat until the event is over.

Always practice seemingly difficult names in advance before calling them out during the function. People are funny about their names and the pronunciation and rightfully so.

Finally, remember the goals and objectives of the organizers as you perform your role as emce.  Know your role!!!

Master Motivator Spence Finlayson -Mastering the Art of Public Speaking: Understanding Your Role as a MC

Spence Finlayson

Spence M  Finlayson, is an international conference speaker and the Founder & CEO of Master Motivator Spence Finlayson Speakers Academy. He is  a much sought after motivational speaker and has spoken in over 26 Foreign countries with 30 years experience. He can be reached at 242-677-0418 or by email at

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