Choosing and Using An Emcee

How a professional host can enhance your meeting

Inside Tips
As with any outside talent, the more information about your company and culture you can share, the better prepared the emcee will be.

Be sure to fill the host in on industry lingo and acronyms.

Determine the emcee's delivery preference and comfort zone before finalizing
audiovisual needs. Some hosts work best with Teleprompt­ers; others might need a full script in advance, while still others can deliver great results from just a few notes.

Be sure to include the host in rehearsals.

While the idea of putting an "outsider" on stage to host a meeting might make some planners blanch, a professional emcee can be a valuable addition to your gathering. These pros can serve as facilitators, introducing sessions and presenters, smoothing the transitions between agenda items, and giving the audience a bit of breather or "brain break" during programs loaded with data and talking points.

Following are tips on finding and working with emcees.

The Emcee's Purpose A good host is entertaining, engaging, likeable and holds attendees' attention. He or she can warm up the audience at the beginning of the day, conduct a Q&A with your presenters, lead a stretch break and deliver housekeeping announcements.

Having a host take responsibility for those elements enables the meeting's sponsor, CEO and/or other top brass to focus on what matters most to them: the meeting's content and message.

An experienced corporate emcee can lead interviews with executives in seemingly casual conversations that actually are speeches in disguise. The dialogue can be as tightly scripted or as loose as you want it to be, allowing the audience to become more engaged than they typically are during traditional podium speeches.

In addition, an emcee can be the "voice of the audience," asking questions and seeking clarification on behalf of attendees. Questions can be collected in advance or sent to the host as texts during the session.

A Perfect Match When considering an emcee, first determine the style that will best suit your company's culture or the tone of the event. Many different types of professionals serve this role. Some function as stand-up or improv comedians, others are professional newscasters or TV hosts, and still others hang their shingle out as all-purpose emcees, offering motivational talks, entertainment and workshop facilitation.

Most professional hosts are represented by a speakers bureau and/or a talent agency. Sources include the International Association of Speakers Bureaus and the Association of Talent Agents.

You can take your search much deeper by checking out the emcee's personal website, scanning for YouTube clips of the emcee's corporate work, doing general web searches for hosts who might have done work on behalf of your clients' competitors, and perusing archival video from large trade shows or public events that featured emcees.

Budget Matters As with speaker fees, the prices for an emcee's services can vary greatly. A local comedian or meeting facilitator might cost a few hundred dollars per day, while a nationally recognized news figure or comedy star might charge in the low six-figures for a corporate engagement. However, the majority of professional hosts charge less than what many keynote speakers are paid for single 40-minute presentations.

When negotiating fees, be sure to factor in preparation time and the number of hours or days the emcee will need to be on-site during the meeting.