Being a Master of Ceremonies
The Master of Ceremonies is the "conductor" of an event or meeting.
The primary responsibility of the Master of Ceremonies is to serve as a genial
host. An ideal MC is a person who has poise, presence and who can command the
attention of an audience.
The Master of Ceremonies is responsible for ensuring that the program/event
runs smoothly, runs on time and that all important people at the event are
introduced in a complimentary, professional manner. Being a successful Master
of Ceremonies requires, preparation, a friendly manner and ability to adjust
to/ad lib as necessary to ensure a successful event
"It is an honor to be asked to be the master of ceremonies at a
function. It means that you have a sense of humor, know how to project your
can handle audiences. It means that you have the gift of being able to
on your feet" so that you can react quickly in an emergency. (An
'emergency' arises when the lead entertaining act has not arrived, when the
main speaker falls ill and has to be taken home, or when the
air-conditioning ceases to function and the microphones don't work!)."
Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to Executive Manners, Rawson
Associates, New York, 1985,
The Master of Ceremonies Role
Before the Event
At the Event
- A successful Master of Ceremonies is thoroughly prepared. Meet with
organizers well in advance of the event to confirm the purpose of the
event and the planned agenda in detail.
- If possible contact all speakers or others who will have a role in the
program and confirm their responsibilities, time allotted to them and
anything they might require at the event. In preparation for introducing
key speakers contact them to find out the title/topic of their
presentation and some background information on them. Use this information
to prepare your introduction
of the speaker.
- Find out if there will be any special guests in attendance who should be
acknowledged at the event.
"Preside with sincerity , energy and decisiveness.
Take your audience on a pleasant journey and make them feel that all is
Toastmasters International, When You Are the
- Arrive early in order to finish any last minute details. Check with
speakers and other meeting participants to make sure all their
requirements are in place (if not take steps to address any problems if
you can) and in case there are any last minute changes.
- Confirm whether expected special guests are indeed in attendance.
- Have an agenda and plan to stick to it. If there is not a formal agenda
consider preparing a detailed script for yourself outlining everything you
have to do, a timetable, including breaks, so that you will know what is
supposed to happen when and so you won't forget something important.
- Start on time and plan to end on time.
- Be prepared.
While you can plan well, things can run amuck. Be aware that this can
happen and have a possible strategy to address problems that might occur.
The ideal MC is resourceful, creative, flexible and able to respond to
problems "on the fly".
Your objective is to keep the event running on time.
Attendees appreciate an event that runs on time.
We'll bless our toastmaster,
Wherever he may roam,
If he'll only cut the speaker short,
And let us all go home".
Paul Dickson, Toasts, Crown Publishers, New York,
1991, p. 230
Consider the following tips:
Keep a watch in front of you on the lectern or
table to enable you to keep track of the time.
Or, arrange beforehand for someone in the
audience to keep track of the meeting and give you subtle
signals if the meeting is moving behind schedule.
During the Program
- Welcome all present.
If there are any special guests, officials, politicians or others of note
they should be acknowledged in the welcome.
For example, "Good evening, Your Worship, Mayor Brown, Ladies and
For more details regarding protocol please refer to Perfecting
- Introduce yourself, even if you think everyone should know who you are.
- Remind the audience of why they have come -- the reason for the event
and what you hope to achieve or accomplish at the event. Is the goal
entertainment, to celebrate someone's accomplishments, or to conduct
- Outline the upcoming program briefly.
Introductions/"Handling" the Speakers
- As the Master of Ceremonies you are responsible for introducing
every speaker and others who are playing a role in the program at the
event. A proper introduction is important to the success of a speaker's
presentation so have a good introduction prepared prior to the event for
all key speakers. The more important the role played by the individual,
the more extensive your introduction should be.
- Once you have completed your introduction of a speaker, lead the
applause for the speaker and continue applauding until they reach the
- The MC serves as the informal "timekeeper" for the speaker. If
a speaker is exceeding their allotted time, you. can slip them a note
asking them to please finish quickly.
- When the speaker has finished this/her presentation lead the applause
until the speaker is seated.
- Before you proceed on to the next portion of the program it is
appropriate to thank the speaker for their presentation. If possible
make reference to some aspect of the talk which you found particularly
important or moving (this shows that you were listening and also confirms
the value of the speaker's presentation).
An essential skill of an MC is the ability to make comments which
"bridge" between segments of the meeting. Prior to the meeting
try to prepare some remarks which might be used to bridge between segments or
comments or anecdotes which could be used if there is a delay or disruption in
the program. A skilled MC is able to use incidents that occur in the
event as bridging tools. Don't worry if you are not sure how to do this.
This skill can be gained with experience and practice if it does not
come naturally to you.
If the event is several hours in duration, and there are breaks during it, it
could be useful to make a few comments summarizing what has happened so far in
the event, and what is yet to come.
If there is a gift or honorarium for the speaker(s) it can be presented at the
conclusion of their speech. If there are several individuals to receive
gifts they can all be presented at the conclusion of the event if this seems
appropriate and all the speakers will still be available.
Closing the Meeting
- Letitia Baldrige
"The perfect M.C. makes the audience feel they have profited from
attending the function, and that they have also had a good time".
Close the event with as much enthusiasm as you opened with. At the
end of the session it is customary to thank the speakers and thank all who
attended for their participation. It is a good idea to include comments
which summarize what was experienced or achieved in the event, what you have
learned or what you felt were the highlights of the event.
In addition, if any people were of particular help to you in organizing and
conducting the event, thank them publicly at this point for their assistance.
If there are only a few people who assisted you can name them
individually. If many people, you can say that you have had a large
group of people helping you make the event a success, and you would like to
thank all of them for their support. You could ask them to rise to be
Your closing comments as MC should mirror your opening comments. You
can also consider commenting on whether, in your opinion, the goal of the
event has been achieved. If not, you could comment on what further
action can or should be taken. If the event was intended to inspire
action in your audience note this and encourage them to take action. If
assistance for further work is being sought you can direct people as to who to
see to indicate their interest. If you want to inspire your audience to
take further action after the meeting use of a inspirational story or quote
might be useful.
"The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision on
what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out
and meet it."
"We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly
embracing each other"
- Liciano De Crescenzo
"We can see the past but not influence it, we can influence the
future but not see it"
- Stewart Brand
If the meeting didn't achieve a clear plan of action but there is hope, the
following quote might be appropriate to use:
"The moral is t hat having an accurate map (or detailed plan) may be
less important than having an imperfect map that overcomes inertia, instills
confidence in people, and gets them moving in a general direction".
- Charles A. Schwartz
After the Event
Following an event it is appropriate to send a note of thanks to all who
contributed to the success of the event in a major way. In particular
speakers should be thanked for their contribution. This correspondence
should be sent within two weeks of the event. If you do not carry out
this task someone key in the organization that sponsored the event should
perform this very important courtesy.
When it comes to being a polished Master of Ceremonies there is no
substitute for experience. Take every opportunity that you can to speak at
events. In addition, prepare and practice for ever event.
To learn how to be even better watch people that you think are skillful as
speakers and MC's and analyze what they do and how they do it. Then try
to emulate the things you think will work for you.
Be an Effective
Master of Ceremonies , Iowa State University, College of Agriculture,
Lee, Brian, The Wedding M.C., Mastery Publications
Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to Executive Manners, Rawson
Associates, New York, 1985
Rawson, Angela. Master of Ceremonies Knows How to Keep Meeting or
Conference on the Right Path, Capital District Business Review, 11/17/97,
When You are the Toastmaster.