Friday, February 11, 2011

The Master of Ceremonies Toolkit: Planning a Flawless Program

Have you attended a formal luncheon or banquet lately? Did you enjoy the program? What feeling did you have when you left the event? Was it positive (glad you attended), negative (boring and a waste of time and money), neither (your body was there, you think)? Have you attended an event lately and found that most of the "audience" consisted of glasses filled with iced tea and salads ready to listen quietly?

We all attend banquets, luncheons, and other public speaking events for a variety of reasons. Some are great, some are far from it. We all have busy schedules and we usually have better things to do than to sit through a boring, long-winded speaker in a program that is poorly executed and unprofessional. Whether we are participating in the program as a speaker, being recognized for something, or part of the audience, paying for the meal ticket to help promote the cause or organization, we want to feel that our time was well spent, rather than wish we had made an excuse not to be there.

So, what separates the "ho-hums" from the "hurrahs"? What makes an event that is well-executed, professional, and energized? Two very important elements: a well thought-out and professionally-planned program and an experienced Master/Mistress of Ceremonies (Emcee).

A well thought-out and professionally-planned program

A good agenda takes into consideration the length and timing of the entire program. A well-planned agenda strategically places the sequence of the speakers for maximum effect and allocates the speaking times accordingly, while tightly weaving the entire program with lectern protocol and choreography of program participants. A good agenda considers the purpose, credibility, and reputation of speakers, as well as the purpose, goal, and direction of the program, so that the audience leaves the event feeling the purpose for attending was satisfied and the time was well spent.

An experienced Master/Mistress of Ceremonies

An experienced Emcee can enhance any program by keeping the various elements of the program in check and flowing smoothly by monitoring:

  • Program length - The Emcee is the timekeeper making sure the program stays on schedule.
  • Program execution - An Emcee, experienced in elocution and articulation, can make a program flow smoothly, seemingly without effort and without embarrassing delays or confusion as to what comes next, or worse, who comes next in the program.
  • Perceived professionalism - A program poorly executed is not only a direct reflection on the Chair of the event and the event committee, but may also impact the audience's perception of the sponsor in terms of professionalism and credibility. A less than professional program could damage a sponsor's image rather than enhance it.
  • Audience mood - Irrespective of the type of event, the audience expects to be entertained by a well-executed, professional program that fulfills the purpose for which they attended. An experienced Emcee adds color and vitality, holding the audience's attention and managing the mood so that attendees have an enjoyable experience and a sense of satisfaction.
  • Program pace - A program that drags on endlessly, is filled with empty pockets of silence or features self-centered, rambling speakers can be disastrous. A reputation of poorly executed, boring, or waste of time programs gets around in the community. For annual events, this may result in poor attendance and support for the event. A good Emcee monitors the pace of the program to avoid slow periods, maintain energy, and keep the audience from wanting to slip out the door during a strategic pause.

The importance of these very basic and crucial elements of any public speaking event are often overlooked. The results are manifested in the quality of the program. Can your event afford to be less than energetic, well-executed and professional? Is your event worth the effort to attend? Your credibility and professional image, or that of your client or organization, may be on the line.

Irene P. Zucker
VerbaCom® Executive Development

©2011 VerbaCom®

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Three Keys to Creating a Winning Event Program

Congratulations! You have been assigned the task of putting together this year’s Annual Appreciation event for your company or organization. Before you think that it’s no big deal since you plan to copy last year’s Program Agenda and hope for the best, you might consider putting yourself in the place of a typical program attendee.

Have you attended a formal awards banquet luncheon or dinner recently? Was the experience positive (glad you attended, interesting and memorable) or negative (a torturous boring waste of your time, with long-winded speakers and an unprofessional execution)? Or have you found yourself at a sparsely attended fundraising event and considered for a moment, just sending in a contribution and coming up with some excuse for not attending?

Attending a poorly executed program or event can make you not only regret coming to the event but can also discourage you from attending next year’s. Attendees are not the only ones impacted. An event that is not up to par, speaks volumes about the organization itself. A Board of Directors that allows a mediocre program (or worse) to showcase its organization sends a message about how the organization itself is operating within. Sponsors, on the other hand, are happy to tie their brand with an organization and will continue to do so as long as it puts them in a positive light.

Still think that it’s no big deal? Think again. Fact is, at the end of the day, whether your program was a success or a flop, it will reflect on you, the person responsible for putting it all together. You will take the heat or be the hero. Rather than getting anxious about it, see this as your opportunity to make your event something that everyone will remember in a positive light, one that brings the quality, professionalism and organization to a new level, and generates interest for next year’s event in terms of sponsorships and attendance.

Here are three critical areas to consider that can help you create a successful formal event:

1) Substance and quality is everything. Remember, your program will only be as good as the people on the program’s lineup. Period. All the hoopla surrounding all the presenters is just icing on the cake. Whether your event has one high level speaker as the highlight of your event or whether you have several presenters in the program, make sure that they are interesting, relevant, exciting people, famous or even controversial. Use them as enticements or draws that make people want to come to your event. As a backdrop, use topical programs, fun entertainment and great food that says this is a “can’t miss event”. You should shoot high, but based on your budget, you may need a plan “B” or “C”, etc. You get what you pay for still goes but negotiations savvy goes a long way here. Start looking early.

2) A well thought-out, strategically planned program is critical. A well thought-out agenda strategically places the sequence of the speakers for maximum effect and allocates the speaking times accordingly, as it helps the Master of Ceremonies (Emcee) tightly weave the entire program, with choreography, proper etiquette and protocol around the lectern. When planning the event, always keep in mind the purpose, goal and direction of the program so that it never looses focus and maintains the excitement of the audience. This will be the surest way of putting your organization’s best foot forward in front of your sponsors and attendees.

3) Acquire an experienced Emcee. A great Emcee enhances any program by keeping the various elements and dynamics of the program on track and controls the tone of the event, keeping it positive and energized. Experience with a great track record speaks volumes. Choose an Emcee carefully, besides being energetic, positive and upbeat, he/she should be familiar with proper lectern etiquette and protocol. Remember, just because the person may be a well known individual, doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is a good Emcee. Equally important, just because he or she is the Chair of the event, doesn’t automatically qualify them as the best person for the Emcee’s job.

The combination of great content, a well thought-out plan, coupled with an experienced Emcee who can pull it all together, are the elements needed for creating a professional, well-executed Program for your luncheon, banquet or dinner. The quality results you get will be closely tied to your efforts made towards quality, professionalism and substance that you have put into it. People will notice you and your team’s hard work, as it manifests in a smoothly run, dynamic and professional event that leaves attendees looking forward to next year’s event. It will reflect well on your organization, sponsors and yourself, building everyone’s credibility and brand. Isn’t your event worth the effort?

Irene P. Zucker
VerbaCom® Executive Development

©2011 VerbaCom®