If your wanting to have a Conference MC at your next event, there are some important things to consider. A brilliant Emcee or Facilitator is essential part of making any large event a success.

Picture this

Your Big day is coming up. 600 people are coming together from across the country. It’ s that once/year get together that enables your organisation to hear key messages, connect with colleagues and get behind and be truly engaged with a kick ass strategy for the next 12 months.

  • Everything is in place.
  • Venue
  • Food
  • Accommodation
  • Speakers
  • Evening entertainment

You have been up since 5:00 am working on bringing everything together. The room is looking spectacular. 600 people file into the room and sit down. Nothing happens. There is some awkward silence. Someone nervously shuffles up to the stage. Brad from Marketing has scored the gig for emceeing this event. He kicks off with, “Umm, I don’ t normally do this so I apologise if…… Umm, Ok, let’ s introduce our first guest”

And the event kicks off on a flat note which unfortunately can set the tone for the day ahead.

To ensure that you get the right MC for your event, there are five key things that should be on your checklist.


2022 The Research Society – Human Insights Conference. 24-25 August 2022. Hilton, Sydney

Has a great energy

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but they will never forget how you make them feel” Maya Angelou
For a conference, people will always remember how you made them feel. Are you going to have them leave feeling bored and lethargic OR vibrant and full of energy?
An MC’ s job is to create and then control the energy in the room. In all my years of facilitating, speaking and presenting, I have never known an audience who has a request of, “please bore us to death.”

A great MC will set the tone for the day and control the tempo from there.

If they see the energy dipping in the room, they will ensure that they get the audience in a great space and ready for action once again.

A good energy in the room helps all the speakers and presenters. If the audience is feeling great, they want to listen. They are receptive and open and wanting to be a part of what is going on. No speaker likes to take to the stage to an audience that looks like Zombies from the Apocalypse. They want to see happy, smiling faces, and so do you!

Can think on their feet

A great Conference MC needs to be the glue that holds the day together, especially when things don’t go to plan.
As conferences are live events, things can and will not go to schedule. Presentations will go over time (surprise, surprise), Speakers may get sick, lunch may run 30 minutes over time, the venue may have a fire alert or one part of your agenda may fall a little flat and needs to be wrapped up ahead of schedule. As such, there may be a lot more/less time than you imagined.

A good Emcee can help you fill those gaps.

  • If there is a five to fifteen-minute gap where the crowd needs to be entertained, can your MC seamlessly fill that space?
  • Does your MC have the potential to facilitate a panel if required?
  • If time has shortened and everyone needs to move into groups quickly, does your Emcee have some tricks to make that happen?

Easy to work with

Closely related to point two, this one should be a no brainer. Conferences are hard work and bringing to together can be very stressful. As a conference organiser or someone who has major role in the day you already have enough on your plate. An MC shouldn’ t be something else you need to manage or deal with. A Conference Facilitator or MC needs to be able toimprovise with ad-hoc requests and support as required. They should be considered as part of your support team, not you as part of their support team.

Understands your audience

This is essential and helps an audience create connection and meaning. It’ s also a great way to understand the nuances and intricacies of the industry which make great material for all the little ‘ in jokes’ that everyone loves. An audience loves it when you find the everyday humour in their world.
A great MC should ask for as much detail as possible about your audience and do their own research so that they are speaking in the audience’ s language. Once a common language is shared, an audience makes the mental connection of “Yes, this person gets us. Let’ s listen some more and stay off my phone.”

Has the right mix of Confidence and Humour

Is your MC confident enough to entertain and engage an audience? Does their PHD In Astro Physics give them the right mix to mentally keep everyone in the room? An audience quickly picks up on someone who isn’ t confident and someone who is over confident and a little too full of themselves.
Does an MC need to be funny? Not necessarily. Does it help to have humour when it’ s needed? Absolutely. Remember, conferences and learning shouldn’ t be designed to be boring.
Whilst it is essential to have an engaging MC, there role is to seamlessly connect the audience with the key content from the day. You want the audience to not only leave feeling great but also remembering all the content. An MC’ s job is to make the content the star.

Are there any other things that you think a Conference MC should bring to the table? If so, I would love to hear them.

Simon Banks

About the Author

Simon Banks is an Author. International Keynote speaker and Podcaster on creativity and innovation and recovering Artist. He’s delivered over 1400+ events across the globe and is known for running innovation workshops, conferences and design sprints to brew fresh thinking and solve wicked problems. His book A Thousand Little Lightbulbs: How to kickstart a culture of Innovation in your Organisation is out now.

Get in touch here

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‘Hmmm, I’d like to know more’

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