Add Massive Value as an Emcee (On and Off Stage)

As a professional event emcee, I’m often asked to share my tricks of the trade with other entertainers and keynote speakers. I’m always stoked to share what I’ve learned over the past 18 years of live events and 18 months of virtual events — so, you can imagine my excitement when the National Speakers Association asked me to be a part of their “Be a Better Speaker” online series!

As far as organizations go, my National Speakers Association (NSA) friends and colleagues are my people through and through. With an impressive membership roster of professional emcees, corporate entertainers, keynote speakers, and more, the NSA is the home base for some of the most wonderful people I’ve had the privilege to meet while in business.

This past July, I had the honor of being the WOW Emcee for the NSA at the 2021 Influence Conference. There I met Taylorr Payne and Austin Grammon of the “Technically Speaking” podcast, who invited me on their show to discuss how to create value as a professional event emcee. This past week, NSA invited me to expand on those topics for their “Be a Better Speaker” online series.

How to Present Massive Value as an Emcee: On & Off the Stage

My segment for the “Be a Better Speaker” series was titled “How to Present Massive Value as an Emcee On & Off the Stage” — and boy, did we dive into every little detail! After a wonderful introduction by the Director of Online Learning of the National Speakers Association, Maureen Mahoney, we first watched my corporate emcee reel. 

Once the audience was warmed up, we kickstarted my 90-minute segment with best practices for professional entertainers. I don’t think I took a single breath as we ran through audience questions, it was just so liberating to chat about the best of business and creativity with my peers! From rehearsal times to booking fees, here are the nuggets of information that resonated the most. 

1. Become an Event Partner

A good professional event emcee is more than a host and entertainer — they are an event partner for producers and stakeholders. An emcee should act as a consultant to ensure a smooth evening that goes off without a hitch. To create massive value before you even step on the stage, it’s important to offer your knowledge and skills to the event producer beforehand. 

When signing on to host or speak at an event, offer guidance on:

  • The run of show for the event
  • The physical set-up of the room
  • The A/V specifics and assets 

By the time the curtain closes, your clients will remember you as a top-notch professional who can help them produce the best possible event. 

2. Know Your First Spot Best

In this industry, first impressions are everything. So, be sure to know your first spot better than any other spot — that way, you can strike the right note the moment you step on stage. Not only will this help make the proper impression on your client (and the audience!), but mastering your first spot will act as a confidence booster you can ride for the duration of the event. 

3. Memorize, Memorize, Memorize

I know I might have stepped on some toes when I suggested that teleprompters are for the weak, but hear me out, okay? Imagine you’re getting married, and the person officiating the ceremony says, “We are here to honor the marriage of… of… hold on, let me check my notes.” You’d be really ticked off, right?! Well, event planners and producers feel the same way about their events.

Though an organization’s annual meeting might not feel like a big deal to you, it is to the people who planned it. Therefore, there are a few basic things a professional event emcee should have memorized before they step on the stage, like the opening lines. Once you’ve nailed your intro, you can glance down at your show notes to read off business highlights or other smaller details. 

The way I like to put it? Not all “looking down” is made equal. In other words, don’t start staring at show notes or a teleprompter the moment you get on stage. After you’ve opened the show and need to hop into event or company specifics, a bit of looking down to ensure you’re not missing any details or mispronouncing someone’s name is totally okay. 

4. Nail Proper Rehearsal

Some of my best advice for a professional event emcee or keynote speaker is to nail a proper rehearsal. Now, by proper, I don’t mean just talking through a show flow — I mean actually doing it. You should be involved in each speaker’s soundcheck and each panel rehearsal. Learn every moving part of the run of show, as you will be in standby mode and should be ready to step in at a moment’s notice. 

This feeds into our next step, which is… 

5. Prepare to Be Spontaneous

You might be thinking, “Jeff, how can I prepare to be spontaneous when spontaneous literally means unplanned?” Well, as I explained to my friends at the National Speakers Association, you cannot be spontaneous without being prepared! You must be comfortable and relaxed to have the confidence to be spontaneous in the moment. 

The more you prepare beforehand, the easier it will be to ad-lib on the spot. Plus, being totally prepared means you’ll be ready to face anything — including an emergency, like… 

6. Emergencies Happen (So Have a Plan)

Sometimes a video won’t play on cue. Sometimes another keynote speaker or corporate entertainer bails at the last moment. And sometimes, you just get stuck with a disengaged audience. The point is, emergencies happen. As a professional entertainer, you will be expected to have a plan — yes, even for those unexpected hiccups! Always have something prepared for an emergency.

Arrive at a venue with an extra bit you weren’t planning on using or props to support a last-minute segment. For instance, I always travel to events with extra juggling props, so I can segue into another skit to buy my event producers some time in the event of an emergency. On the virtual front, I supply confetti cannons for an instant distractor the audience is sure to love. 

Speaking of my virtual event tips… 

7. Secure a Studio Option

Whether you’re a virtual event emcee or deliver keynotes digitally, secure a professional studio option. I utilize Show Creators Studios as my virtual event production company to execute flawless virtual conferences and meetings. Once I spoke through my best practices, I had Ian Herrington and Amanda Deacon of Show Creators Studios take over my “Be a Better Speaker” segment.

Ian and Amanda delivered a micro masterclass in the studio, going behind the rig to share hands-on, practical advice with our viewers. We talked about the video wall at the studio and how we leverage transitions to make the viewing process seamless for a virtual audience. Thank you again to the whole team at Show Creators Studios for sharing your expertise with the National Speakers Association!

8. Market Your Differentiator 

One of the last (but certainly not least) nuggets of wisdom we chatted about during “How to Present Massive Value as an Emcee On & Off the Stage” was how to differentiate yourself as an entertainer. For instance, I am a Las Vegas entertainer with more than 18 years of live event experience who can bring the magic of the Strip to my clients’ events. That’s my differentiator. 

Each entertainer’s differentiator will be unique — some might have insane magic skills or an inspirational back story. No matter the angle, it’s important for every keynote speaker and professional event emcee to identify and market their special something! It’s this differentiator that will have clients coming back for more, year after year.

A Professional Event Emcee with Massive Value 

Few things in life give me as much joy as giving back, especially to my National Speakers Association friends and colleagues. It was a joy to deliver my “How to Present Massive Value as an Emcee On & Off the Stage” segment — and I hope it was equally as informative for my viewers as it was fulfilling for me! Talk about 90 minutes well spent. 

Are you looking to deliver more value as an emcee or entertainer? Connect with me on LinkedIn or shoot me a message on Instagram today! 

Virtual emcee Jeff Civillico with NSA Online Learning Director Maureen Mahoney

Virtual emcee Jeff Civillico talks with Producer Ian Herrington

Virtual emcee Jeff Civillico makes a point during his webinar