Picking the right emcee

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Sadia Ahmed hosting a past Wamathai Spoken Word

Whenever I go for events, I like to sit back and observe how it all goes down. I like watching how the artists are introduced on stage, how they perform and how the audience responds. Most of the time, I watch the emcee and I end up making comparisons between the few I have seen. One thing I have learnt in all this is that the emcee makes or breaks your event. With one word, they can make your event seem like the greatest thing after sliced bread or make it seem like a maths exam written in Greek.

The emcee is the key to the event; first impressions matter. If they go on stage and the first thought that crosses your mind is “why is he here?” or “what is he saying?” chances are you will hate the event. We tend to transfer the dislike for the emcee to the rest of the event. The first words out of his mouth need to captivate the audience. To make them want to see more of him as well the artists in the line-up. The emcee is the hype man, if from the word go he does not have the audience hooked, the event will be a failure.

Sometimes you watch the emcee talk and all you can think is that he really isn’t feeling this gig. He’s up there on stage and he’s words have no emotions to it. You can always tell that he is only there because he is paid to be there. He hardly knows who is next on stage or what is going on. He comes back on stage on cue after each performance and sticks to using the same words over and over to introduce the acts.

There is also the breed of emcees who fail to engage the audience. To them it’s like they don’t exist. I like feeling like he is talking to me not at me. When they go on stage and it feels like it’s a lecture, I tend to switch off. Emcees are meant to find ways to make the audience feel like they are part of the show, that’s not just up to the artists. If the emcee fails in this, the audience is likely to have your performance since no one is really excited about you being on stage.

One thing that stands out most when it comes emcees is voice control. Nothing makes the audience bored and irritated more than the voice. When you have an emcee on stage screaming into the microphone or whispering, you have a problem. Emcees should know what level of voice to use to get their point across. If your voice levels are all over the place, the event is remembered for being awful not for being great.

Event organizers have a hard time selecting emcees. Wanting someone popular and trying to save costs are number one on the list when deciding. But one thing that has to be remembered is that the emcee you choose is the backbone of your event. A bad choice and your event will not be remembered beyond the first minute when he gets on stage.

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