A friend, who is the CEO of a tech firm, asked me why his company should hire a professional Master of Ceremonies to host their "Users Conference" instead of having the VP of Marketing (who has a "great personality") serve in this role. They have had varied levels of success by having their own people run the show, but he liked the idea that his employees did not cost him any additional fees.
Yes, he was thinking of hiring me to weave the "Conference Catalyst" program into the role as EmCee -- but my answer had nothing to do with if I was chosen for this conference. Having an MC is a smart move. The company is investing a lot of time and money in the conference, and the "face of the conference" is not a place to cut costs. I have found that events that have "just anyone" serve in this role often come up short on maximizing "conference attendee experience".
Five Reasons for A Professional EmCee
1. Experience Matters. Seasoned event professionals hire a Master of Ceremonies for the same reason that experienced keynote speakers are selected (I did not say "professional speaker", as there are many great speakers who do not charge a fee. But speakers who have not delivered a minimum of 25 keynote level presentations -or more - could fail to achieve the desired result of content and charisma).
Being the MC involves a different set of skills from giving a speech, and thus having someone who has a great personality and some presentation experience does not guarantee they can oversee the energy, flow and transitions of your show. A good MC will set the tone for the whole event.
2. Conflicting Responsibilities. The VP of Sales and Marketing (or other team member) has many responsibilities at the company's customer conference. They need to always be "on" for clients, and have to be able to make time for any variety of conversations. The MC role is both time consuming and emotionally intense. Thinking that a senior level employee can juggle all that they need to do at a conference while also being the on-stage host means that their efforts will not be 100% effective.
3. A Fresh Perspective. Company or association events are often overrun with "insiders" about whom audience members already have pre-set opinions. Reputations and past interactions (positive and negative) can cloud the way an audience views your Master of Ceremonies. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it takes a way the fresh edge that a professional MC can bring to the event.
4. The Event is NOT a Commercial. Smart organizations resist the temptation to make the focus of their event about the company that is planning the conference. When your MC is from the executive team, or board of directors, you are indirectly placing the spotlight on the company. When you have an outside MC it will move the attention to the audience experience.
5. Keeping On Schedule. The most important thing the MC can do is ensure the event runs on time and has the right energy and "vibe". Too many speakers (especially those who are not professionals) have little regard to the importance of timing. An experienced MC knows how to set expectations of the allotted schedule for all speakers, and can politely "give them the hook" should they go long.
Have A Great Day
Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com