Media training

Event MC: Timing is everything

Our lead trainer Guy was the event MC for a conference in Manchester once. It was going well until the last speaker arrived. He was high-profile and an asset to the conference, don’t get us wrong. It’s just that he had what might be called a “bit of an attitude”.

He started by giving Guy the exact wording with which he wanted to be introduced. This is actually good practice. It led into a bit of a film about what the man did and it led to a big round of applause when he entered. He then sailed in with “Well, Guy, I’ve had some great introductions – and that wasn’t one of them.” Of course everybody laughed. The event MC is always fair game and Guy didn’t mind being set up.

Six minutes before the speaker was supposed to finish, Guy gave a signal. This was intended helpfully. Unfortunately this was the point at which the speaker decided war had been declared.

The event MC needs to understand timing

“Hey everybody,” the speaker said. “Guy’s trying to shut me up – Guy, are you fed up with me?” Guy was too professional to confess that yes, within the last few seconds that would pretty much have summed up his view. Frankly it didn’t matter whether the speaker was any good or not at that stage. What mattered was:

  • Overrunning might have incurred extra costs from cleaning staff, AV staff, janitorial staff
  • Delegates had travelled from quite some way and might have trains or indeed planes to catch
  • …or they might have made plans to discuss business over dinner or just unwind with colleagues after the conference and those arrangements needed to be respected
  • Actually they might have decided they were going home to their living rooms where they were going to recite the National Anthem backwards or whatever they wanted to do – it was their time and nothing to do with Guy or the speaker.

There was nothing to be done about the cleaning staff or AV staff – Guy simply announced that if delegates needed to get to the station or the airport they should feel free to do so without offending the organisers and speakers. This seemed a fair compromise and after the organisers had been thanked, about 25% of the audience got up and left and the speaker continued.

The point is that if you’re a speaker it’s incumbent upon you to respect the schedule that’s been set. It might not seem important to you if you overrun by 15 or 20 minutes as long as the audience seems happy but they might not stay happy for long.

Here’s a two-minute video about what happened once when Guy was speaking and the inexperienced MC went rogue – and lunch was ready.

Share this article

You also might like...

Find out what we do

We work with you to instil a calm, cool confidence with the media. We want you to leave the room equipped with tools and techniques to ensure your points are understood by journalists and other media professionals and made in such a way that they'll report them accurately