Master of Ceremonies

Master of Ceremonies/Comedians Tips


A couple of gigs in the last few weeks have reminded me of how important it is to connect with your audience on a meaningful level… or die. I thought I’d address this post to those wishing to better understand public speaking, being a master of ceremonies or comedian.


The role of master of ceremonies or comedian is so fraught at times because we are thrust in an environment of someone else’s making. Sound, lighting, staging, furniture are all decided long before we pic up the mic. (Click here to see my 10 point checklist covering the logistics of a corporate stand up gig.) Sometimes these elements feel to me like the hurdles in a 400m hurdles race. The difference is the hurdles are all different sizes and the terrain is unfamiliar. Regardless, we are expected to succeed every time. As I become more and more experienced I am aware of just how much I adapt to each situation with which I am faced as I pursue success through a deep connection with my audience. It’s not easy. It also begs the question, should we adapt? After all, isn’t our trusty set strong enough for every audience? Doesn’t there come a point when we will no longer ‘die’ on stage?

Col as master of ceremonies in Okinawa, Japan 2014

‘Connecting’ with my audience as master of ceremonies – starting with the jacket!


To succeed you need to adapt to the environment. The only exception might be if you have a huge public profile. If so, do your set, the audience already know and trust you. They’ll go with you. If you are relatively unknown, adapt – adapt – adapt!

The latter is the thrust of my thoughts today as most of us are not well known celebrities.


Different audiences

In the last 3 weeks I have worked to an audience of international finance representatives from 14 different Asian countries, a staff of 400 from a cutting edge energy company, a private birthday party of 100 and tomorrow, I fly to New Zealand to entertain professional conference organisers. Each audience was different and the same attitude and style would not have worked across the different audiences. The common goal as a master of ceremonies or comedian however is to connect at all costs. So how can you connect? What does it mean to connect with your audience?

Connecting with an audience is the process of generating 100% concentration on you and creating an escapism for the audience. Have you ever watched a live performance and been lost in the moment? Yes? Well then you ‘connected’ with that performance. There may be distractions everywhere, the atmosphere may be  uncomfortable but in that moment you need to quickly answer these 6 important questions.

1. What do these people care about?

To connect you need to discover the common goal in the room. If it’s an awards night and the winners aren’t known then acknowledge the excitement and tension in the room. Each person may be focussed on winning an award. Use that to your advantage. The event may be a birthday party. While the focus may be on the birthday girl, these days guests care as much about how they look, who they are forced to sit next to and how close they are to the guest of honour as anything else. Play on that idea to connect with them individually.

2. What are they thinking?

What are they thinking when you enter the stage? Were you a surprise? Is there relief that you are there to lighten the mood? Is your presence a complete surprise organised by a third party? Are you wearing clothing designed to generate surprise? Know what the audience is thinking and use this knowledge to your advantage.

3.What do I have in common (or not have in common) with these people?

If it’s obvious you don’t ‘belong’ acknowledge that fact. You may be the only man in a room of women. You may start with a geographical reference. ‘This is my first time on King Island… I’m pleasantly surprised… I was told there was just a married couple and 2 cousins… and they were the same couple…”

4. What’s the aim of the event? What are they trying to achieve?

Make sure you know the full picture. The aim of the night may be to celebrate 2 years of a successful business project. However, imagine if you didn’t realise that the project was to continue but that half the jobs would be slashed.

5. Who am I?

At some stage you need to reveal something of yourself. Remember women connect more emotionally than men so revealing personal challenges and solutions in an emotional way will help you connect.

6. What can I teach them? (What can they take away from here?)

Audiences love a ‘take away’. They love something to think about on the way home. You may have a thought, a comment or a joke that could stay with them for the next week. Maybe say to them ‘Here’s something you can try at home this week’. You’d be surprised how audiences concentrate after that line!


Remember, connecting is the key to success as a performer. Just like the role of comedian, even a straight ahead master of ceremonies role has opportunities to connect. You just need to know how to find them. Also remember that it’s a long process. Relax and success will come. Good luck –


PS: Keep checking back for more tips on being a Master of Ceremonies or Comedian at

Today I’ll be performing for the youngest audience ever in my career at the Melbourne Comedy Festival 2014. I’m even bringing my own kids. I’ve decided to roll out an excerpt from my cruise ship family show. With 10mins required I’ll perform ‘Rindercella’. It’s an old Ronnie Barker routine that comics everywhere have adapted with their own jokes. Full of spoonerisms, the dirty jokes are hidden from the kids who aren’t old enough to reverse the spoonerism. It’s like a secret code! I make out that it’s a story for the kids but the adults soon work out what’s going on. Occasionally there’ll be a fart smella… I mean a smart fella amongst the kids who’ll laugh along. We’ll see!

Show: ‘HUGGERS’ – Exford Hotel, corner Russell & Little Bourke Sts CBD, Melbourne 12pm.

Huggers @ Comedy Festival 2014

Huggers Show – What a cute logo!

Then later today at 6pm I’ll jump back up in the Comedy Festival with the ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ show at The Joint at 6pm. Last night was loads of fin working with Terry North and JJ McLean. It’s straight Stand Up Comedy telling stories about being a dad. A topic I know pretty well by now! Dropping in for a 15min spot makes a nice change of gear from having worked so regularly as a corporate Master of Ceremonies over the last month.

Show: ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ – The Joint, corner Flinders Lane & Elizabeth St CBD, Melbourne 6pm.

I’m just back from working as Master of Ceremonies at a huge 4 day conference in tropical Okinawa, Japan. Wow what a place! The conference was held at the Manza Intercontinental Resort which is a sight to behold. The resort had its own enormous beach, perfect for the beach team building games for the 220 guests. My role was to keep the event running smoothly working with the expert team from Spinergy Singapore.


photo 1

The view from my hotel room.


I hosted the welcome event, gala dinner and closing night dance spectacular as well as running group briefings and creating energisers along the way. The Gala Dinner Awards, particularly, is always a pleasure and a challenge, especially when it comes to pronouncing 220 Asian names from 14 different countries! I take the task very seriously and spend at least a week getting it right including recording and learning each name over and over. I believe it makes a huge difference to understand the difference between the Korean pronunciation of for example: ‘Lee’ and the Mandarin version. The moment when a 1st time winner enters the stage as the best employee out of 5000 candidates is very special. Hearing their name spoken perfectly by a foreign MC adds to the moment.


photo 2

Not entirely sure who that is next to me…




Here’s a nice article from my friends at ICMI on the benefits of engaging a professional MC. (read ‘like me!’)


by ICMI on Tuesday, 5 March 2013

To MC or not MC? In today’s World of conference’s and events, deciding not to engage a professional M.C. can be detrimental to a successful outcome. If this sounds a little melodramatic, picture this – The conference has begun, the first speaker is speaking and you are then advised your second speaker is running 30 minutes late. What do you do? A good professional Master of Ceremonies (MC) will be able to fill this spot until the speaker arrives. Could the in-house MC do this?

Gone are the days when the company Managing Director hosted the Awards dinner or conference. Clients today spend literally tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on all aspects of conferencing and events, and it is imperative that goals are kicked in every area. MC’s today are not a luxury but a must for all conferences and events looking to impress delegates.

So you have never booked a professional MC before? Why change!

I have clients tell me “our events have always been successful in the past, why do we need to pay for a professional MC?” As one of Australia’s top corporate MC’s, Darren Isenberg says, “Just because some clients say ‘We’ve never had a professional MC before and everything went well” doesn’t mean they don’t need to consider changing. MC’s, like mobile phones, are one of those things you don’t realise how useful they are until you get one!”

So what does an MC really offer?

A good professional MC will:

  • Keep the audience engaged – Using a variety of techniques, a professional MC will ensure the audience is engaged in the program (usually ensuring they are having fun). They’ll also give the conference or event focus and they can vary the energy flow over the event.
  • Make the event meaningful – A professional MC will be able to draw links within the program, bring issues to life and can create a real learning atmosphere.
  • Maximise outcomes and investment – Conferences and events cost money, lots of money, so it is important that the outcomes are met and there is return on the investment. A good MC will assist this process.
  • Provide knowledge and experience – Finally a professional MC can assist organisers in creating a productive program or event which meets client expectations. An MC with experience will know what works.

What should you look for when booking a professional MC?

So you have decided to engage a professional M.C. for you event….Congratulations! What should you look for? A professional M.C. should:

  • Be able to demonstrate a great array of experience. If you are running a 3 day conference, has the M.C. been involved in one or more of these before and if so, what did their client say. Why not ask to speak with the client?
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of what your objectives for the event are.
  • Be clear on how their fee structure works
  • Most importantly take the headache away from you and provide a sense of security knowing that whatever happens on the day, the M.C. will be experienced enough to deal with it.

How do M.C.’s add value to your event?

Most people don’t understand that professional M.C.’s actually bring a lot more to an event other than just being there on the night. Brett Rutledge, another very popular corporate MC in Australia and New Zealand, believes that “An MC for a conference is like the pilot of 747. You don’t pay the pilot of a 747 to fly the plane as computers fly the plane. You pay the pilot of the 747 to save your arse when the computers fail!”

Brett added that “most importantly, an MC can be Independent, that is, they can say things and at times challenge the audience when an in-house person could not”.

It’s all very well to hear from MC’s, but what does a client say? Suzanne Hart, Director of Suzanne Hart Events said, “Any professional conference that wants to run smoothly and on time needs to engage a professional MC…The very good MC’s are great at ensuring the program moves along, they’re able to think on their feet and deal with unexpected situations. Finally they’re critical in linking the key elements of the program together. A consistent face at a three day conference can add enormous amount of value”. Suzanne did point out however that it is very important for the organiser to provide a detailed brief for the MC.