Basic Emcee Checklist: What to do before you speak

Not a techie? Don't just stand there. Light and sound troubleshooting for emcees. Photo: Wikimedia.

WASHINGTON, July 3, 2013 – If you’re asked to be an emcee at an upcoming event, you may be expected to work from a script or even just wing it from the presentation program. Even if you have that script or improve sketch ready, though, that’s not enough, as you’ll often find out. At the last moment. 

You may even think the program organizer will tell you everything you need to know, but that’s not enough either. Program organizers have plenty on their plates already. Helping you think of every tiny detail may not even occur to them, especially given that emcees are invited because they supposedly know how to handle crowds and be affable no matter what, right? 

If you’re a part-time or occasional emcee, you don’t want to be caught flatfooted if lighting and sound systems don’t happen to be working as the event is just about to begin. To avoid that kind of life-shortening panic, here are a few helpful details that few people will think to check, particularly for a small, locally run event. 

Being aware of these little things ahead of time, plus arriving early enough to explore what’s right and what’s wrong, will reduce nervousness and clumsiness when the participants are on stage. Routinely doing this will help out with your own self-confidence as well. After all, you’re the emcee, and you’re supposed to know everything. 

Here’s the list:

  • Is the lighting bright enough for speakers to be seen clearly and for them to see their notes? If not, do you have a small, portable light that you can put on the podium? (Without the risk that it will fall right off?)
  • Is there a podium? You’d be surprised how often one doesn’t show up. If you can’t see one, or if the organization or space doesn’t have one or can’t find one, ask for a small side table to hold notes and perhaps some water for the speakers.
  • Check the sound system, assuming there is one. Is it turned on and working correctly? If you’re getting feedback during your level test, ask whoever set up the sound system to fix it or tell you what to do to avoid it. Doing it yourself is an option too, but be aware that some systems can be quirky. Or so old that you can’t even figure out what the dials and buttons mean.
  • If there’s a microphone, ask about how to turn the mike on and off, and how to raise and lower its height. This is not always intuitively obvious, particularly with cordless remote instruments, particularly when the batteries are dead or discharged.
  • Check the volume on the mike.
  • Try turning the mike on and off as well as raising and lowering it a couple of times so that you can help speakers if needed.
  • Check the room temperature. Ask for adjustments if it’s too hot or cold.
  • Mingle with guests informally as they arrive to help them feel relaxed, happy, and welcome before they go onstage.

SEE RELATED: Public speakers: How to confidently interact with any audience

My final and best advice: Have as good a time as you want everyone else to have. This will brighten nearly any event and may also get you invited back. Assuming that’s what you want.


Frances Ponick, founder of “Leadership English™,” coaches written and verbal communications and is the writer’s block expert at AllExperts. Her bookOnly Angels Can Wing It: How to Prepare a Eulogy Quickly and Present It Compassionately, is available in paperback from the author and will soon be available online. Connect with Frances at Twitter,Facebook, and/or LinkedIn

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

More from Pages and Stages
blog comments powered by Disqus
Frances Ponick

Fran Ponick is a speaker, author, commentator, teacher, and coach. She has decades of experience in technical, business, marketing, and proposal writing and editing, and has won awards in journalism, formal poetry, and acting. She has also served as a consultant to DoD. Her book, Only Angels Can Wing It: How to Prepare a Eulogy Quickly and Present It Compassionately, is available from


Contact Frances Ponick


Please enable pop-ups to use this feature, don't worry you can always turn them off later.

Question of the Day
Photo Galleries
Popular Threads
Powered by Disqus