emcee

World Class Emcee Ft. Mark Jeffries

What separates a good emcee from an amazing one? Mark Jeffries has been in the industry hosting events for 20 years, what sets him apart from the rest will surprise you!

Add a Comedic Twist to Your Events

Have you ever thought to add a comedic flair to your event? After listening, you may consider adding someone like Scott Bloom who can contextualize jokes for your audience!

How did you get into the events world?

Well, I remember specific story when I was in second grade it was at camp, I remember a kid, actually turning to me going, you know, you’re really funny. I have kids now and they went through the ages, and you can tell when someone’s funny, even at a young age. Most comedians use it as some way when they’re growing up to sort of defuse things or select things. So I started off early. Always been a fan of comedy. I started improv group in college. I didn’t know what I was doing. I saw Second city tour and I’m like,  I’d like to do that.  I started hosting cabaret nights and I got an improv group together that we founded, and then went to New York City. My trajectory, I was supposed to work for my dad and be a businessman and do sales and was doing that during the summers in college, then I had to at some point, say to him, I think I want to become a comedian and actor.I did the open mikes. I started stand up when it was really booming in the late eighties early nineties, developed a standup career, started touring as a headliner. I started doing a little TV, and at one point they needed a comedian to host an actual game show at an event, and they thought, Oh, a comedian would be good on his feet and be able to ad lib. After that 1st one, the event world kind of works like that. Everyone started building me as the expert in hosting game shows, I had only done one, but I built my own press and so I started writing and developing producing these game shows and hosting him.  I moved into just hosting full on meetings and because my business background it was sort of natural fit. My my humor was always sort of clean, and I realized the key to doing humor at these meetings was to make the the material about them and make it  business oriented. So most my comedy sort of parodies stuff that in their world,

Let’s talk about the use of comedy in the corporate theater environment and, how do you go about crafting that? 

For the first probably 20 years of doing this, I don’t think I ever used the word comedian. I rarely do now I refer to myself as a comedic keynote speaker. Humor seems to flow better in that world than the word comedy, because people have impressions that it’s gonna be like a standup club. The humor that  developed for this sort of relates to things they deal with every day.  I might do a bit on the excessive use of acronyms, where they use all these different acronyms. I have a funny piece about that where I go into a litany and part of my work and something that separates me from others is that people talk about customizing their their stuff, and that usually means just dropping in a phrase. But I’ll memorize 25 or 30 of their acronyms, and it works. At one point I’ll say something, once I found out this gig was ago, I knew I’d have to brush up on my Let’s say IBM ABC’s ASAP and FYI and this is no BS, these acronyms really tested my IQ, the whole process almost sent me to AA and I go through this sort of litany but before I set that up I’ve just gone through 30 of their acronyms. It lets them know that I took the time to learn about their acronyms. A lot of them can’t believe that I’ve actually either put the time or that I was able to memorize it. It’s really about letting them know that I’m here to take care of you,and I tell my clients that they’ll see in the process to the point of where I’m getting as much information, over the years I’ve learned how to absorb things pretty quickly. A lot of comedy is about about relationships. It’s almost sometimes at an unconscious level. When they feel relaxed that’s when people are able to laugh, I think it’s so important to have that element at a meeting just to diffuse all that stress.

How do  you go about understanding the fit and tailoring the content?

Yeah, I know specific questions to ask. I’ll ask questions that directly give me that information so I can sort of fill it in. With comedy, you do have to try it out every so often, and I don’t you know, it’s funny as a comedian. Eventually, sort of get a sense of what’s gonna work, what’s not. But you want it you want to kill every time you wanted to be 100% effective. So you know, 80% of what I might be doing might already been written. I’m able to customize another 25% with their material. I’ll know it’s gonna work, and it appears from the audience point of view. I just came up with this, just, you know, just for them. 

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Should you hire a professional emcee?!

Does having a professional Emcee make a difference for your event?  Is it worth the cost of hiring one?  Charles and Lisa sit down with professional Emcee, Amy McWhirter.  Hear the ways emcee’s make a difference for your event and the tricks they have learned to create engagement!

 

Tell us about you.

 
I started out doing trade shows. I’ve been doing that a long time, then about 4 years ago I started transitioning into doing more corporate events. I absolutely love it, the experience from the corporate trade show world led up to this.  Its the live energy I love so much. It’s a lot more improv and in the moment. Trade shows are usually scripted, we have scrips in the live hosting corporate events but our audience is right there and you are guiding them through.  You gauge the energy level and I get such a thrill out of that. 
 
Here in the twin cities we see a lot of news anchors emcee events. How do you create the connection between you and the clients? How are you introduced?
 
Right off the bat I introduce myself and tell them I will be joining them on the journey. I don’t spend too much time on it, just a couple sentences, it’s really all about them and their event. At the end of the event I do have people coming up and say it was great and engaging and think I work for the company.  That is the goal!
 
What sets the tone for an event?  
 
Meetings ahead of time to plan with the client, figuring out what the messaging is.  The tone can vary between the kinds of audiences. The sales meetings are typically a little more high energy, where as a customer gathering is a little different.
 
How do you build your prices?
 
I build pre-planning into the pricing. I consider it part of rehearsal which is the day before the event and are built together for a day rate. For a corporate meeting for a day it is $4,000-5,000. 
 
In your opinion what makes a great emcee?
 
Energy! Energy is huge, warmth, engaging, charismatic, authentic: those are the things I think make a great host.  
 
My experience with the corporate presenting world goes a long way. I am used to getting immersed in the topic and sounding like an expert. That comes somewhat naturally at this point, part of that is getting familiar with a new client. It goes back to meetings and the content. 
 
How do you balance script vs improv?
 
They have their messaging but I have freedom to make it sound natural and put it in my voice. I either do bullet points or write it out more long form. In the moments there’s a lot of improv. Not changing the messaging but the way it’s delivered, when the people are there vs rehearsing, in the moment it will be different. It just comes alive when the audience is there. You have to be able to read the room and adapt accordingly. 
 
Do you see a lot of companies using employees to emcee and how do you show them the value of hiring a professional?
 
Yes that does happen. If they want to do that, it’s fine.  A professional is a professional for a reason and can handle all those unknowns or unexpected things.  The energy level alone, it’s hard to do that and maintain the energy level. The head of an emcee is in a different place. The employee will have so many other responsibilities and their focus can be pulled during the event. 
 
If I want to interview a few emcees, what kind of things do I need to do to vet them?
 
Do research before even talking to your candidates.  Go to a website for them, look at their testimonials, video clips are huge.  You can see the person in action doing what they do best. Of course talk to them and see how they do one on one and get a personality feel.
 
Do you memorize your script?
 
There are confidence monitors, they are hidden so most people don’t know they are there. I put my notes there.  I carry cards, I rarely need them but they do help especially in an interview or panel on stage. Sometimes the monitor will not be working because a video just played, or they forgot to switch it back. 
 
How do you keep people on time?
 
 Lots of reminders about what’s next and what time to be back for the general session. I point them to the mobile app and reinforce it by having them refer to their app. Things definitely do go long. 
 
What was the most fun moment in your career?
 
I went to host a customer conference in Rome last October. I did not meet the pope!  Honestly a sales meeting I did last month, we had some really fun bits.  We had a trivia game for the sales folks and I wore a crazy rainbow jacket. They played a montage of game shows, including international because we wanted to include all the folks, that was really fun. Then I got to do a song and dance. I am a dancer and I can sing.  And the CEO was so big on me doing a song. “You’re ready for that, you’re going to do that song right?!” It was fun. I put on a top hat and did a little bit from Chorus line, that was super fun!  
 
Has anyone asked you to do anything weird?
 
So far no!  If it really fits with their theme, I will say yes. The wildest I had to get was that colorful jacket. 
 
To get a hold of Amy:
Insta: presenting_amy
 
Instagram: charlesevaneide
eidecomcreative
 
Twitter: TheMeetingMinds