1) Prepare for the show. It may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many performers think they can just wing it as an MC. You CAN wing it, but you don’t want to. For a standard introduction, here are three bullet points that I find work well: 1) an accomplishment like an award or book; 2) a personal fact like where they live; and 3) something that appeals to the emotional side of the audience to instantly establish likability for the performer– maybe a recent charity performance, a reference to a son or daughter, or a personal anecdote. Be certain to contact the people beforehand that you will be introducing, and ask for their intro card. (I would also recommend perusing their websites to get a feel for the people that will be on stage with you.) You will often get the response, “Oh just say whatever – I’m easygoing.” Do not take this for an answer! Dig deeper. Otherwise every introduction for the evening will devolve into “Your next act has performed all over the world, and tonight he’s here for you.” BORING!
2) Don’t do what everybody else does. “How’s everybody doing tonight? Oh c’mon you can do better than that… How’s everybody doing tonight?” How many times have we all heard this tired opening? People have an idea of what an MC is “supposed” to do ingrained in their entertainment-loving heads. Think of all the common entertainment situations you will have to address as an MC– people coming late and leaving early, announcements for intermission, merchandise, no cell phones, pictures, or videos, to name a few. You know that these scenarios will arise– why not think about them ahead of time and prepare some clever ways to handle them? At the end of the show, you will stand out as a polished MC. The audience may not know why, but they will know you were different… and better!
3) Create specific MC material. You may have tons of material to draw upon, but if it’s not flexible, adaptable, and audience appropriate, you may be in trouble. As an MC, you are responsible for the pace of the event, making sure everything runs smoothly and swiftly. That means being able to continue onstage if extra time between acts is needed (technical issue, previous program ran short, etc) and being able to wrap up immediately when the stage is set. If you don’t already have an assortment of 30-second gags or 2-minute bits to draw from, it is better to take the time to prepare these NOW. Then you’ll be confident, relaxed and ready when your event producer/director says “I need 2 minutes here.”
Now go forth and host!
–Jeff Civillico brings his “Comedy in Action” program to major corporate events nationwide, both as a feature entertainer and MC. He is no stranger to the magic community. He was one of the first comedy jugglers to perform at Hollywood’s Magic Castle. He hosted the ’07 Int’l Magic Festival Tournament Show in Genting, Malaysia, and the ’08-09 tour of Terry Hill and Milt Larsen’s “It’s Magic.”