Tips to be the perfect virtual emcee

By redback

Up until March 2020, almost all emcee’s were trained to facilitate live, physical conferences. In essence, their role includes:

  • Introducing speakers
  • Helping speakers to deliver engaging presentations
  • Interacting with a physical audience
  • Keeping the event on track and on schedule
  • Working with sponsors and exhibitors

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that emcees have had to make the transition and learn how to facilitate and engage online audiences. And with virtual and hybrid events exploding, it’s important they get it right.

In our recent episode of Webinars and Wine, we interviewed Andrew Klien, professional conference emcee and trainer, who has been in the industry for over 25 years. He shared his tips on facilitating virtual events.


Tip #1 – Make the mindshift

Andrew says it’s important to make the mindshift – ‘It’s a new experience, embrace it,’ he says. ‘You may no longer have a physical audience, but you need to treat the camera as your audience and engage your attendees online.’

You may also need to tweak your presenting style. For example, if you regularly use humour, keep in mind that you won’t hear your audience’s laughter, which can be hard to get used to.

Consider leaving the jokes to when you are interviewing another speaker or presenter; you will then receive instantaneous feedback.


Tip #2 – Encourage speakers to keep everything shorter

It’s hard to keep an audience engaged for a long period of time, whether online or face to face.

As an emcee, it’s important to work with your speakers and encourage them to keep their presentations shorter. They should stick to key messages, and if there’s more information, refer attendees to online PDFs or videos they can access. Andrew suggests online presentations should be half the length of those presented in a face to face environment.

This also goes for your introductions and segues into presentations – keep them to a few minutes and if speakers require long bios to be read, consider displaying them on holding slides instead. Remember… less is more!


Tip #3 – Understand the industry

Emcees work for a variety of industries – and chances are, you will be the least qualified person in the room.

But that’s OK – it’s not your job to be a specialist, you are an audience manager.

Andrew recommends familiarising yourself with the industry to provide context and ensure you are pronouncing all words and jargon correctly – here are some of his tips:

  • Do a crash course and learn as much about the topic as you can – even if it’s YouTube videos or a Google search
  • Ensure you receive a copy of the agenda well ahead of time
  • Ask for a detailed briefing from your clients and ask them questions
  • Get in touch with each presenter ahead of time, introduce yourself and find out something interesting about them to use in your introductions


Tip #4 – Keep firing out housekeeping

When presenting online, you don’t always have a captive audience. Plus, you will find many attendees will join and leave at different intervals for larger conferences.

It’s therefore important to keep reiterating any housekeeping to ensure your online attendees know how to interact. Ensure you include:

  • How to ask questions
  • How to participate in polls
  • How to access additional material
  • Whether the presentation slides will be available
  • Where the session recordings will be able to be accessed


Tip #5 – Being Energetic

It might go without saying, but you should always appear slightly more animated when presenting online. And while you aren’t the star of the show, your role is critical!

So what does this mean?

  • Stand up to present and use your hands to create energy and connect
  • Consider using a webinar studio as your main base rather than a home office
  • Get to the point and keep it short and sharp

And remember, ‘no one will ever forget an energetic emcee, but they may complain about a boring one’

Along with this, remember to be authentic! You are hired because of your personality and professionalism, so always be you!

For more of Andrew’s tips, take a look at his recorded webinar here.