Time To Bring Out Your Inner Control Freak
Forget all that mush about egalitarian sharing. The fact is, as Master Of Ceremonies or MC, you must take control of your Event or anarchy will prevail. Anarchy includes people talking too long, ignoring agreements and cues to finish, interjecting, power plays, energy dissipation… the list goes on.
To ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak but not at the expense of others, take control to protect everyone’s right to be heard and to keep the show on the road. Here are tips for MC’s to work effectively with both sides of the fence, Guest Speakers and Audience.
Make personal contact with Guest Speakers beforehand and advise your requirements for the Event. This defines a clear boundary of expectation on either side. Be sure to include: length of allocated speaking time, clarify purpose of speaking topic and intended outcome, whether it’s interactive, time or not for questions, expected start and finish time for speaking. Provide Guest Speakers with the Program so they can see their own place within it and understand how to fit the context. After all it’s your Event, not theirs.
When the Guest Speakers arrive, connect with them personally – as the MC your job is to help them feel at ease. While chatting, reinforce the length of time they have to speak. Ensure they understand the Program is packed and keeping to time is important – check their understanding by looking into their eyes. Discuss the signals you will send to let them know when they are Close To Time, or Time to Wrap Up or Time To Finish. This reinforces there are consequences to poor time management and that as MC, you willing to take immediate action to keep the show on the road for everyone’s benefit.
When the Guest Speaker is presenting, make sure you follow the agreed signals. Sometimes Guest Speakers get on a roll and can’t stop, or become addicted to the adrenaline rush of all that attention, so as the MC, it’s is your job to shepherd them graciously off the stage so that others will have their turn.
Thank and acknowledge the Guest Speaker privately as well as publicly. This also sets up a good management relationship for next time.
When the “floor is opened to questions”, things can get very exciting if you are dealing with contentious issues. Your diplomatic lion tamer skills are needed. (You may find it useful to watch Jenny Brochie the facilitator from the SBS television program, Insight, for great role modeling.) Of course if the subject fails to raise a ripple of interest, you may want to have some staged questions or prepare some of your own if the Audience is quiet.
Prompt Audience interaction by clearly displaying a time set aside for questions or discussion in the Program.
Next when you address the Audience, repeat this information, speak slowly, watching your words sink in as you articulate the parameters. For instance, “We have 10 minutes for questions so that’s probably about 3 questions…”, or “Each person has 5 minutes to share their view. Any longer and I’ll have to gong you off (sound the gong to show consequences) to ensure everyone gets a chance” (stating context and appealing to universal fairness.)
After you’ve described the parameters and if you anticipate heated discussion, ask for everyone’s agreement up front and wait. Say nothing until you see a sea of agreements. This method uses group dynamics to enforce the parameters, rather than you.
And of course, you must stick to the parameters. No matter how scintillating the Question from the Audience, the same rules must be applied. If they stir strong interest within the group, suggest they meet later after the program is finished. This keeps the Event on track, provides options to continue the discussion and means Audience members build trust in your ability to handle the situation. It may also give individuals the confidence to speak out, knowing they too will get a fair go.
When you clearly and graciously take control as the MC and Event Coordinator by setting parameters in advance and reinforcing consistently throughout the Event, both Guest Speakers and Audience will relax and enjoy themselves under your firm guidance.
© 2011, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au