Top tips for emcee scripts
For the past year I have been emcee of an event called “F*ckup Nights” in Odense, Denmark. The event has a very naughty name, so it needs a cheeky, energetic emcee, with a sharp, witty script.
The idea behind the night is to share stories of business failures, the screw ups, the mistakes, and the losses. As Emcee, it’s my job to make sure that people feel comfortable sharing their stories, and that the audience responds well to tales of failure.
In this article I want to take you through step-by-step what it takes to put together my Master of Ceremonies script.
Master of Ceremonies script writing tip #1
Create a framework
When working on a Master of Ceremonies script for a reoccurring event, I want to make sure my script is based around a strong framework that I can reuse each time.
This script framework cuts down on preparation time, allows the audience to know what to expect, and speeds things up for the event organisers.
A typical Master of Ceremonies script framework for a business event will look like this:
Please take your seats, as we will soon begin.
Welcome and introduction.
Introduction to the sponsors.
Audience engagement and how to behave.
Introduce speaker #1
Q and A for Speaker #1
Introduce Speaker #2
Q and A for Speaker #2
Introduce the break.
Return from the break with audience engagement.
Introduce Speaker #3
Q and A for Speaker #3
Invitation to the next event.
Final audience engagement and goodbye.
Each one of the lines above becomes a headline in my Master of Ceremonies script. That headline then gets written on the top of a cue card, and I know exactly how to write my script each time.
Master of Ceremonies script writing tip #2
Script the behaviour
As the Master of Ceremonies, or emcee, the audience looks to you to see how to behave. At an event that is cheeky, raucous, and humorous, like Fuckup Nights, I like to tell the audience directly how to behave.
I instruct them to laugh, cheer, tease, have fun, drink, relax, swear, and embrace the failure in all its glory.
If you want your audience to behave a certain way, make sure it is in your emcee script. Don’t just tell them where the toilets are, tell them when they can pee and when they cant. The Master of Ceremonies can keep order, but he can also create chaos, and sometimes fun and chaos is needed. The emcee has to make sure everyone has a good time. He’s not a policeman.
Master of Ceremonies script writing tip #3
Script the introductions
A good Master of Ceremonies should have a personal connection to everybody who he invites on to the stage. Do your research and script out exactly how you will introduce each speaker, but make sure that you know them well enough that the introduction is true and correct.
Remember, you are not just introducing the person by their achievements, you are getting the audience ready to listen to a new voice. You are pointing out what they may find funny, fascinating, or engaging about the speaker.
Master of Ceremonies script writing tip #4
Don’t script the Q and A beforehand. Do it during the talk!
In my Master of Ceremonies script I always leave space in my notes to jot down 2 questions for the speaker. (Just in case the audience don’t have any questions of their own).
I never script these questions in advance, because a speaker can easily change the content of their talk. Instead, I listen intently to the talk, and jot down any ideas for questions while that speaker is still on stage. This shows I have a direct connection to the speaker, and not just some canned response.
I have seen some terrible Master of Ceremonies who have pre-planned questions, and they ask them earnestly, despite the fact that the speaker already covered the questions in their talk. It makes the Master of Ceremonies look stupid.
Master of Ceremonies script writing tip #5
Script for connection, not accuracy.
A good Master of Ceremonies will strive to build a live connection with the audience.
A bad Master of Ceremonies will follow a script word-for-word for accuracy.
While accuracy is important, it should not come above connection. That means that if your emcee script is complicated, filled with lots of difficult, technical details, your emcee may spend most of the time looking at their notes or script down in their hands.
It’s so much better to be a Master of Ceremonies that can look away from the script, into the audiences eyes, and feel the energy of the room.
An audience will forgive a mistake or two, if they fall in love with you first.
Master of Ceremonies script writing tip #6
Script for the newcomers and the old-hands.
When I work on my scripts, I try to balance out introducing the newcomers, who are coming to the event for the first time, with the needs of the old-hands who may have been to several previous events.
By blending new script elements with familiar script elements it can feel fresh.
Throughout my Master of Ceremonies script, I will plan for audience engagements and activations. Getting them to do something. Interact. Ask a question. Change seats. Do something. Don’t do something. Whatever the case may be. Having moments like this in my script allows me to bring together both groups of people into one.
Consider scripting a moment where old-hands show the newcomers a secret handshake, signal, call-and-response or other hidden behaviour. Now the newcomers know the behaviour, they no longer feel like newcomers, they are “in the gang” and ready to feel part of the crowed.
Master of Ceremonies script writing tip #7
Script your house rules the same every time.
Rules and instructions should be given with authority and consistency. Even if the rules are a little bit disruptive. I always make sure the wording of the house rules, and the order they appear in my script, is exactly the same every time.
Much like an airline safety instruction that is the same no matter what, keep your rules consistent. This will give you the authority to guide the audience through a pleasant experience.