Over the past few years I have acted as Master of Ceremonies, or Emcee, for TEDx events. Firstly I emcee’d TEDxEAL in Denmark in 2016, where I was also the curator. Later, in 2018 and 2019 I was the emcee for TEDxKlagenfurt in Austria. Where I was trained by the wonderful public speaking and presentation expert Niki Ernst from My School Of Talk.

Also, I currently write large parts of the Emcee’s script for TEDxOdense hosted by Barnabas Wetton from the Design School Kolding and Heather Hansen from the Global Speech Academy. And also the Emcee notes for TEDxOdenseWomen hosted by the wonderful Meg Larrabee Sønderlund.

The person who hosts your event as emcee has a really important job to do, and the choice of a good emcee, with a good script, can make all the difference in your event.

TEDx events are particularly special, because they put so much effort onto the speakers, the TEDx Emcee role is sometimes forgotten. So in this article I will take you behind the scenes and give you all the details on how to be the perfect Master of Ceremonies for a TEDx event.

This article is based on my experience, but feel free to add your own notes and ideas in the comments box at the end of the article. And always pick the Emcee that is right for your event.

How do you choose a TEDx Emcee?

This is a checklist I created, that I like to use when finding the perfect emcee.

Does the Emcee love the TEDx brand and deeply understand it?
If your host is the master of ceremonies at lots of other events, is this just another job for them? Pick an Emcee who is in love with the brand and the event.

Has the Emcee been involved in a TEDx event before?
Some of our best Master of Ceremonies have been people who have previously given a TEDx talk, and know the pressures and the magic of the event. If a person has never seen a TEDx event live, we wont consider them for the role of emcee.

Does the Emcee have a clear voice, that can easily be understood by an international audience?
Teachers, radio presenters, narrators, storytellers, speech therapists, podcasters, can all make great emcees. A clear, calm, easy to understand voice is essential.

Does the Emcee embody the spirit of your event?
Every event has its own spirit and feeling. You need the right Emcee for the job. When TEDxOdense first started, it had a creative, maverick, high-energy feeling to the event. Our host Barnabas Wetton was able to capture and express that creative energy because of his background in working with creative projects.

When we looked for a host for TEDxOdenseWomen we had a smaller event, with a more intimate feeling. Topics such as inclusion and diversity were important. Also, we needed someone who could handle controversial topics with grace and sensitivity. We chose experienced teacher Meg Larrabee Sønderlund, who brought a caring, loving style of hosting to the stage. She used her years of teaching experience to bring the audience together as if it was one wonderful classroom with your favourite teacher, making the room feel safe and under control.

Can your Emcee match the energy of the room?
Matching the energy of a room can be very challenging for an emcee. I have seen so many emcees that present an event in an inappropriate way. I have seen comedic emcees presenting in a funny and humorous way, when the audience really wants something serious and thought provoking. If a TEDx talk has been very emotional or intimate, it’s important that the emcee is comfortable with that energy, and embracing it, rather than trying to get the audience to laugh when they may be feeling reflective.

Is your Emcee fun, flexible, and dedicated backstage?
As an event organiser, you will be spending a lot of time backstage with your emcee. Make sure that they are nice, friendly, and fun to be around.

A good Master of Ceremonies will always have a personal connection with all of the speakers. So they should be genuinely interested in what the speakers have to say. Whenever I am emceeing an event, I always try to spend as much time with the speakers as possible, during rehearsals, during dinner, in the hotel, chatting and getting to know them, so that when I meet them on stage we will have a genuine connection.

Is your Emcee open to comments, feedback and coaching?
A good Emcee is never on autopilot. Make sure that your master of ceremonies is open to coaching and feedback during rehearsals. Never let your emcee say “I know what I’m doing” and then treat your event like any other event. Make sure they take feedback well.

Does your Emcee have the right amount of time to prepare?
I typically spend around 20 hours writing all the notes and script for a typical TEDx emcee. Your emcee really needs to know every last detail about your event and your speakers. I would then typically spend around 40 hours looking at every youtube video, reading every article and digging deep into the lives of the speakers so I really get to know them. I would then try to have two separate 30 minute conversations with each speaker to make them comfortable, and plenty of rehearsal time in the days coming up to the event.

If you are tempted to get an emcee who will just turn up on the day and make it up as he goes along, they are not the person for you.

Does your Emcee have the ability to control the audience, especially when things go wrong?
You may see many great presenters on TV who appear very natural and at ease. But on TV mistakes can be edited out, autocues are available, and a whole team of people are there to make things go smooth. In a live event, anything can and will happen.

Make sure your Emcee has the skill and the confidence to keep things going when mistakes happen.

I love to work with teachers as emcees for events, as they are so skilled at dealing with large groups and stop them from spiralling out of control. If your emcee can handle a room full of 30 unruly teenagers, they have the skills to host your TEDx event.

Does your Emcee have the ability to put their ego aside to make the speakers the stars?
This is such a difficult thing, as many professional presenters and emcees are used to being the centre of attention. But at a TEDx event, the speakers are the stars of the show. Can you find an Emcee who is humble enough to deal with this?

Can your Emcee show a wide variety of emotional range?
Finally, we look at the emotional range of our Master of Ceremonies. Some Emcees have close to zero emotional range. Those who emcee weddings are used to following protocol. Those who emcee comedy events keep the laughter flowing. Those who emcee business events are professional. But at a TEDx event, you need a master of ceremonies who can play to a full emotional range. Can they deal with a speaker who is hilariously funny, and then to a speaker who will be talking about something deep and personal? Can they deal with a highly technical speaker right next to a crazy creative speaker? Can they show the right emotions at the right time?

Heather Hansen was great at showing her emotional range, having fun with chaotic and crazy Sam Battle, dealing with the sensitive subject of torture with Niaz Bayati, and then screaming at Simon Høegmark for making her hold a snake blindfolded.

Script for Emcee – Master of Ceremonies TEDx script.

Introduction

High energy hello and welcome.
They are all “TEDsters” now
Set the theme – Curious Minds
7th event. 7 years in a row.
Get the audience to raise their hand if they are here for the first time. Get them to give a big cheer for first timers.
If they are here for their first time, we need some HOUSE RULES before we can get the show started.

House rules

The audience is as important as the speakers. So interact, make new connections, add to the discussion.

You are free to sit anywhere, in any seat you like, and after each break please move around to sit next to someone new. Don’t leave anything on your seat during the break or try to “reserve” a seat. Move around!

Please be respectful to the speakers. We present a LOT of different ideas, and some of them you might not like. Some might offend you, some might challenge you. These controversial topics are intended to spark discussion. You might not like everything, in fact, it’s rare that you will. We want to challenge your beliefs and ideas. Please respect everyone’s ideas.

Give some love to the volunteers. TEDx is not-for-profit and everyone, the speakers, the team behind the stage, even me, all give our time for free, so if you need help from one of our awesome volunteers, just ask. We have 27 team members and 45 volunteers from 10 different nationalities, working hard for the past year to make this happen. If they help you out, give them a hug, or a high five!

If you need to leave, for whatever reason, please do NOT leave in the middle of someone’s talk. It’s very disruptive. If you are desperate to leave, please stay seated until after the talk. When I am on stage, you can quickly wriggle out between speakers. This is very important! YOU WILL BE ON VIDEO

Social media

Everybody pull out their phone and take an awesome selfie – Host takes a selfie too. Our Hashtag is #TEDxCityName
Phones on SILENT
NO CAMERA FLASHES
They are welcome to take photos and tweet and everything.

Be friendly to your fellow audience members! Turn around and find someone you don’t know. Shake their hand and say hello. Let’s make friends.

Chris Anderson video

The TED conference started in 1984 in California, and has now spread to communities all over the world. Today we start proceedings with a special video message from
TED Curator Chris Anderson. Let’s take a look at the video

Stay on stage while video plays 1 min 30 seconds

Introduce session 1

SESSION 1

[SESSION 1 TITLE NAME HERE]
This session looks at:
[THEME DESCRIPTION HERE]
[SPEAKER 1] [How speaker 1’s talk links to the theme]
[SPEAKER 2] [How speaker 2’s talk links to the theme]
[SPEAKER 3] [How speaker 3’s talk links to the theme]
[SPEAKER 4] [How speaker 4’s talk links to the theme]

Introduce speaker 1

[SPEAKERS NAME] / [SPEAKERS TITLE] / [SPEAKERS COUNTRY] / [SPEAKERS PHONETIC SPELLING]

In this introduction, do not give away what the speaker will talk about, but ask the audince questions about some of the topics the speaker may raise.

Please welcome [SPEAKERS TITLE] from [SPEAKERS COUNTRY]: [SPEAKERS PHONETIC SPELLING]

Speaker 1’s talk

Question 1 for Speaker 1….
Question 2 for Speaker 1….

Shake hands and say THANKYOU as a cue for speaker 1 to leave the stage.

You would then repeat this for each speaker in your session.

Here is how an Emcee may thank a partner/sponsors:

As you know, today wouldn’t be possible without the help and support of our partners:

[Partners name] / [Partners phonetic name]
One short line about how the partner is related to the theme of the event.

[Partners name] / [Partners phonetic name]
One short line about how the partner is related to the theme of the event.

[Partners name] / [Partners phonetic name]
One short line about how the partner is related to the theme of the event.

And if you believe in ideas worth spreading, and you would like to become a partner for a future event please contact the team via [Email or other contact info here]

Many TEDx events like to show videos from the TED.com website alongside their speakers. Here is how your Emcee might introduce a video:

Introduce a video

In the spirit of Ideas Worth Spreading, todays TEDxCityName event is connected with many hundreds of different independently organised events around the world as part of a global community that share ideas, and today, YOU are part of that global community.

Right now, today, on [EVENT DATE] there are TEDx communities just like this one, gathering to share ideas worth spreading in China, Kenya, Taiwan, Italy, Nigeria, Switzerland, Mexico and of course here in Austria.

Tomorrow, there will be TEDx event in Israel, India, and the UK.

[You can find a list of all TEDx events happing on any particular day on the TED.com website]

All the talks you see today will be filmed and shared to millions of people on the TED website. And in turn, we share with you different video talks from around the world.

The first of those videos is from California, from 2008. Seen over 10 Millions times around the world, in this video Benjamin Zander describes the transformative power of classical music.

We hope that you feel inspired to try something for the first time here today, and maybe after watching this short talk you might feel in tune to your classical senses.

From TED 2008  in California, please enjoy BENJAMIN ZANDER. LETS TAKE A LOOK AT THE VIDEO.

During your event, you may have several different breaks. Here is how the Emcee should introduce the breaks:

Introduce a break

Summarise the session.
Thank the speakers from the previous session.
Give a short tease as to what to expect from the next session.
Tell the audience what they can do during the break (Some events have break activities, games, networking events, mini-discussions, or partner driven activities)
Tell the audience about food options. (What food is available, how do they claim their food, is there specific instructions for vegetarians etc, how should they recycle their waste, is food allowed back in the main auditorium etc).
Tell them how long the break is.
End with “And be back in your seats at [Next session start time]…as we [final theme teaser]…”

At the end, some events like to invite the curator, organising team, license holders, or other volunteers on to the stage for a final applause and photo. This can be very complicated, so make sure that this is arranged in advance and that it is well rehearsed.

Ending the event

Thank the audience. Hope they have had a lovely time.
GIVE A WRAP UP of the entire event.

INVITE [Lead organiser] TO THE STAGE
[Lead organiser] Thanks PARTNERS, then AUDIENCE.
[Lead organiser] thanks SPEAKERS and invites them on to the stage.
[Lead organiser] thanks VOLUNTEER TEAM and invites them on to the stage.
Pose for photo with all on stage.
[Lead Organiser] thanks EMCEE.

[TEAM LEAVES STAGE]

But the fun doesn’t end just yet, you can continue the fun at the After Party at [LOCATION], [TIME] where you can meet the speakers and the team, and party the night away.

We know that you believe in ideas worth spreading. And now, you are all official TEDsters.

So we hope that you will join us for:

[NEXT YEARS EVENT THEME] [NEXT YEARS EVENT DATE]

We really hope we will see you, and your friends there.

Thank you for enjoying a day of ideas worth spreading.

Goodnight!

You are welcome to use these notes, and change them in any way that works for your event. Please do leave a comment below if you find this helpful.


3 Comments

Joel Schaubel · November 13, 2019 at 1:21 pm

I have been selected at emcee for a TedX event in Hamilton, ON. Your post is very helpful to give me some guidance on how to put the script together for and prepare for the event. I appreciate you sharing your lessons learned being an emcee for a TedX event. Thanks

Andrew Hayford · November 20, 2019 at 12:06 pm

I am from Ghana, a student event emcee or Master of Ceremony. I have being chosen for Student Talk similar to TedX. Having a glance of your piece has enlightened me a lot. I am grateful going through these lessons. Thank you very much.

Jacob Zhang · November 6, 2020 at 2:42 am

I am organizing my very first TEDx event as a high schooler in New Jersey. This post was very helpful in helping me decide what my emcee needs to cover and really great for first timers like me. Thank you for sharing this.

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