As an MC, I offer weapons-grade charm, thorough preparation, a sense of occasion and heartfelt understanding of the work of events organisers (I used to be one). I use my comedy experience to put people at their ease, and my years in science writing to ad-lib my way through surprising blanks in my script when giving out physics prizes. I can be seen at the podium for the Institute of Physics awards ceremony, or welcoming people to You Got This tech conference with jokes that make them forget they’ve gone to a training day at 10.00 on Saturday. I chair HARD. But I do cost money. And money should be spent wisely.
So, what exactly do MCs do, and why should you have one?
MCs hold things together
Picture the scene. You are running a conference, an awards ceremony, or a series of talks. For this purpose we will imagine it as a pizza. Your event organisers (who may also be you) are the pizza base: holding it all together, beavering away making sure that the target audience know to attend, find the correct location, have wifi, etc. Your speakers or awardees are the artichoke, the olive, the buffalo mozzarella, the exotic sausage: the ingredients you’re showcasing on top.
But who’s going to be the tasty tomato base introducing, giving context to and supporting your speakers? Who’s going to be the face of your event and keep things ticking over on stage while people fiddle frantically with video cables?
- A senior person from your company? Perhaps; it shows you think the event is important. But the skills needed for management don’t necessarily translate into crowd management or persuasive speaking, and anyone really senior will be limited in how much time they can give to preparing. At best, this ends up as a pizza topped mainly with raw tomato, structurally unstable: at worst, your ‘pizza’ is a platter of dough with toppings for some reason stuck on with toothpaste – completely unfit for purpose, albeit highly fluoridated.
- An event organiser? They might be good; but again, this is not the core of their skill set. Also they’re likely to be already quite busy dealing with Powerpoint crises, access issues, surprise cancellations and all sorts of other things. Could end up as a dry double-decker base, cracking under the strain.
- Just get people to introduce themselves? Often they’ve got enough on their plate doing their own content, and compliments about their achievements sound more sincere when you’re not reading them out yourself (‘my mum says I’m clever’ syndrome). This would be more of a pizza blanca, or alternatively a pile of things on bread: something only Scandis consider a sandwich. We can do better.
Treat yourself to a proper pizza and book an MC.
Depending on your background, you may prefer to think of them as a host, a chair, or an emcee. They can announce everyone, warm the audience up, hold everything to time, fill any gaps and even out expectations, relaxing the audience after a serious emotional talk or reviving their energy following a dull one. This is their only job so they can focus on it, and they’ve practised enough to have skills to do it well. This is what a first-time client booking an MC said:
“Scary was honestly the perfect host for You Got This – funny, relaxed and in-charge of the room. It was our very first event with a MC and we couldn’t have had better – everything to do with keeping our audience relaxed and informed was just taken care of. They also expertly held attendees while we had an unexpected hiccup in a way which felt purposeful. ” – Kevin Lewis, Director, Underland
They said this unprompted, but I would like to add that it was also awesome to be part of You Got This, a great event supporting junior technical people to develop. Which rather makes my point…
For every event, there is a host
But my event is very niche, I hear you cry! What MC could bring glamour to an awards show, not be phased by semiconductor lingo or fierce conference debates, command respect for crowd control, make everyone feel welcome and happy, and still keep the whole thing to time?
Well, this is where me and my science comedy friends come into our own. We’re down to earth, hardworking, forged in the fires of unplannable chaotic comedy events, have technical chops, know showbiz AND more formal contexts, and generally lovely.
Obviously I’m a great choice, but if I’m not available (or you fancy a change), consider booking:
- Alex Lathbridge – With infectious confidence and finger on the pulse, Alex is a rising media star (as seen on BBC3, award-winning podcasts, and at the RI). A diverse performer, blending references that make sense to under 30s with a keen sense of news and relevance. Book him while you can afford him.
- Anna Ploszajski – Despite being a published author, doctor in materials science, Young Engineer of the Year, a channel swimmer, and spending time at NASA, Anna’s greatest achievement is being down-to-earth. Her tales from the materials mines have entertained conferences internationally – yours should be next.
- Cerys Bradley – Cerys is a stand up comedian with a decade of experience. They have MC’d every kind of gig, from late night comedy shows to a day of maths lectures for GCSE maths students. They recently hosted a panel at the Edinburgh Science Festival and managed to make it an enjoyable experience, even for the audience.
- Hana Ayoob – A seasoned science festival producer, Hana is as at home hosting a panel as she is booking one. With a keen understanding of diversity, she has a welcome for everyone, while skillfully hitting every organisational goal for the event.
- Steve Cross – The most experienced among us and trouble-maker-in-chief, Steve brings cheeky, personalised routines and black-belt audience handling to every gig. Prepare to have your corporate mantra roasted and your attendees bowled over.
Of course, other hosts are available! But remember: treat yourself, get an MC. Otherwise you’ll be eating toothpaste pizza.