Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Right Emcee

April 13, 2021

Madeline David

Madeline David is a former TV news reporter and anchor, now working as a virtual events emcee and Communications Strategist at Centrifuge Media, Inc., in Raleigh, North Carolina. After seven years as a journalist covering stories across Texas, the Southwest and Coastal Virginia, she made the switch to the events industry and hasn’t looked back!

The highly anticipated shift back to in-person events is slowly getting underway as meetings and events planners around the globe rejoice. Virtual remains the overarching preference today, but many companies are looking toward later this year and beyond to attempt hybrid, if not fully live events.

Put the enthusiasm under the microscope, though, and it’s no surprise that most planners have a thick layer of caution and concern when it comes to navigating what will certainly be a non-traditional live events environment — at least for a while.

There’s a particular tool planners should strongly consider utilizing to make the transition back as seamless and engaging as possible: an emcee. I don’t mean not just any emcee or host. You need the right one.

The hybrid stepping stone back to live provokes yet another pandemic challenge for the industry: How do we bridge the experience between the remote attendees and those coming together in the same space?

We at Centrifuge Media found ourselves asking a similar question at the kickoff of virtual events. “How do we bring the fanfare and excitement of a live event into an attendee’s home office?”

Out the gate, fighting “Zoom fatigue” in virtual business events was a tall task that resulted in a saturated market of tricks, tools and tips. There is everything from polling and Q&A apps to at-home cooking kits, cocktail hour, 3D virtual sets and midday yoga breaks. New and exciting virtual event technology is still rolling out by the day.

The virtual event emcee was among the many tactics deployed by planners and producers worldwide. Some have reported tremendous success, while others have had so-so experiences with emcees, hosts or moderators.

It largely depends on the person you bring in.

Centrifuge has strayed from the traditional ballroom stage emcees or hosts, who often double as motivational speakers. Instead, the company focuses on an interesting niche: former television news journalists. The logic is clear as we think of the vastly different requirements of a host for pre-2020 live events versus pandemic-era virtual events.

A good event emcee must fully assume the burden of transitioning between speakers and content, deliver an engagement factor, drive brand messaging, provide housekeeping and stay on-time, among other things.

Pivoting this role to the virtual world, and those responsibilities expand because we’re potentially dealing with issues that are out of the hands of on-site event crew members: the muted speaker, the presenter who loses Internet connection mid-slide, etc. 

Experienced television news reporters and anchors have the training to handle what’s not in their control, and then elevate the event with their journalistic and on-camera background.

Pulling directly from their time live in the studio or out in the field, they’re quick thinkers, swiftly handling tech or content problems on the fly by ad-libbing through it with ease. They’re also comfortable and familiar with talking to a camera, teleprompter or not, so it feels genuine and brings the audience in. They’re trained to read a script as if they’re not reading a script.

Another benefit: TV journalists are interviewers by trade and can moderate panel discussions or one-on-one conversations in a way that doesn’t feel so “corporate-canned.” This includes recognizing when to reiterate key points and/or dive deeper into a discussion that needs clarity or is just plain interesting.

A bonus: journalists are naturally obsessed with “getting it right.” They’re fact finders and storytelling perfectionists, meaning they’re going to triple check name pronunciations, titles, scripts and any other information they need.

Is this advice too-little-too-late after a year of virtual events and a vaccine rollout underway? No way. It’s never too late to get an emcee involved in your virtual events.

Plus, as we look toward hybrid events, it’s important to shift the role of the emcee. They will continue to not only evoke engagement with the remote audience but also suppress the feeling of disconnect that will undoubtedly come with having the two distinct groups.

The right emcee will talk to both audiences, treating each equally. The right emcee, like a TV journalist, will make the transition back to in-person events pleasant and balanced — so much so that you may want to utilize them post-pandemic, too.  

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.