the man behind the mic
I have had a brilliant career, doing what I love. I have worked with meeting and event planners for over 20 years, at conferences, award ceremonies and charity dinners.
I have worked with the Royal Family, the UK government and a host of industry leaders and VIP’s from the world of television, business and sport.
My role isn’t just providing a witty repartee, but to make sure that your event flows smoothly, runs to time and is memorable for all the right reasons.
How can I help you?
I appreciate that being the perfect Master of Ceremonies isn’t simply about turning up, standing on stage and doing the introductions. It can involve meeting the organisers beforehand, working with them to understand their objectives, and helping to create an event that exceeds expectations.
If required, I can make suggestions on how to get key messages across and advise on ways to guarantee your event flows smoothly and runs to time. He can also offer a creative input to ensure the occasion is memorable for all the right reasons!
During rehearsals and set-up I can take the pressure off the event organiser, and my tailored programme script will provide the necessary link between the venue, the host, the organiser and the AV, lighting and technical team.
Should you require additional help, I offer a range of support services, including presentation coaching and event programme planning and design.
Who have I worked with?
A host of companies, charities, celebrities and VIP’s, including:
Radisson Edwardian Hotels
Ricoh Arena Coventry Ltd
McNaughton Paper Merchants
Driver Hire Nationwide
Spanish Chamber of Commerce GB
Bovis Homes / Lend Lease
Meeting Professionals International
GE Commercial Finance
The Office of the Prime Minister
HRH The Princess Royal
Dr Deepak Chopra, Author & Speaker
Jimmy Carr, TV Show Host & Comedian
Jason Manford, Actor & Comedian
Rob Brydon, Actor & Comedian
Milton Jones, Comedian
Martin Johnson CBE, Rugby Player
Dame Kelly Holmes, Olympic Athlete
Linford Christie OBE, Olympic Athlete
Steve Cram MBE, Olympic Athlete
Sir Bobby Charlton CBE, Footballer
Sir Geoff Hurst MBE, Footballer
Sir Trevor Brooking CBE, Footballer
Jack Charlton OBE, Footballer
The Rt Hon Tony Blair MP
Brian Blessed, Actor
Beverley Knight MBE, Singer
Stacey Soloman, Singer & TV Presenter
Nine and a half questions with Dave Sharpe, emcee
Q1. What do you see as the role of an emcee?
I see the role as a blend of an entertainer and a conductor with exquisite timing. A good emcee will ensure the delegates are kept fully informed of the itinerary, where they need to be and when they will be fed and watered. But a great emcee will do all this in an entertaining fashion whilst discretely smoothing over any cracks that the live nature of an event inevitably brings. Like the conductor of an orchestra, I strive to bring the best out of every speaker and every act so that together, they deliver a harmonious performance.
Q2. What is the key to being a successful emcee?
You have to enjoy it. People say to me that standing on that stage in front of a live audience would be their worst nightmare. I’m genuinely astounded. I love being on stage. I love the buzz of the live act and thrive off the challenge of turning a potentially toe curling moment into a triumph. I’m told that I have a warm, friendly and engaging style and I put that down to the fact I feel completely at ease when I’m in the spotlight.
But I can only enjoy it because of my meticulous preparation for every eventuality. I’m not fazed by the silent microphone and its potential embarrassment for me or the speaker, because I’ve planned for it. If that mic fails, I’ll make sure we’re all laughing together and when the wonderful technical people have sorted the problem, then I’ll quickly get us back on track, making up for any time lost.
Q3. Your testimonials are first rate. What makes you so successful?
I think meticulous preparation is key and the old motto: “If you fail to prepare… prepare to fail”, will take you a long way. I educate myself about the company and talk with staff at all levels to help me prepare for every eventuality. I visualise how I’d like things to proceed – and how I’ll react if they don’t. But I’m also very flexible. I have confidence in my ability to act on my own initiative and to keep smiling whatever the day throws at me – which means there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ event.
Q4. What preparation do you do before an event?
I pride myself on my attention to detail both before and during the event. Early on I meet with key people in the organisation to get a proper feel for their aims and goals. Knowing what the hosts hope to achieve helps form my style and approach. I ask lots of questions. Just because an annual event has run successfully in the past for example, doesn’t mean that it’s immune to becoming staid and boring. Sometimes people in the top roles in their business don’t have the time or head space to think how they’re best able to get their message across. I make it my job to do the thinking for them. Often a forty minute presentation is not the most effective way to capture the attention of an audience, and sometimes it’s easier for me to suggest another approach than for one of their colleagues to do so.
Q5. And what do you do on the day?
Every single delegate deserves to be delighted and honoured to be at the event and I ask myself, “How are we going to make that happen?” You won’t find me turning up at the venue half an hour before the start expecting to be briefed.
You’ll see me there several hours before with the rest of the team.
I take responsibility for looking at the big picture, from all angles:
- Will the audience be totally engaged in the programme, or could some of the timings do with a tweak?
- Are the VIPs sitting close enough to the stage, or will their twenty second music clip run out before they’re halfway there, leaving themselves and their audience not quite sure what to do?
- Is it warm enough?
- Are there enough comfort breaks scheduled?
I look at the event through the eyes of the CEO and the event organisers and the technicians and the catering staff and, of course, the delegate. I call this technique ‘Audience Advocacy’ and it serves me very well because it’s only when we look at the big picture that we can ensure the whole event runs smoothly, on time and is memorable for all the right reasons.
Once the event has started, my eyes and ears are on continual ‘full alert’.
I listen to every word on stage to make transitions between speakers and acts appear smooth, relaxed and effortless. I also reiterate key points to ensure delegates leave the event clearly understanding the key messages.
Q6. Judging by your Twitter account, you’re always ‘on location’. What other work do you do?
I’ve worked in events for over twenty years both behind the scenes and on the stage with members of parliament and sports legends, through to heads of business and royalty. Currently I share my time between my emcee work, presentation coaching and football commentary for BBC radio which is a great buzz. I also host my own BBC radio show, Climbing the Pyramid. And I own a communications company, which has taught me an enormous amount about crafting messages to specific audiences.
Q7. Do you find there are similarities between standing on stage and doing live commentary?
Yes, there are many. The ‘live’ element is common to both and it’s something I find totally stimulating. As you can imagine, the football manager of a team which has just lost in unexpectedly catastrophic fashion is not always in the best frame of mind to be interviewed. I relish the challenge. And I reckon that if you can bring something entertaining from the mouth of a grumpy football manager, you can interview anyone!
Strict time-keeping is also essential in both roles. The hourly news is not going to wait for me to wax lyrical about a Nuneaton Town goal, however poetic it was. I pride myself on perfect timing in both situations and have lots of strategies to help extend or quickly close a speech without making the speaker feel remotely short-changed.
Football commentary on the radio is all about the picture you create because your listeners can’t see the action. I focus on this same ‘picture’ idea on stage. What is the audience seeing? Is it what we want them to see? How can we bring the event to life so that it becomes and engaging experience?
Q8. You do lots of work in America, how different is it to the role of emcee on British soil?
In one way it’s not so very different. An emcee’s role will always be to ensure the event runs smoothly and on time. But there is one fundamental difference and that is in the language. For example, I’m making sure I call our ‘conference’ in Britain an ‘event’ in this interview. In Britain I’m not called an emcee but an MC or Master of Ceremonies, and I know they play soccer in the US, not football. I admit I like to have a little fun with this. I hope that I’ve managed to introduce a few British English eccentricities into the vocabulary of my American audiences – and I’ve taken a few Americanisms back home with me.
Q9. And finally, how would you describe yourself in just three words?
Professional, unflappable, natural. Can I have another?
…go on then
Witty. I like humour. I have fun on stage if it’s appropriate, but I don’t tell jokes. Never. And please don’t ask me about the one time I did!
Dave Sharpe was in conversation with Jackie Buxton, writer and teacher of creative writing. Find out more about Jackie’s work at: www.jackiebuxton.com