The right facilitator or master of ceremonies can keep things rolling smoothly at an event when something goes awry. “A good emcee always has a plan B to help the meeting planner in a crisis,” says Thom Singer, CSP.
Singer has a background in business development working primarily for law firms, banks, and consulting firms. With those gigs, he was frequently sent out to speak at company events, and eventually he went all-in as a professional speaker, emcee, and facilitator in 2009. When the pandemic reduced the frequency of live events, he launched the Austin Technology Council and now serves as CEO. The council is a voice for technology companies in Central Texas.
Singer says speakers and facilitators have a lot more to offer than planners might realize. “Since working speakers can [appear at] dozens to hundreds of meetings per year, the best ones want to help the planners create memorable experiences beyond just their speaking role,” he says. “More communication between speaker and planner in the months leading up to the event and viewing the speaker as a partner—and not a vendor—will lead to a great experience.”
Singer recommends choosing speakers with at least five years in the business with more than 250 paid talks completed and, preferably, a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation. “A great speaker [not only] provides actionable content but also has a compelling speaking style that engages the audience.”
For small meetings with a desired outcome, a facilitator can elevate results. “Often people think they are saving money by not paying for an emcee or a facilitator,” Singer says. “This is not a place to save money or give an honor to a board member. … A seasoned facilitator keeps the meeting on task and lets everyone be heard.”
Heading into next year, Singer sees networking taking center stage. “People are coming to events again to make connections, but many are out of practice,” he says. “If the networking is not good, people will not come back.” That being said, the right facilitator or emcee can weave in fun ways to get people talking and returning year after year.