The difference between an Emcee (MC) and a Host — and why it matters
First, my apologies to Steve.
“Steve” is an arbitrary name. No identification with actual persons, living or deceased, is intended or should be inferred from what I’m about to say.
Now that we’ve cleared that up … let’s talk about Steve.
Steve is that guy in your office with the gift of gab. He’s friendly and personable. His experience in marketing is unrivaled – it’s amazing what you can achieve when you work with Steve.
However, for your upcoming professional development summit or experiential marketing event, giving the mic to “MC” Steve is a terrible idea. It’s comparable to drinking milk on a hot day – a bad choice.
Again, no offense to Steve, who is the best choice for turning happy hour into a hilarious inside joke.
He’s just not equipped to make your high-caliber event memorable.
A good MC can move the audience through a scheduled list of activities. However, when you give the mic to a talented host, your event transforms. It becomes an experience that conveys a message the audience will remember.
All things considered, “MC” and “host” are used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be. There’s a big difference between what they can accomplish.
Emcee versus Host: let’s break it down.
What is an MC?
The MC or Master of Ceremonies, (sometimes referred to as the emcee) is the person in charge of keeping an event flowing.
MCs introduce the featured speakers or special guests. An emcee invites the audience to participate. A master of ceremonies explains key information. They fill time during a long transition.
Sometimes the DJ at an event will double as the MC. The DJ at your cousin’s wedding probably introduced the wedding party and announced when it was time to cut the cake.
However, not all DJs are skilled at emceeing. Depending on the complexity and importance of your event, you may need a separate MC. Or you could hire a hybrid DJ/MC who is curiously talented in both areas.
What’s the difference between an Emcee and a Host?
A host is an emcee who brings the skills of a performer or entertainer. Often, they use a special talent — like magic, singing, or in my case, DJing — to complement their performance.
A host knows how to draw and redirect focus. They harness the energy of the audience into a roller coaster ride. They improvise to create magical moments of serendipity.
A great MC is a host. A mediocre host is… just an MC.
Think of it this way: You can walk into Target and get yourself a belt for $12 to hold up your pants. If you walk into Gucci, you’ll find a belt that will do the same thing, but it won’t be $12.
When you pay the extra $$$, you’re getting quality materials, the brand, a reputation you trust, and likely some extra attention.
The same goes for acting. Sure, Hallmark movies are enjoyable. But the quality of acting and what is felt by someone like Meryl Streep or Leonardo DiCaprio is on another level.
I think of Leslie Odom Jr. at the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. When he sang, everything stopped. You almost don’t see the models in lingerie going by. That kind of impact is phenomenal.
A great host can stop time. A great host focuses the attention and energy of the audience in order to build an emotional impact that drives action. Great hosts inspire attendees to become brand loyalists.
The Power of a Host
In a crowded event or party, a host manages several layers of noise. For example, Layer 1: the chatter of guests. Layer 2: There’s music playing. Layer 3: the clatter of hors d’oeuvres plates (I love some crab cake bites) and the clinking of champagne glasses.
And then, additionally, you have someone jump on a microphone: Layer X.
An inexperienced MC will rattle off a long paragraph of talking points in one long stream of overly-caffeinated consciousness. On a scale of 1-10, they might give their voice tons of energy THAT STAYS AT A TEN THE WHOLE TIME!!
After a while, people will zone out. They hear the announcements, but aren’t listening to the words. The MC has become background noise, despite the enthusiasm. Energy that stays at a ten flatlines, equal to energy glued at a four.
Vocal variety is key to creating an emotional impact. An experienced and talented host knows how to fill their announcements with ups and downs.
A host knows how to draw people in with a mere whisper and then pump up the excitement. He knows when to coast a bit to give the audience a breather and then, just at the right time, how to lay on the gas.
“Come and Jump On It”
Beyond making announcements from a stage, a good host engages the audience. He’ll take one or two of the messaging key points and land those entertainingly and creatively.
I’ll give you an example from hosting the Super Bowl Experience recently. One of our jobs as a host is to promote the NFL Shop (this is the store for official NFL apparel and gear). The typical form of promotion is to wear the gear and draw people’s attention to your outfit at key moments.
“Typical” just isn’t my thing. I’m going to take my free merch as motivation and set up a runway in the middle of the crowd. I’m going to ask three people to compete. Whoever walks the runway “best” gets the swag.
Now, I have the audience’s attention, despite the magnitude of the autograph stage, the pumping music, the awe of the NFL stars, and those kids crying in the back.
The next moment is key. An experienced host will tell you: I have to pick the “right” person from the crowd. I’m about to take them to the brink of their comfort zone, and you don’t want someone who won’t play along.
John is the perfect first participant. I can tell he’s a goofy dad ready for his moment in the spotlight, despite the plain shirt and sporty Cole Haan’s he’s wearing. He’ll go the distance to acquire the new swag. After an introduction and rapport building with him, I convince him to get out there and work that runway!
I “accidentally” play a few intro bars of Pony.
“Whoa, whoa! Sorry, wrong track there! John, I don’t want you to get carried away. There are children here,” I say, among the knowing laughs and mock catcalls from other parents.
I switch to family-friendly Gangnam Style.
My impromptu runway of sashaying and enthusiastically bad dancing is a better stage for promoting the NFL gear. It had WAY more impact than a general announcement trying to “stiff arm” its way through a room full of noise.
A good host makes everyone the center of attention
Some MCs talk at you. They make announcements you don’t hear. Consequently, the audience pays attention only if they’re bored and waiting for something exciting to happen.
A host makes the audience part of the show. Exceptional hosts know they have to build rapport with the audience. They have a conversation with one individual at a time until the whole room of unique and diverse personalities is unified.
The best hosts ensure that no one feels left out, even if the audience is huge. During a memorable event, everyone is the center of attention. That’s the difference between an emcee versus a host. Learning the skills that can elevate you from an emcee to a host is a part of the Charismatic Advantage™
And, while “MC” Steve from Marketing lands a good dad joke here and there, he’s a guy on a mic and not a host.
For your next important event, hire the best host!