The PCO Association has professional MC Warwick Merry at its 2015 meeting in Adelaide. Warwick explains the benefits of utilising an MC.

What value does an MC add to a conference?

An MC is like the captain for your aeroplane. If everything goes smoothly and the MC does some great work it’s not too stressful for anyone. When something does go wrong, that’s when the professional MC will shine. For example, in the middle of an awards ceremony in front of a crowd of 1400 delegates, I got word that there were changes to be made to the next set of award slides so

I would have to “fill in for 10 minutes” after the next trophy was presented. One deep breath and on with the show – the delegates never knew there was an issue at all.

The professional MC is insurance for your event. I think we have all been to events where the AV hasn’t worked and then we were faced with what radio calls “dead air”. That won’t happen with a professional MC.

One of the most important tasks a professional MC does is manage the energy in the room. After a high energy, jump out of your seat presentation, the professional MC will help moderate the energy and transition to the next speaker. They will also help lift the energy after a presentation that may be heavy on facts or be emotionally draining. This energy management assists the delegates to get the most value out of a conference.

What makes a good MC?

  • There are plenty of solid MCs out in the market place. Once you have had a professional MC, solid won’t be good enough. Here are some of they key points that make a Professional MC:
  • Time is everything – they make sure they keep the event on time and will only deviate with your permission
  • They know it is not about them – they make it all about the delegates and the sponsors and not their opinions on the matter
  • They are part of the team – they do what it takes to make the event a success and frequently go above and beyond
  • They create and deliver excellent and concise introductions – they highlight the value for the delegates and build credibility for the speaker
  • They make your job easier – they know what they are doing; you can trust them to be focussed on YOUR outcomes
  • Nothing flusters them – from a speaker who doesn’t arrive to transport that has gone missing, they always have an alternative suggestion or idea on how to proceed
  • They are always professional – they always use the appropriate language and behaviour, they do not overindulge in the hospitality and they have healthy boundaries when relating with the delegates and sponsors
  • They have fun and it shows – having fun leads to the delegates enjoying the event more, especially when they get to share in the fun.

You have released an eBook on getting people to take action. Can you explain what this contains and provide a few tips on how to get people to take action?

When people register for my weekly burst of inspiration, they also get a three page eBook on creating a call to action. This is an easy to implement approach to getting your target market to take action. It could be to make a purchase, sign up for information or register for a conference.

We are overwhelmed with information now more than ever. Consequently, we seem to be making decisions later than ever. One of the biggest issues with conferences is getting people to register early. It is very common now for people not to register until the week before. This creates havoc for organisers. Some events are cancelled as the risk of not getting registrations is too high, and others end up having being overloaded and under-catered due to last minute registrations.

Some of the key things to do when creating a call to action include:

  • Use the right language to convey the need and desire of the offer
  • Make the offer simple and easy to understand -too many options is confusing
  • Present the value in a desirable manner. Continually tweak your call to action based on the results you get.

You have also written a book called Get More Inspiration. Can you explain your reasons behind this and what the book entails?

This book has been specifically designed NOT to read… Let me explain.

The book is loaded with over 200 vignettes that are usually one or two pages (sometimes three) and an action box at the end. The intent is that when people are looking for inspiration they can grab the book, flip to a page and take some action that will set them on the right path.

It was created as part of the “Success is SIMPLE even when it is not Easy” program. The I in SIMPLE stands for Inspiration and I wanted to provide a resource for busy people that added value and could be used time and time again rather than just put on the bookshelf for later.

From an MC’s perspective, what do some meeting planners fail to get right at conferences? IE – how could they structure their events to see better engagement and better results?

Meeting planners have an incredibly tough job with many different stakeholders vying for their attention. I hesitate to say they “fail” at something but I can make suggestions on what they could do differently:

  • Give the sponsors more value. Sponsors are the lifeblood of a conference and they frequently get overlooked or do not get a fair return on their investment. Look for ways they can get increased exposure in a way that is NOT a paid commercial.
  • Consider the energy when planning the agenda. Too often a corporate speaker or low energy speaker is put on immediately after lunch or the after lunch session goes for two hours. Your delegates will be snoring! Ensure you know what the speaker is like and be sure they either have some high energy and engaging techniques or make the post lunch session short.
  • Get your MC involved early. Professional MCs have great ideas and are more than willing to share their experience. Get them involved as early as you can and you will find they have some great ideas for your event.
  • Allow change over time. A frequent mistake is not allowing five or 10 minutes for changeovers during the breakout sessions. It is a very easy mistake to make. Often the spreadsheet model has automatic time calculations so schedules back to back like you would a plenary session.
  • Plan for the event you HAVE not the one you WANT. A recent event I hosted went over by an hour. It wasn’t pleasant but the organiser felt they should continue. The root cause was that they KNEW the plan was way too optimistic but they did everything they could to stick to it. Always deal in reality.

Have you emceed the PCO Association conference before?

This will be my first time as the professional MC for the PCO Association. To date I have run a couple of webinars for them as well as presenting at AIME on their behalf. It will be great to meet face to face some of the people I have been dealing with online.

What are you looking forward to at the Adelaide PCO conference?

The people. Conferences are always about the people. Looking at the program there are some fantastic sessions scheduled and some great events planned. It will fantastic to learn from each other, share our experiences, and reconnect with people we haven’t seen for awhile. So when you are in Adelaide, please be sure to come up and say hi! m

The PCO Association 2015 Conference will be held in Adelaide from November 29 to December 1.

Visit www.pco.asn.au to learn more.

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