April 8 2021

By Joyce DiMascio

For those in the industry who produce events like conferences and gala dinners, we know that one of the critical “on-stage” roles is that of MC. The anchor for the show. Without a good MC to thread the event together, your event can fall apart.

In 2020, the skill set of MCs had to change dramatically. Working in a hybrid and virtual world was very different to the delight of working a live audience.

Even our most experienced, talented and trusted MCs had to learn to craft again as working “to camera” is a very different relationship than working a roomful of people. It also requires very specific skills and troubleshooting to ensure seamless delivery as you work not only with the on-stage talent but also with the technical producers.

Among Australia’s most prolific and sought-after MCs, speakers and trainers is Andrew Klein, ex-lawyer and trained in theatre arts and performance studies. You get the picture – he’s good on his feet; a quick thinker.

But for Klein the workplace changed substantially. He was not from a broadcast background so learning how to be on camera was essential. In 12 months, he has gone from being a “novice” to highly “experienced and comfortable”. He says he has learnt a billion tricks and spent a lot of time talking to other speakers and AV producers.

Klein is much too modest to call himself an expert, but I have watched him at the Connected Event Group studios fronting a four-day event for the National Insurance Brokers Association and he is definitely a skilled and safe pair of hands. His clients revere him.

He credits the AV and technical services crews for saving the business events industry and for keeping the country connected.

“They are the heroes of the industry,” he says, “The way in which the tech [and] AV platform people have been holding the hand of their clients to get everyone through the new ways of working has been astounding.”

Despite having nailed the art of virtual, he believes we need to get back to face-to-face events as people want to look you in the eye and drink at the waterhole together.

But the future is going to be about doing all three format types well: fully live events, totally virtual and the hybrid combination with people in the room and people online.

He’s delivered hundreds of events over the past year and his forward bookings are also very strong.

I asked him for the top five learnings of the past year is relation to broadcast events:

  1. Shorter presentations: You cannot keep audiences engaged unless it’s short and punchy. The TED model of 15 minutes works very well. He says we should also carry this principle over to other live events.
  2. Authenticity: Talk to the camera as though you are having a one-on-one conversation. Don’t give a “presentation” – have a conversation as though you were having a coffee together.
  3. Humour: It’s difficult to do humour as you don’t hear the laughter of the audience. Capture energy and humour by doing interviews with, say, the CEO instead of them doing a piece-to-camera. Also, have panel discussions with two or three people together in a studio if you can. This is much more interactive and makes for better viewing.
  4. It’s closer to a TV show: It’s not an “online conference”, it’s more like a TV show and needs to have elements of spontaneity, humour and authenticity.
  5. Don’t be too hard on ourselves: Play with the new format – let’s not beat ourselves up regarding expectations as we are all learning how to work with an unfamiliar medium.