Monday, 24 April 2017

Behind the Mic.

This blog will start with a slightly conceited opening so please forgive that and just keep reading. I was in conversation recently with someone and I was asked if I would accompany them to one of the large pop culture expos. When I declined they asked why and I told them that unfortunately I found it difficult to enjoy these events now as I was constantly being stopped and complained to regarding the poor quality of MC's at many of these shows and when would I be returning. This coupled with enduring panels that are so poorly conducted makes the whole experience extremely negative.
My companion noted that the poor quality of the hosts didn't seem to stop people from attending. The conversation that followed is the essence of this blog.

No MC should ever be so conceited to believe that they are the reason people are at a guests panel. The guest or guests draws the crowd. The MC will never influence the audience in their reason for being at that panel, but they can and do have a major effect on how enjoyable those in the audience find the panel. The operation of a panel or presentation is often determined by the number of guests, the size of the room, the nature of the guests and the nature of the crowd. When holding the microphone all of these issues need to be considered. 

Many believe that to be a host/mc merely requires you to know which end of the microphone to speak into. This could not be further from the truth. There are many people who have a great understanding of the world of audio visual of theatre and radio and television but are indeed  terrible hosts/mc's. I could fill the rest of this blog with names of professionals and non-professionals alike that I have seen fail dismally as a host/mc. This does not diminish their talents or abilities it just shows that those talents are in other areas.

So where does it all start? What do you need to understand to try and make the panel as enjoyable for both those in the audience as well as those on stage?

Firstly know why you are there. Your role is that of a bridge between those in front of the stage and those on the stage. Australia is one of the few countries in the world that uses hosts/mc's at theses style of events. Most simply have static mics off to each side of the stage where people line up to ask questions. This can lead to many unsatisfactory interactions for the audience and those on stage. Having a host/mc allows greater control and better delivery of the questions for the on stage recipients. 

In the majority of cases the host/mc is not there to conduct a one on one interview with those on stage, this might be their dream to sit and chat with their favourite stars but is not what those in the audience are there for. Now before I continue I will say that there are occasions when those on stage want that one on one to start with for their own reasons.

Research anyone and everyone you will be having on that stage, know what to ask  and what not to ask and when to do so. Much of this comes from working with other more experienced hosts, if you get the opportunity spend time in other panels, not to find fault but to find the moments that work and understand what made that the case and then craft that to your own style.

It is very important that you understand that you will not be universally loved. Many in the audience for their own reasons will not like you. It might be your style or the fact that last time round you didn't let them ask a question or maybe they stood in the line to long to get in and your the one they are taking it out on, but for the most part if you do the job well you will normally have their respect and that is pretty much the best outcome.

Never overindulge yourself on a panel. Their are times when a guest or guests will turn to you and interact to achieve something they may want. Don't keep it going. Don't continue a gag or a song between you and those on stage longer then achieving the point. This again robs those in the audience of their time and their chance of a question.

Be prepared to take the questions in a totally different direction, if you have done your research you will know things about those onstage that the audience may not. Give both those on stage and those in the audience the opportunity to explore things that may not normally arise in a panel.

Lastly, at least for this blog, be aware of where you are and the time constraints you are under. You should have by at least the third response from the stage have a good understanding of how long it is taking to respond to questions. This vital when it is coming to the end of the session. You want to be able give those on stage sufficient time to wrap things up and not cut them off mid sentence because you are out of time. Be warned however sometimes you can get caught out and a guest who has been taken ten minutes to answer suddenly only takes two when you've said it's the last question.

I remember once being told by the late Jon Pertwee something that helped shape what I do with hosting and that was " Peter, no one comes to these events to meet Jon Pertwee, they come to meet Doctor Who. But if you and I do our jobs correctly they will leave having gotten to know both of them."

And most importantly, know which end to speak into and where the on off button is.

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