There’s no doubt that recent cultural shifts have inspired much-needed exploration of our use of language and brought about some positive corrections. And while it’s natural that an event emcee wants to be personable, entertaining, and occasionally funny, that host must be especially mindful of his or her content and language.
Of course, the threshold for what is appropriate humor differs from company to company. But in general, to ensure a positive experience it is important for emcees to avoid certain topics, words, or phrases that can bring down the house in a detrimental way. Here are three things meeting planners can do to avoid uncomfortable, audience-deflating situations that originate from the podium.
• Research an emcee’s track record. For any host you’re considering, establish credibility and consistency. Check out how long your talent has been working, and for whom. Check out the host’s brand and positioning statement on their firm’s website. Definitely speak to others who have hired the host to understand the environment that was created for each type of event he or she hosted. Seasoned professionals with well-documented reputations for delivering corporate-friendly performances abound, but it does take effort to make certain you’re getting everything that you expect—and nothing that you don’t expect.
• Develop strong familiarity between the emcee and your organization. The best hosts will want to get to know you and your audience as much as you want to get to know them. Talk to each prospective emcee about your company’s culture and the market it serves, and get a definitive buy-in from them about willingness to adapt their approach. If there’s any hesitation, move on.
• Provide a list of topics, phrases, and words that are off-limits, and confirm that they won’t come up. Obviously, you don’t want to censor everything; it’s probably not necessary and it can deflate humor and leave audiences flat or even groaning. But you do want to ensure that the most sensitive topics are not in the realm of possible discussion. Provide your list to the emcee along with the rationale behind each entry so that he or she can develop a script that doesn’t get close to undesired topics, phrases, or words.
Today’s environment calls for reflection on what is funny is and what is not, and only you and your event’s stakeholders can determine what’s appropriate for your organization. However, humor still works because laughter sharpens focus, lightens burdens, keeps people grounded while inspiring creativity, and connects the people who share the experience. So let’s still do funny, but let’s do it intelligently.
A professional comedian and former TV host, Scott Bloom has shifted his focus to the private stage, working primarily with corporate audiences. Bloom is a comedic keynote speaker and author of You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover, a collection of faux book covers that poke fun at the how-to genre.