How to MC a Commissioning Ceremony (16 Steps)

How to MC a Commissioning Ceremony (16 Steps)

1. Check and respond to your missed calls, emails, SMS, and WhatsApp messages. An event planner or client may be trying to reach you to book you. In the events industry, the available one generally gets the gig.

2. Schedule a pre-event meeting with the planner. The purpose of this meeting is to find out who the client and your event liaison person are, what the planner wants to achieve, where and when the event will take place, and conclude how much you will be paid for your services. (Ask the planner to make a deposit of at least 50% of your fee). Don’t forget the dress code. Turning up in the corporate color of the client’s organization will earn you bonus points and goodwill.

3. Arrive at the venue in good time. That’s the professional thing to do. I once had to travel 170km from Accra to Keta for a commissioning ceremony scheduled to begin at 10:00am. I decided to spend the previous night in Anloga and head out to Keta on the morning of the event, a short 20-minute drive. The alternative would have been to make a four-hour trip on the day of the event, risking traffic holdups and other inconveniences. 

4. Let the planner know as soon as you arrive at the venue. Why? Because that’s one less headache he doesn’t have to deal with. In the run-up to my last commissioning ceremony, the planner called me the night before and the morning of the event to find out when I would be at the venue. When I arrived 3 hours ahead of the start time, he was busy supervising the event setup and visibly relieved that I had arrived.

5. Ask for a tour of the facility that is going to be commissioned. This will make you familiar with the layout and purpose of the building, giving you insights you can use in your remarks during the event. 

6. Identify the vendors supporting you at the event. These could be the musicians, dancers, or performers providing entertainment, the deejay, and the audiovisual team (photographers and videographers). Introduce yourself to them (“Hello, I’m Kafui Dey, MC for the event and you are…?”). Exchange contacts with them to expand your personal database of event vendors and also to make yourself a resource for people who may need their services in the future.

7. Ask for a hard copy of the program. These days, there is a trend towards going paperless and so documents are shared on electronic devices like phones, laptops, and palmtops. However, your device can freeze mid-event, the internet can be sketchy and your device battery can die when you least expect it. If a printout is unavailable, write the program out in your notebook.

8. Put names on every activity on the program. A professional MC will ensure that every activity is linked to the name and designation of the responsible person. Don’t be the MC who announces “We’ll now take a performance from the cultural troupe” just because on the program it was indicated “performance by cultural troupe”. It’s your responsibility as a professional to get all these details.

9. Confirm the names and titles of all dignitaries to be acknowledged. Commissioning ceremonies in Ghana tend to be attended by a wide range of personalities: traditional leaders, political office holders, government workers as well as the business community. Sometimes it feels like everybody wants to hear their name mentioned in the list of attendees! Although the program may specify a particular time for acknowledging guests, don’t be tempted to read all the names at once. Space them out and read five or six names after a speaker has spoken. 
Be careful about whose names you mention. I once dug myself into a hole when I acknowledged a chief who, unknown to me, was embroiled in a dispute over his legitimacy. I took responsibility for the gaffe to bring down the heightened emotions of the chiefs who felt slighted. Avoid this problem by consulting closely with the event planner. Remember this: the MC is held responsible for everything that comes out of his or her mouth. Make sure you acknowledge the right people.

10. Sit close to the stage so you can have easy access to the dignitaries and speakers and can also keep an eye on the audience. You must be aware of all that is going on during the event.

11. If more than one language is spoken, learn a few key phrases you can use in welcoming the audience. Simple greetings and expressions of thanks will do the trick and create a bond.

12. Don’t apologize if the event starts late. You’ll only annoy the early birds. Just get on with the event and keep an eye on the time. You may start late but endeavor to end on time. Minimize your talk time on stage. Cut out a musical interlude if possible. Privately prompt speakers to be brief and reinforce the idea by saying for example “And now for some brief remarks, let’s welcome the administrator Dr. Tay”. Never imply that the event was held up because a main speaker was late to the venue. You will only create negative energy that will affect the celebratory mood you want to create at commissioning.

13. Have an assistant who has deep knowledge of the institution or company where the ceremony is taking place. He or she will help with insider information you can use to spice up speaker introductions. At my last event, I worked closely with such a person. He even helped me with the pronunciation of unfamiliar names!

14. Be careful not to become overwhelmed with paper. Expect to have people come up to you holding scraps of paper with names of people whose names must be mentioned. Have a folder or clipboard to keep all these papers in one place. Draw a line through a name as soon as you mention it so you don’t repeat yourself later.

15. Take charge of the climax of the event. Announce the procedure for the commissioning ceremony by identifying those responsible for cutting the tape, unveiling the commemorative plaque, and conducting the tour. Get close to the building. During the tape-cutting, position the special guests to stand with their backs to the building. That way the pictures will have the edifice in the background. During the tape-cutting and unveiling, announce the names of those performing the tasks. Read the inscription on the plaque. I’ve heard my words used in news stories and documentaries for commissioning events so I know some editors and filmmakers found it useful!

16. The most important thing is to create a mood that will make everybody happy and excited about the commissioning. Speak with positive energy and make the vendors, speakers, and guests feel at ease and relaxed. If they are happy, the event planner and the client will be happy and likely to contact you for another event because you did a professional job. As my father once said, the reward for excellent work is more work!
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