April 5, 2010
All of us attend private, family, religious, social, cultural or public functions at one point or other. And, as it so often happens, invariably all of us have experienced the menace or brilliance of the new breed of showmanship from the ubiquitous Master of Ceremonies, popularly known as MC, or the Compere .
The MC or Compere either dazzles, adds glitz and mesmerizes the crowd with his or her brilliance or simply causes despair and grief by being the spoiler. One can go on citing examples but the fact remains that there is no escape from MCs or Comperes. Konkani functions too are no exception.
While the people silently suffer the bullying or senseless chit-chat by MCs at wedding receptions, there are instances of public criticism in the media regarding MCs in respect of cultural functions where the audience buys tickets to witness the show.
What is the role of an MC or Compere at a function? Compering is an art that can make or break an event. The MC is the one who showcases the various elements that make the event - the puppeteer that controls the various strings on stage to bring the event to life. It is the MC or Compere who enlivens the programme with witty remarks, sallies or even little known aspects of various elements, including background information, without boring the audience through rambling discourses or inane or irrelevant details.
A competent Compere or MC definitely adds a professional dimension to any function or occasion because he or she not only ensures that the event goes on smoothly and virtually controls and gives professional advice on many aspects of staging a successful event.
Considering the fact that the audience often comprises of people and professionals, who are well-versed and knowledgeable about various aspects of the event, it is a challenge for the MC or Compere to prepare well and be able to speak fluently in different languages. This presupposes that a professional or competent person, capable of doing a good job of serving as an MC or Compere, must be engaged well in advance and involved in all aspects of organizing the event from the beginning or at least before major details are being worked out. If this is not done, the MC or Compere will be like a fish out of water and drown not only himself or herself but even the organizers or hosts.
Just imagine what the MC or Compere could do at a school or college function, parish day, religious or cultural event, wedding reception or birthday celebration or even farewell or funeral ceremonies without being thoroughly briefed about the event or the person and family concerned in advance. This is more so when important dignitaries, ministers, bishops or such other VVIPs are the chief guests or among the key members of the audience.
It is common knowledge that professional and competent MCs or Comperes demand fees for their professional service. When a host spends in thousands or lakhs of rupees for organizing a function or event, it is certainly justified that the MC or Compere should also be paid reasonably well because the host or organizer cannot look after each and every detail and often will be busy in looking after the VVIPs or dignitaries.
But sometimes, most of us get to act as the MCs or Comperes if it is a small gathering or if the host or organization is not in a position to engage the services of a professional MC or Compere.
In such a situation, how do we handle the task? What sort of preparations are necessary? What are the dos and don’ts for somebody asked to handle the task of being an MC or Compere sufficiently in advance or even with short notice?
First and foremost, the MC or Compere must try to find out as many details as possible about the function or event and the various people involved on and off stage. It is the job of the MC or Compere to briefly introduce the event or function, explain the significance of various events taking place. They have to educate, inform and even entertain the audience without taking too much time. If the function or event is cultural or religious, then the people would not like lengthy speeches and witty sallies from the MC or Compere because their main interest will be entirely different.
Sometimes, the introduction of the dignitaries will be handled by some of the key persons in the organization or the family. So, there is no need for the MC or Compere to do the introduction of the VVIPs or dignitaries. But then, the MC or Compere may have to say something about the person doing the introduction.
While it is necessary to make notes and even refer to them so as not to make mistakes while mentioning names, designations or places, the MC or Compere should try to be extempore and be spontaneous rather reading prepared text word for word because that leaves the audience dead. The MC or Compere should avoid fumbling and speak smoothly and politely without being harsh or rude.
There are instances of MCs or Comperes ordering the audience to applaud and doing it repeatedly to the point of irritation. It is polite to ask the audience to applaud or simply do it yourself and the audience will take the cue. Generally, the audience spontaneously applauds when they like or appreciate something. But if the audience does not like the show or act, why irritate them further by asking them to applaud when they don’t really want to.
As it often happens, even the most versatile person can make mistakes and MCs or Comperes are not infallible. Nobody expects them to be. If some mistakes are made or even blunders are committed, just gracefully apologise and go ahead. People in the audience will understand and even empathise if somebody who makes a mistake profusely apologises. After all, who does not make mistakes?
The MC or Compere must dress well and decently. He or she should make it a point to ensure that people are not distracted by their appearance, manner of speech or style of walking because they cannot or should not attempt to hog limelight, though he or she runs the show.
Also, it is the responsibility of the MC or Compere to ensure that protocol and decorum is maintained on stage when VVIPs like Governor, Chief Minister, Ministers, Religious Heads, Swamijis, Bishops or Achbishops grace the occasion. They should also ensure that the persons assigned specific roles or duties on stage are ready and available to perform the tasks assigned in clockwork precision because nobody likes their precious time wasted.
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