At the Mercy of Master of Ceremonies or Comperes ?

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.

Gabriel Vaz - Archives:

by Gabriel Vaz - Daijiworld Media Network
How often we feel helpless and at the mercy of MC or Compere when we attend a private, family, religious, cultural or public function? This is a thought-provoking article on the art of Compering. It is published with a view to generate debate and hopefully ensure that the standard of Compering improves.
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Comment on this article

  • , Andrew Alvares

    Mon, Jun 07 2010

    I being an Em Cee for the last 40 years, fully agree with Gabriel Vas's comments. A professional speaks less, is spontaneous, witty & keeps the crowd going (happy). The present generation of Em Cees' focus on making money without even knowing how to handle the event. I have attended functions where children are present, nasty jokes cracked, nasty games played (even at Communion parties) and which have abruptly ended abruptly. The sad part is the guests are disgusted and the host ends up paying for this crap. My advise is - Hosts, do your home work before you hire a Em Cee, especially for religious parties such as First Holy Communion, Baptism, etc.

  • Paul Andrade., Mangalore

    Sat, Apr 10 2010

    Mere speaking talent, outlook and body language does not make a professional M.C. For that matter I am yet to see a professional one particluarly amongst catholics in Mangalore.

    For success, talent should always be tempered by continuous learning, wisdom and humility whatever be the profession. M.C.s are like lubricant in the machine hardly seen but felt by action. A good M.C. should speak less but convey more. The functions should never be used as platforms for exhibition of oratory. Many times MCs overshadow the VVIPs of the function. In my daughter's wedding a few years ago, M.C. appointed by the groom's side despite my requests didnot collect the required particulars in advance.

    When asked, he retorted in arrogance that he is a memory specialist and merely by hearing once he can reproduce everything without flaw. Ultimately, when the function was about to start he approached me in haste, listened whatever he could in the pressing moments and spoilt the function causing embarrassment to many.

    Understanding the functions of the role, learning unceasingly from the appropriate sources, exhibiting the most accepted stage manners and etiquette, dealing with the situations with presence of mind, wisdom, and a striving for excellence, are the keys to the success as MCs.

    Good MCs are remembered for long!

  • ruchir agarwal, mangalore

    Wed, Apr 07 2010

    I Agree with you.Function annocements must be short and sweet.People must not be made to wait for 2 to 3 hours.At the most a hour . Most people will be wanting the bar counter to open fast and to mingle with people and make new freinds.

  • Romans Lobo, Kaikamba

    Tue, Apr 06 2010

    I aprreciate the efforts of Mr. G. Vaz in the article which is one side of the story & the other side why MC's are not upto the expectations-may be the lack of communication between the MC & organiser of such events wherin last moments adrenaline rush is seen on the event day. During my childhood days I have seen Gurkars, Ward reps or sometimes those prominent in the community use to compere the events (needless to mention the well preparedness by all concerned & support behind the event) now same events are organised as per modern days demand (minus no time to prepare or support?).I feel when somebodys paying the MC's let there be clear discussion regarding the merit of the programme, time management etc rather than booking MC's through various channels and pay, criticise and forget.Now this issue is concerned to all of us,let there be concrete dialogue & discussion in the parish level. Finally how many of us attend such events in time...(or find time only to criticise MC's..)?

  • Vazir, Bangalore

    Tue, Apr 06 2010

    I liked the article as it is quite thought-provoking. I have attended several cultural, social & public functions as also family or private functions in Bangalore, Delhi & Mumbai. There are quite a few verstile MCs who are quite fluent in English, Hindi & Kannada languages. They ensure that the funcitons or programmes go on very smoothly.

    I have also had the privilege of attending some social & cultural programmes & weddings in Mangalore. Though I am not that conversant or proficient in Konkani, I did make some efforts to find out or understand what was happening. Somehow, I found the standard to be very low & the same set of MCs were running different shows & weddings suggesting whether there was a systematic racket between the caterers & other arrangers.

    The conduct of some MCs at weddings/funerals is simply atrocious. These MCs would do well to learn some of the points mentioned by the author. This type of studied & scholarly articles are very much necessary. Congratulations to the author & Daijiworld.

  • prashanth, Mlore/Dubai

    Tue, Apr 06 2010

    MCs-I really feel biggest irritating characters of catholic functions.From the start to end of the programms pepole are acting to his tunes..there is less gettogether and meeting the friends and relatives.Its more like live tv programme.Cant these MCs are resticted to core progarmmes and rest is enjoyed in gettogether,making new friends.knowing far relatives.Why we have to be mechanical in family functions too...

  • Dr. Deborah D'Almeida, Mangalore/ Antigua

    Mon, Apr 05 2010

    All that you find MC's doing at functions is rambling away irrespective of whether it is relevant or not.Repetitive and below the belt jokes, stale stories and punchlines- that's what they have to offer. Left with no choice , we are forced to pick the better among the worst. That's the quality of Manglorean Mc's as far as I have seen for 15 years now. Personal experience has shown me that despite giving the script to the MC in order to improve the quality of their language and vocabulary, they never stick to it. My verdict: If you can speak well and have a good command over the language, do it yourself as far as possible. That's what I did !!

  • Rakesh Dsouza, Mangalore, DUbai

    Mon, Apr 05 2010

    A good article on a right time from Mr.Vaz.

  • Gladson, Brahmavar

    Mon, Apr 05 2010

    In my previous comment, I missed a word which in turn gave an opposite meaning to the sentence. So the sentence must be read as 'Apart from this I think we do not have at least one multi-lingual MC who is equally good at least compering in Konkani, Kannada & English or Hindi.'

  • Gladson, Brahmavar

    Mon, Apr 05 2010

    Nothing could have been timelier than this article Mr Gabriel. While compering or emceeing is a profession these days, it is sad to say that there is hardly any professionalism among these MCs, especially when we speak about Konkani MCs. First of all as far as my knowledge goes, there is hardly any Konkani MC who can be labled very good.

    Today any Tom, Dick & Harry who can ‘speak endlessly’ can become MC. We seem to have accepted that the only qualification that MC needs to have is a smooth tongue. Do we really have a MC who has excellent command over Konkani and who has equal command over the event as well as the gathering? My answer is No! While their Konkani vocabulary is so limited, what annoys further is the extensive use of English, Kannada and Tulu words while speaking in Konkani.

    Some may justify this saying that it is enough if people understand what we speak and language really does not matter. But I have my own reservation in this regard. We have had Cha Fra or Mick Max who were quite perfect masters. But thereafter, there has hardly been anyone who can come anywhere close to their stature. Apart from this I think we do have at least one multi-lingual MC who is equally good at least compering in Konkani, Kannada & English or Hindi. Some MCs use cheap language and their mannerisms are such low that they hardly deserve payment, forget about a second calling. This warrants for some serious training for MCs before they take it as profession. Right?

  • Patrick R Braggs, Bejai, Mangalore

    Mon, Apr 05 2010

    With the festive and wedding season approaching,it's a much needed article.Hope many readers would come out with their potent views.As for me,have had the priviledge of attending many a function/event,in mangalore, delhi, mumbai and bangalore.i must confess there are only few MCs who really stand out.Though it's heartning to note that the younger generation of MCs do take a lot of interest in their work and are definetly well prepared and ofcourse well dressed.And it is our own vanity that makes the vanity of others intolerable to us.

  • Ronson D'Souza, Mangalore

    Mon, Apr 05 2010

    Very timely and thought provoking article by Mr. Vaz. Now days Mangalore's who is who are even hiring MCs for funeral. I have observed one peculiar thing. Only we the Christians are after MCs for our functions. Why not other religions?

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