I love my job. I take great pride in my work. Businesses who employ my services are impressed by my level of dedication. Companies write glowing testimonials about my performances. Stony audiences become moved by my compassion and they weep. Students are jolted out of complacency and stop fiddling with their iPhones. Finance professionals seated in beige suits laugh at my stories.
I’m good at what I do. So why are you asking me to work for free?
What I do for a living is talk. I talk to hundreds. I talk to twenty. I talk to men. I talk to women. I talk to adults. I talk to students. I talk for a living. Talking is my job. And I am excellent at it.
I don’t just arrive at a venue with warmed vocal cords ready to spew forth words. I research what I am going to talk about. I have a plan for what I’m going to say. I carefully and creatively structure my talking. I am intelligent. I am witty. I am quick with a response. I am warm. I enjoy engaging with people. And people like me.
So my talking is good.
Sometimes during my talking I will introduce people. Prior to this I find out about those people. That’s right. I do more research. I might look on the internet. I might meet up with co-workers or business colleagues and inquire about the individual I am introducing. I might read their published literature. I might do this to discover more about their job. I might do this to unearth what makes them special. Or how they achieved their goals.
This research makes my talking better.
Before my talking at an event I make sure I know why I am there. I google the history of the event. I seek out past event participants. I read about previous award recipients. I ask questions of the event organisers. What would you like to change from last year? What worked well that you wouldn’t change? How long are the pre-function drinks? Which sponsors should be given extra acknowledgement? What companies have contributed the most money? Who in the audience has travelled a long distance to attend your event? Do any of your guests use a wheelchair? Which speaker is most likely to bore the crowd?
These questions make the event better.
I request a run-sheet prior to the event at which I am doing my talking. I read through the run-sheet thoroughly. I ask for clarification on every name pronunciation. I ensure there is a sufficient break between speakers. I check that the sequence of awards or presenters will keep the audiences attention.
This process ensures the event doesn’t go ass up.
I always arrive 30 minutes before my talking. I am always dressed impeccably in suitable attire. My hair and make-up are flawless. I am organised. I am confident. I talk to the AV person. At an event they are as important as me. I seek out the organiser and let them know I am ready. Sometimes I am urgently taken aside and told of last minute changes. I might amend the speaker order. I might add details of an additional award. I might be asked to shorten or lengthen proceedings. I might be asked to hug a sponsor.
None of this is a problem for me.
And then its time for my talking. I am at my best in front of a microphone. I never get nervous. I am never flustered. And I never run out of words. Because talking is my job. And I am excellent at it.
My name is Lisa Fernandez. I am an MC. I am an event host. I am a speaker.
I elaborated on the processes I go through because there seems a lack of awareness of the research and preparation undertaken by a good MC prior to hosting an event.
Or maybe no-one cares about the work MC’s put into their craft.
Because I’m still being asked to work as an MC for free.
Sometimes I’m offered a couple of hundred bucks. While a guest speaker might receive thousands.
It disappoints me that my job is so overwhelmingly undervalued. Acquiring and keeping the attention of hundreds of people is a skill. Entertaining a conference room filled with speaker weary participants is hard work.
Only an experienced MC is able to introduce guest speakers using their traditional indigenous names and titles while audio equipment is exploding backstage and a man on table 10 appears to be having a stoke.
Only an experienced MC can stand before an audience of 600 people and extract a conversation from an introverted, tongue tied AFL player or a sarcastic reality TV sensation.
This should be acknowledged. Rewarded. Why? Because being a great MC is something very few individuals have the ability to be.
Do you expect to pay a doctor to operate on you? Yes.
Do you expect to pay an accountant to do your taxes? Yes.
Do you expect to pay a builder for renovating your house? Yes.
So WHY do you expect an MC to work for free?
Lisa Fernandez is a radio broadcaster and media personality from Perth, WA.
Lisa is an ambassador for the Telethon Adventurers, Ronald McDonald House and the Australia Day Council and happily gives her time to MC fundraising events for numerous charities.
Lisa is NOT addressing charities and fundraising organisations in this blog.