Conferences can be long and drawn out. They can also be overwhelming because of the amount of information that is presented in such a short time. At conventions where industry experts present, the presentations are highly professional, packed with rich information, research and show hard core results. Most of the speakers use PowerPoint, with video spliced into the speeches which breaks up the slides of data.

Because each presentation is so thought provoking and jammed pack full of information, there seems to be a need to process the information after each speech. Our brains can only hold so much information before they start to tune out and think about all of the items sitting on our desks at home.

For the past few days, I was the Master of Ceremonies at the national Emarketing Association Convention in San Francisco. There were about 6-7 speakers per day on the highest level of marketing. This made the conference challenging as well as highly innovative. They brought results, tips and the tried and true secrets that have worked for their high level companies and clients.

Because I got to sit in and listen to the speeches, I was swimming with new and exciting information and constantly stimulated at the many ideas that I developed. Additionally, I met and get to know so many dedicated marketing professionals; I nearly decided to switch careers, based on their passion for their jobs.

As the role of Emcee, my job was to give breaks to the participants and to introduce the speakers. I always love this role because it’s an opportunity to be playful with people and to bring some lightness to break up the serious topics that are being discussed. Because this role is often given to professionals in their own field, I came up with a list of suggestions for others who are also engaged in this position as facilitator for a meeting or break out sessions, Master of Ceremonies or Emcee for any event they host.

1. In the beginning, welcome the participants with enthusiasm and a smile and offer an overview of the next few days. Share with them some of the exciting highlights that will happen and share with them some ideas for activities on their time off.

2. Stay in close communication with the event manager or whoever is putting the conference together. This person has specific announcements that come up, and has a certain idea of how information is presented.

3. Study up on the town where you’re staying to offer highlights of the city. Introduce yourself to the GM of the hotel and the concierge so you have their name and can rattle their names off to the participants in the event. Having a good concierge can save your participants time researching area restaurants if they have free time for dining out. And sharing their name will add one more thing that allows the participants to feel comfortable in their temporary “home”.

4. Sit down with each of the speakers before they go up on stage. Ask them the basic questions such as where they’re from and how they got in their careers, but also ask them what they do for fun. If they’re in terrific shape, compliment them and ask how they do it? The answers will surprise you!!! From sky diving, scuba diving, rollerblading and kite surfing to wind surfing and being wine enthusiasts, these activities bring a personality to the speakers that may not be apparent from the platform. After reading a shortened version of their bio, share extemporaneously what you learned about the speakers in an enthusiastic and fun way.

5. Ask the question, “What is one thing that no one here would ever know about you or guess about you? The speaker at that point will check into his or her long term memory bank and come up with some really interesting stories that they love to tell!!! One high profile speaker shared how he was arrested at age 12 after being harassed by other children on his paper route for cussing at the children. Another conservative looking speaker shared that he was in a rock band in college which was really bad but started getting better after 5-6 beers! These stories allowed the audience to take a peek at the inner lives of these speakers to see the real fun of behind the professional image the person.

6. Share a bit about yourself throughout the conference. The audience needs to feel comfortable with you as well, so offering advice from your own careers, offer up famous quotes, or stories from your own personal life. This brings more intimacy and liveliness to the audience. Make sure that the stories are short and sweet and have a punch. And if you find that a speaker needs extra time getting set up, go up to individual participants and ask them what they are getting out of the conference so far. Sharing the limelight and engaging particpants is a way to stall for time. Make sure you ask questions of people who look open to answering questions. It can be embarrassing for a participant who is intrinsically shy and who clams up in front of audiences.

7. In between the speakers, ask the participants to stand up, cross the isle and meet someone new each time. Then ask them to share what they are taking away or enjoyed from the previous speaker. This helps all of the participants to get to know lots of people in the room besides just those sitting in their immediate area.

Many of us will be cast in the role of Emcee or Master of Ceremonies at some point in our careers. This is the time to allow others to shine, to bring out their uniqueness from the stage so the audience can sense how likeable they are in “real life”. It’s a role that takes a bit of preparation, the ability to promote others, and to act enthusiastic even when you’re exhausted from long travel or from late hours. But it’s the one role that can bring fun to any event that might otherwise be on the serious side, and it’s the role that can get everyone talking, sharing laughing and engaging with one another when they might normally stay to themselves. Getting to know others on a fun level ultimately makes the conference memorable and a success for the participants.