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10 Hot Tips for Killing the Stage at a Corporate Event

06/08/2015 03:02 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2016

So you have a fear of public speaking. But you've still been asked to host an event. It might mean the difference between a promotion or being laughed at. I'm not going to make things easy and say there's a secret recipe that relieves nervousness. There is none. But there is definitely a checklist to ensure things work well. A bit of preamble: I've been professionally hosting events as an MC and presenter in Dubai for the past 10 odd years now. And just like everything else, the more you do the better you get. So here are ten hot tips for things to watch out for. There's no mystery here; just a system at work.

1. Why the event? Why the client is holding it in the first place? Every event has a reason for being, a raison d' etre. It's either for influencer goodwill, a salespeople/channel partner jamboree, or a gala dinner with awards and dinky canapés. Either way, figure out why the event is important for the business bottom line. And then, keep that in mind through the course of the evening/afternoon. It'll make you popular. And make you a winner.

2. It's not your chance to shine: It's a truism that's actually true - presenters have to do the most work when an event is struggling. A well structured event will flow almost of its own accord. Above all, resist the temptation to make it all about you. As a presenter in Dubai or elsewhere, this isn't your platform - it's your clients and their audiences'. Respect that. If it's going well, go up and get off the stage STAT, and let the show get on with it.

3. Check with marketing: The marketing dept. is responsible for most events. Trouble is, that dept is particularly discombobulated, and making about as much sense as a toddler on chocolate cake when the big evening approaches. So get in a rehearsal if budgets allow. And if money is tight - and it usually is because presenters in Dubai are the very last thought given consideration- at least get some marketing spokesperson that will give you some core event messages. Remember: it's their money. They deserve to have their brand voice heard, even if they're playing silly buggers.

4. Walk the talk: This is literal. Walk the stage. Actually walk it. In fact, walk the entire venue. Your mind is a wonderful thing, and will figure out automatically how much space you have to work with. And getting to a venue early and walking it helps you take ownership of it. You realise you're helping your client shape something memorable. As a presenter, that's a powerful motivating force.

5. Literally get off stage: Again, literal. If you're at an event with an elevated stage that sticks you in a corner, you're in trouble. If you're fortunate enough to be on a wireless lapel or hand-held mic, surprise the audience every now and again by getting off the little box you've set yourself up on. Your audience is reminded you can reach them, and that you want them to part of what you're creating. The result: more engagement, and a front row that realizes being on Tinder isn't an option -- because you might be peering over their shoulder ninja-esque.

6. Say no to paper: Particularly true if you're a presenter in Dubai. Face it, chances are you're presenting somewhere where even the little elves serving drinks are festooned with gold inlaid cowhide. Waving a dirty crumpled sheaf of papers makes you look messy. Get a nice clipboard. Or even key cards. Keep it subtle. Think chic, not geek.

7. Sound is your enemy: This is key. In fact, I'll go as far as to say the difference between a great event and mediocre faffing around is the sound system. Remember when we spoke about walking the stage? If you're mic'd up, or have a wireless mic in your hands, approach the speakers next to the stage with it. If there's a loud moan, and not in a sexy way, you're in trouble. Let the sound guys know. They'll either turn the volume down to reduce the interference, or you're going to have to draw imaginary circumferences around each speaker. Trust me -- interference absolutely kills events. Knocks 'em into perturbed zombie land. If you're dealing with a shoddy sound system, know where you can't go. And if you can, insist on a lapel mic or an over-ear doo-hicky. Think about it. You'll probably already be juggling keycards, a clicker and whatnot. Do you want to be encumbered with handheld?

8. Till that soil: The difference between a good event and a great one? The audience. Thing is, audiences are usually easy. As a crowd, people respond best when they know there's a system at work. So break it down for them. Tell them when to clap. Tell them when to cheer. If something goes awry, acknowledge it. Be transparent. Tension is an absolute event killer. You don't want people not knowing what's coming next. So create a system. I'll get into that in my next post as a presenter in Dubai. Systems that work and those that don't, and the buildup and release of tension, is something that requires its own space. But for the moment, just make sure your audiences never feel they're in the dark. That makes them defensive, which in turn makes them less liable to go with the action.

9. A logical flow: Unless you've drawn the unlucky card of presenting something fresh out of Alice Through the Looking Glass, take heart: even the most complicated events have a pattern. It's either speech, speech, speech, entertainment, booze, booze, gala dinner and ending show or speech, speech, quiz, awards, raffles, and then an open bar. Whatever it is, realise that events have a pattern. They're not random. Dignitaries usually speak at the start. The raffle's in the middle. The buffet opens around then. Entertainment and thankyous come later. This helps you remember what you're doing. And that's incredibly important. Because more than just speaking, a presenter's role is to hold the event structure in their head and make it all happen. Even when the marketing crew are falling like ninepins around them.

10. Leave them wanting more: Anticipation is the most valuable tool you have. So don't exhaust your welcome. Get off stage before they've had enough of you. And if you have the clout, bear down on the organisers to ensure the event is nice and sharp so no one wears out their welcome.

A longer version of this post can be found at hishamwyne.com