What’s the difference between a Keynote Speaker and an Emcee?

Well, as it turns out, a lot.

Having been a keynote speaker and workshop presenter for years at conferences all across the country, I know what it takes to present and present well in different types of settings, including churches, halls, classrooms, conference rooms, and large stages with lights, sounds, and all the bells and whistles that come with a big production. Being a great keynote speaker takes good preparation and planning, knowing your audience, and knowing your subject matter really well. In my experience, being a keynote speaker is a skill that can be learned, honed, and crafted.

But being an emcee for an event is a whole different ball game. A good emcee can’t just come up with good content, prepare, practice, then deliver. No. A good emcee takes flexibility, thinking on one’s feet, and connecting differing pieces of content from other sources to create a seamless connection to the theme or focus of the event.

Let me use an illustration to get the point across.

A keynote speaker is more like an actor who has prepared their lines, facial expressions, and movements to match the script that needs to be filmed or acted on stage. A keynote is scripted. Yes, the actor does not always stay on script, but the goal is to get your point across by using a proven method and following the script.

An emcee is more like an improvisation actor (improv) who, unlike a regular actor, might have some lines prepared but mostly does not have a script to follow. They definitely know they need to get from point A to point B as the emcee for the event, but how to get there is not scripted or pre-planned. The improv actor has to take cues from their surrounding cast. For the emcee, that means taking cues from the theme of the event, the content from other speakers, the lyrics from a specific song, and piecing it together to create one seamless narrative.

I would argue that both a great keynote speaker and a great emcee take great skill and talent, but the emcee requires greater talent, awareness, and flexibility that is not always required from a great keynote speaker.

When I have the opportunity to emcee events, whether conferences, fundraising galas, weddings, or award presentations, I take great care in my planning to know that being the emcee is not about me, but it is about the goal of the event. I plan and prepare thoroughly, but I know, just like the improv actor, that how I’m going to get from point A to point B is not going to be perfectly scripted and that I have to think on my feet and be flexible to take what comes at me to craft a performance that meets the needs of my host, creates an entertaining event, and reaches the goal of the event.

Next time you need an emcee, please consider me. I guarantee that you will be thrilled by the success of your event with me as your partner.

If you’re ready to book me as your emcee for your next event, please go ahead and submit the form below to get the process started.

I look forward to serving you as your emcee!


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