When Samme Allen launched conferenceemcees.com, the first of its kind, global and sustainable resource for professional conference emcees, moderators and facilitators back in January this year, she did so partly because as an emcee herself, she wanted to be part of a community of like-minded people doing the same professional role.
“I was looking for network where I could grow and develop and find a safe space for referring and it didn’t exist,” she explains.
Now, eight months on, the business is going from strength to strength, growing from one person – Allen on her own – to a team of four representing a network of over 70 emcees, moderators and facilitators, known as associates, around the world.
Still regularly hosting events herself, including doing a fantastic job at the micebook V Awards and Expo events earlier this year, Allen is focused on growing the network and carving out its place in the industry, while promoting sustainability and diversity, two of the company’s main pillars. We caught up with her to find out more.
While business is “storming”, there is still a lot of educating to be done around the value that professional emcees and moderators can bring to business events. One of the few positives to come out of Covid, according to Allen, was that it highlighted the importance of the moderator or facilitator to the success of an event. With audiences spread across the world, and crossing the virtual and in person world, conference organisers struggled with engagement and continuity during the pandemic.
“It has really emphasised the importance of the moderator skillset and raised the bar on what we do as a career. There are some brilliant speakers in the world that you can source via speaker bureaus, but there aren’t as many that can also moderate well. They are two very distinctive skill sets and our goal as a business is to specialise in the provision and sourcing of the professional conference moderator.”
Elevating the event programme
“We are the glue that holds an event together. An experienced emcee will connect the many threads of a conference or event, weaving together aspects of the meeting; content, speakers, audience, partners, to create a cohesive event rather than a meeting with many parts. We seamlessly manage the flow of the event, the segues between people and content and most importantly the unexpected challenges that might arise during the event, from creating energy with non-engaging panels, to supporting nervous speakers and dealing with technology breaking down, without any change to delegate experience.”
As the crucial link between the meeting owners, the event organisers, the production team, the speakers and the delegates, an emcee also ensures that there are solid take aways, that themes and messages are reinforced as well as providing consistent facilitation of the event to keep conversations focused, productive, engaging and advancing.
Yet, despite all the expertise and experience an emcee brings to the table, Allen admits that getting budget for a moderator or emcee can be challenging. “People don’t bat an eyelid to pay the likes of Steve Wozniak £500k for a 45-minute talk, but they might not have a budget to pay a reasonable fee for a professional moderator. Our recommendation to all event organisers is to align your speaker and moderator budgets early in the planning phase. Both are critical to the success of your event and fair budgets should be allocated to both roles”
She adds that once a client has used an emcee, they quickly realise the value they bring. “We have never had a client come back to us and say we don’t want an emcee next year. They might want a different host, but once you hire an emcee, it’s unlikely you would not hire again because all stakeholder experiences are so much richer.”
Sustainability and diversity are key pillars of the organisation, threaded through from the start of their B Corp Pending process, to providing exact measurement of carbon footprint to clients, and sourcing of professionals that are located near the event destination. With gender parity, diversity and inclusion all featuring as critical in business success, conferenceemcees.com can provide support to achieve this with its diverse community of professionals.
Initially focusing on providing conference emcees in and around tier one cities in Europe and North America, Allen’s ambition is to grow the network so it can provide clients with a great choice of local hosts who don’t have to fly long distances that cost businesses in terms of budget and carbon footprint.
As the network of associates continues to grow, Allen says that the community element remains incredibly important. “We don’t just put associates on our books and ignore them. We host regular meetings and professional development events for our community, including a series of networking and educational events alongside partnering with organisations to support our community with their mental health and wellbeing. We are constantly looking at ways to help our community learn and develop so we can keep providing the best possible service for our clients.”