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Comparing and Contrasting these Roles

As I write these words I’m on flight PD 386 back to Montreal from Calgary.

I just completed a busy couple of days at the Family Enterprise Canada 2024 Symposium, where I reprised my role as co-Emcee for the third year running.

So I decided it’d be fun to compare the role of Master of Ceremonies to that of Meeting Facilitator, which is more along the lines of my usual work.

I managed to jot down nine similarities on the back of my boarding pass, which I’ll share.

Managing Flow and Timing

A big part of the role of the Emcee at a conference is making sure everybody’s where they’re supposed to be, when you want them to be there.

There’s a flow designed into the schedule, and good Emcees recognize the importance of keeping things on schedule, with an orderly flow of all proceedings.

When facilitating a meeting, it’s a bit different, because the flow and schedule fluctuate more widely, and you have more flexibility in leading the discourse.

But flow and timing are part of your purview in both cases.

My Process, NOT My Content

At the Symposium I just worked, I had zero input on the content, which is nice, because I then don’t feel any responsibility for the outcome, aside from all of the transitions.

If you had input into the content, you’re in a possible conflict, where you might favour some parts of the day and give unfair sway to some presenters over others.

When running a meeting as a neutral outsider, it’s all about process, and you can do a better job if you let the participants supply all (or at least most) of the content.

More About Who I Am than What I Do

I refer to the Being Vs Doing dichotomy from time to time, and it certainly fits here.

I believe that my success as both an Emcee and as a meeting facilitator is more about who I am (or more specifically, who I’ve become) than about any specific thing that I do or say.

Knowing and accepting my role comes first.

Maximizing the Experience for All Participants

That last point creates a nice segue into this one. A major goal of mine in either scenario is to maximize the experience for all participants.

Whether I’m up on the stage or at the head of the table, I adopt a service mentality, whereby the others in the room are the focus.

I know I’ve done well when everyone got the most out of our time together, even those who may have been sceptical going in.

Thinking Fast on Your Feet

The ability to think on one’s feet is a key success factor in both roles. Admittedly, when leading a meeting, especially with an enterprising family, this can be even more of a differentiating factor, because one never knows what might arise, and as a facilitator, it is our job to get things back on the rails.

But even in an Emcee role, there are always hiccups, changes in plans, new info to share, and unexpected delays that you have to be prepared for.

Passing On Key Messages

The need to pass on key messages also occurs in both roles, but is quite different.

From the stage, the messages come from the event organizers, and are to be relayed to the people in the audience, and everyone gets that.

In many family meetings, a prepared moderator will know about some subjects that need to be raised, and can help them come out onto the table, but the way that’s done needs to be much subtler.

Works Better as a Pair

Working as a pair on a stage has many benefits, assuming you and your partner understand your roles and get along well.

In a meeting scenario, having a second pair of eyes and ears is always useful, and 1 + 1 = 5 in terms of the results.

It’s Harder than It Looks

Doing a good job in front of a crowd is not as easy as it looks, and making it look effortless is part of the challenge.

Leading a family meeting is also not easy, and when it is done well, it should look easy, even if it is anything but.

It’s Not About Me

Many of the eight points above boil down to the fact that both these roles are examples of servant leadership, and if you think it’s about you, you’re doing it wrong.