Have you got a magnetic personality? Can you speak well in public? Do you empathize with the man on the street? Yes? Then you’re clearly not one of our MPs. Which means like average Singaporeans, you’re struggling with the current cost of living. The good news is, you can use your charming persona to roll with the (financial) blows. In this article, I ask part-time emcee Eugene Tay about this booming industry:
Emceeing is getting on a stage, picking up a mic, and insisting everyone pay attention. Just like after your 15th drink at Wala’s, only you’re sober enough to feel embarrassed.
An emcee’s job is to direct audience attention at something; a married couple, a social message, a video game, etc. That’s the easy part. The hard part is keeping everyone’s attention there, for an hour or more. Think of it as a fusion of sales, public relations, and theatre.
Because emcee work has short durations (a few hours a month), it’s becoming the student job of choice. Events manager Xui Han is amused:
“With one e-mail I can get competing quotes from 10 – 15 emcees, usually within a few hours. Where are they all coming from, man?”
From the urge to make money, that’s where.
What’s the Money Like?
I asked Eugene how much it pays:
“At the beginning I was only given about $300 for a Dinner and Dance Event that can last for five hours. These days I can command from $500 – $5000.
It really depends on how large scale the event is. One event I emcee’d for was held at Suntec Convention hall for 5000 participants. That one I took home 5k. A small D&D for 20 people might fetch me only $500. A mall event may bring in $800 – $1200.”
But how much time does this take up?
“An hour before the event, the event itself, and possibly a half hour after.”
2. Why is Everyone Doing It?
A single request for an emcee will flood your mailbox. It’s like the new viagra spam. But why the sudden surge of would-be emcees? Is it something in the water? An extra dash of self-esteem in breakfast cereals?
“Cos it seems like easy money. And for agencies who just hire anyone, an undergrad emcee can get $150 for three to five hours work. That sounds like easy money. It’s just that people are more aware of which job pays a little more during the holidays. Waiters are so yesteryear. Why earn $5.00 per hour when you can earn $50.00?“
3. Mostly A Guy Thing?
Hey, I’m all for gender equality. I wish it weren’t true, but…if you’re female, this may not be the right source of side-income. Emceeing is a guy-dominated industry; there’s a running joke about how emcee is one letter short of MCP.
So, Eugene…why don’t many women get to use this as side income?
“A guy can make fun of himself on stage, get cheap laughs and still be funny. He can be loud, crass, etc. But a girl is judged based on her looks first. An ugly girl won’t grab attention. A good looking girl finds it hard to be loud and funny.
That being said, a girl would be perfect for product launches and mall shows. A guy is better suited for Dinner & Dance, and other “crazy” type events.“
4. Why Not Full Time?
So, solid pay for a couple of hours work. And if you’re full time, you get to up that price further. Why would anyone (like, you know, Eugene) slave in an office?
“Part Time job for me. There are full timers for this line, but it can get really tiring because you have to be a happy bunny all the time. And unless you’re a known celebrity, it is tough to do this full time.
You probably have to take up s***y assignments that you dislike, only because you need to make ends meet. If you do it part time, you can still select the jobs that you would find enjoyable. Remember, if you don’t enjoy your job, your audience will definitely know.”
5. Let’s Talk Qualifications
Is there some sort of emcee school? Some list of qualities you urgently need?
“You better learn to be shameless, fast on your feet, witty, knowledgeable (pop culture references, worldly knowledge, etc). You need a wide wardrobe to fit most occasions. Good emcees create their own games and activities. Even better emcees “produce” their own shows – songs, concept, costumes, games, storyline, etc.”
Oh, and let’s not forget charisma:
“Emceeing is about about showing your personality. You need to shine. You need to CONTROL. You need to improvise. A good emcee controls the stage with his charisma, a bad emcee depends on his surroundings (music, crowd, games, etc).”
6. Don’t Things Go Wrong?
When someone includes “shameless” as a job qualifier, you better brace for eternal YouTube humiliation. So what happens when an emcee messes up on stage?
“There is nothing more embarrassing and demoralising when you mess up on stage. Every young emcee WILL mess up. Even experienced emcees like me mess up.
With enough experience, understanding of human emotions and reactions, you can turn a disastrous situation to your advantage. Think of it as a guitarist playing live on stage. Forgot the chords? Better be prepared to improvise. Fell on stage while dancing? Learn from Robbie Williams. He posed on the ground and continued singing.”
7. I’m Quitting My Job, Boss
I’m leaving to become an emcee. How do I get started?
“Join an agency, grow your contacts. Find out who’s running what, and start hanging out at events.”
Eugene also mentions he got his start when: “I got talent spotted. Agency took me in and gave me gigs.” So there you go; there’s no job application form. It’s just a question of attracting the right attention. And if you can’t do that, well…it’s a sign this isn’t the right job for you anyway.
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