Words serve as signposts while compering. They are to be used sparingly. As King Solomon wrote: “The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?”1 If words are used sparingly, many mistakes can be avoided by the compere.
A simple, direct, dignified style with words that come from the heart yet stimulating thought would carry the day. A compere sets the tone, facilitates smooth transitions, takes on leadership roles when situation demands and signs off with elan.
Example Mistake #1
Once at college, a friend of mine at the end of a debate competition announced that our Professor would share his valuable ideas on the topic. It was a tense moment. For my friend had not informed our Professor that he would be asked to speak. And the auditorium was packed to full capacity. Anyway, he spoke as he is a great speaker. But later he called my friend and advised him quite strongly never to
do this to another person.
Insight: Never surprise eminent people with off hand announcements that they’ll speak on the topic, that too in front of a packed audience.
Example Mistake #2
At an Inter-University Debate competition a young college student was made the compere of the programme. She might not have had much previous experience. When it was time for the Chief Guest, who was the Vice Chancellor of a University, to be invited to speak, she did so while she sat down at the rear of the stage. It was shocking to say the least.
Insight: Common sense and basic courtesy should not be forgotten while compering.
Example Mistake #3
I once learned a valuable lesson unexpectedly. I met a person known to me. So we talked for some time. Then he asked who the other person with me was. I introduced him saying he is a painter because that is what I thought he did. At that time he said nothing. But later he told me that he is not a painter but an artist who also paints for a living. I then understood that his esteem suffered a blow when I said he is a painter. Therefore we should seek to understand how people like to be introduced. Here many who compere fail.
Insight: When introducing people, always ask how they want to be represented before the crowd. Ask for a brief profile so that you can read it out and introduce them to the audience they way they want it to be done.
Example Mistake #4
“Our Chief Guest of the day is so and so. He’ll be speaking on the topic xyz. We can expect some great insights from him today. But before I invite him to speak let me share some of my ideas about this topic.” This kind of compere is an insult to the Chief Guest. If this person could do the job, why call a Chief Guest and then destroy anticipation, and interest in the topic he has prepared by giving a mediocre presentation just before the keynote address?
Insight: Do not overstep your functional role. You are asked to invite the speaker to share his thoughts; and not to speak on his/her topic.
Example Mistake #5
Much damage is done when those who compere misuse their freedom with the person being introduced. The compere might crack jokes from their shared past by saying that while studying together at college the Chief Guest was called, “. . . .” That might be true, but a public function is not the occasion to share it. Such remarks definitely destroys the serious mood of the audience and will make them view the speaker in a light-hearted manner. That is disastrous as far as the speaker is concerned.
Insight: A compere should be able to understand what is the apt remark for the occasion. Generally frivolous statements should be avoided. Remember what King Solomon said: “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”2
Example Mistake #6
It is not good to indulge in what many have termed “verbal gymnastics” while compering. Recently I heard a compere, who, instead of simply inviting the choir for the welcome song, went on to present a thesis on the importance of music. What he said was mostly irrelevant even as many bombastic words were stringed together without ryhme or reason in his short speech. It was totally inapropriate and uncalled for. He should have simply said, “May I invite the choir for the welcome song.”
Insight: When a simple direct statement is apt and appropriate, do not spoil the moment by making a garland of words with all kinds of wild flowers tied together without sense or sensibility.
Example Mistake #7
Gestures with the hand can spell trouble if not used with caution. Many who compere spread out their hands in wild sweeping motions to their sides and towards the person who is being introduced or invited. Except perhaps in informal settings, this has to be avoided as it destroys the ceremonial propriety that has to be observed. Casual, lazy gestures that spell over-familiarity with the speaker has to be avoided at all costs.
Insight: Always strive to make the audience respect the speaker and hold him/her in high regard even with the way you gesture especially with your hands.
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