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What they don't tell you about conference MC script writing
11 tips for writing a better MC script for big conferences. Also, livestreaming the wastebook
A quick one today, no time to compile the links and stuff
Writing good MC scripts for the keynote sessions
I’ve been writing the MC script for our upcoming SpringOne conference. I was supposed to go be one of the MCs but had to cancel. It would have been awesome to know both sides of MC script writing - creating it, and reading it. I wrote the MC script last year. And, you know, I’ve watched lots of main stage keynote dog and pony shows (and plenty of goat rodeos). Here’s some quickly typed out tips on writing the MC script:
The content is important, but the timing is more. You need to get a sense for how many words you can put in the slots. Then you can change the words around as much as needed.
Account for walking on and off the stage. I timed myself and it took me about 8 seconds to walk five meters, stop, and say, “Hi!”, including turning a corner at the start (like walking out from behind a curtain). So, double that to 16, round up to 20 if you want to be safe. If the MCs walk off as the people walk on, you can save some time. But, account for them maybe shaking hands, etc.
If the MC is introducing a video, then maybe you can just have the stage go dark and start the video as the MC walks off - saving that walk off time.
Read it out loud a lot, record it. This is for timing, but also to see if its easy enough to say the words, if it sounds “natural,” and if it can be read from a teleprompter.
I record each chunk on its own, watch the recording and time it, work on the text, re-record it, etc. This is better than doing it all at once and matches what the MCs will actually be doing too.
Instead of having the MCs walk on stage, you can always use the “voice of god” (VoG) for super quick intros. The voice of god is an unseen announcer. Keep these very short just name, title, and, optionally, topic, e.g.: “now please welcome Chris Christopher from Acme Inc.” This will shave down walking time and longer intro time. I’d use the same person for the VoG each time.
It’s good to do in-person intros (not VoG) for people you want to respect: executives, customer speakers, inspirational speakers, etc.
You should have the MCs be the first humans the attendees see and hear (there’s usually some opening thing, then they come out). The introduction can be super short, or long if you prefer. At a minimum it should be something like “Hi, I’m MC One. And I’m MC Two. Wow, welcome - this is so awesome, right? You’re tellin' me! Today you’re doing to hear some great stuff like this, and that, and that other cool thing. All your people are great, and the thing we’re here for is great. You’re going to hear about some great things that have been going on, some new great things we’ve been working on for you, and some great stories about people using and benefiting from the thing. Let’s get started with So and So…”
The MCs should generally acknowledge what was just said in the previous section, maybe adding something like “boy, that was great, right?” sort of thing. Their main job in the show is mix together the sessions and to introduce people.
Before you lock down the final draft, you probably want to have 30 to 60 seconds free for last minute additions and shifts. And then, on the day of, there’ll be changes for that, it’s probably good to keep the total MC script time about 30 seconds under allotted. This can be bonus time for other unforeseen things too.
The biggest job is the closing, or “house keeping.” The MCs should tell people what’s coming next, when significant, fun events are, and send them off with some encouraging advice, like to take the time to talk with people. You’re priming people for what to do.
Also, there might be some rookie mistakes you can help attendees avoid. For example, at some conferences, you have to reserve your spot in sessions, and they fill up fast. If that’s the case, you need to tell the audience - I never think to do that so I end up missing a lot of talks that were pre-booked. What are other things you can help them with.
Talks I’ll be giving, places I’ll be, things I’ll be doing, etc.
Sep 6th O’Reilly Infrastructure & Ops Superstream: Kubernetes, online, speaking. Sep 6th to 7th DevOpsDays Des Moines, speaking. Sep 13th, stackconf, Berlin. Sep 14th to 15th SREday, London, speaking (get 50% of registration with the code 50-SRE-DAY) Sep 18th to 19th SHIFT in Zadar, speaking. Oct 3rd Enterprise DevOps Techron, Utrecht, speaking. Oct 5th & 6th Monktoberfest, Portland, ME. Nov 6th to 9th VMware Explore in Barcelona, speaking.
I was reminded this week that it’s good to get out of the house. You might not be surprised to know that I am terrible at that. People are actually great and life affirming to hang out with!
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about starting up livestreaming again. I don’t know - for whatever reasons. After way too much work on a few seconds of intro and outro videos,fucking around with a new YouTube thumbnail), and re-setting up OBS, I did a pretty successful PoC this morning. By “success,” I mean all the technical stuff, the content was just “hey guys!” type of stuff.
OBS should be all set up now so that I can quickly go in and just do them at near clock time. Thankfully, I have somewhere around or over 20 years of podcasting and just showing up and talking, so if I have a topic, or a question, I can go on and on…and on. Speaking of: if you have any questions or topics, send them to me. I questions-driven show is the best: no prep, and people tend to ask things I’d never think to talk about.
LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE…mofos.
At some point in tuning the automatic scene transitions in OBS, I messed up the fad out timing in the intro a little bit, but, overall, it’s not too bad.
OBS is a pretty amazing piece of software, and open source at that. It’s come a long way since I started messing around with it during COVID lockdown.