Recently, I attended a company’s annual dinner (not mine, though). It was a uniform-themed occasion and I joined in the fun by appropriately dressing up. And it was great to see people in such a jovial mood at the lobby even before the event began.

Then the party started! The emcee got the attendees to stand up and do a simple dance. Everyone tried their best and had a good chuckle.

The emcee then began proceedings by acknowledging those sitting at the VIP table. Effort was made to memorise their names; so that was really good, I thought. But as the night went on and the VIPs were called up on stage to give their speech and pick out the winners for the lucky draws, there were plenty of awkward moments.

Why? Because the emcee was cracking inappropriate jokes aimed at the VIPs. Sure, they just smiled and nodded but everyone could see that although they were a sporting bunch, it became uncomfortable when the “line” was crossed. If you’re an “external” emcee to do a job, and you hardly know who these people are, think of other creative ways to make the occasion fun and lively.

It became equally uncomfortable when the emcee kept making fun of the staff members’ names. People started to become defensive, but the emcee couldn’t read their reaction and kept embarrassing people that way.

I attended the previous year’s dinner and the emcee was a total hoot! His jokes were mostly self-deprecating and he had a way of getting people to participate and just letting loose. Sure, he poked fun at some of them here and there, but no one thought he was mean-spirited or insulting.

It is important for an emcee to always remain tactful even when emceeing a fun occasion. Feel your way into things. And not every event is the same. Your jokes at Dinner A with all junior staff members, shouldn’t be the same at Dinner B with stuffy senior types. It’s your job to make EVERYONE feel comfortable.

From what I heard, the company has no plans on hiring the same emcee again for any future job, and that’s a clear indication of displeasure. And that’s a real shame.