Take Your Art Seriously, Prepare Well & It's Okay To Say No
As part of our ongoing series, 'India's Most Popular Emcees,' read this exclusive interview with Chaitanya Rathi as he delves into the nuances of his professional journey, preparation process and his learnings over a vast 18-year career
Chaitanya Rathi, a seasoned emcee and host with over 18 years of experience, delves into his captivating journey in the world of event hosting. From a chance encounter during a film internship to becoming the official emcee for an IPL team, Rathi shares pivotal moments that shaped his career. Join us as he reflects on his career highlights, unique hosting techniques and offers valuable advice to aspiring emcees.
Can you share the story of how you entered the world of event hosting and what inspired you to become an emcee?
I did my postgraduate diploma in Event Management and there as interns, they had taken us to Filmfare, through those five days I saw Shahrukh and Saif prepping for their hosting. That time, 2004-2005 was when I thought that this was something I could explore. That's where the seeds of anchoring came in.
Then I hosted the annual day at my college, and one of my friends saw me, he told his mom who was working with a construction company. They called me for a ten-day event.
Because the events industry is so uncertain, I started working in a call centre. I hosted the company’s annual days which had 2,000 to 3,000 people. I had that job for about eight years, and I used to host part-time. Now I've hosted around 2,300 shows across the world, across corporate, weddings, sports, conferences, pageants, lifestyle events, awards, and all of that.
Having hosted over 2,300 events could you highlight a few memorable moments or events that stand out in your career?
What I consider to be the turning point of my career was I was the official emcee for the Pune IPL team back in 2012. That's where my confidence grew leaps and bounds because when you say something and 40,000 people are responding to you, it's a different kind of high and confidence-building exercise.
That was also what convinced me to quit my job because post IPL, a lot of people started getting in touch to host their events.
What in your opinion sets apart a great emcee from a good one and how do you incorporate those qualities into your posting?
I think you need to love people or love audiences. You can't not be a people person to be in this profession. Whatever I'm getting paid for, I try to make sure I deliver much more than that. I open a lot of my shows with Shayari, which I customise and personalise to that specific audience, to that company's name.
I was the first one to start making entries on a hoverboard. I ordered it, I learned it. Practised, fell, recovered, all of that because, in anchoring, everybody wants to know, what can I give extra? What is different in me? How can I stand out?
I also incorporate a little bit of mentalism as part of my act. I do a little bit of magic also, if that suits the event and if that is the requirement. I learned it during the lockdown. It’s about going the extra mile.
Personally, after every event I've hosted to date in the last ten years, I give a handwritten thank you note to whoever has booked me directly. There's a personalised gift that I give them because it's a genuine thank you to them.
How do you handle unexpected situations or challenges during live events? And what lessons have you learned from such experiences?
No live event is complete without unexpected turns and twists because there might be a senior leader who's not reached because of traffic. There could be dancers that are not ready for their act.
I keep a few backup things in my kit, like fillers which I always keep to get the audience involved, to make up for that time or to handle that change.
Changes keep happening. Last week, I hosted a conference for Google, where I was using a teleprompter and the agency was making changes while I was reading. I think these things will come with experience. Every new event is a learning experience. Every show is different, every audience is different, and every vibe is different. Every day you are in a different mood. You can't be in the same zone every time. So, you have to be well prepared. I think preparation is the key.
You’ve been nominated and you've won awards for Best Corporate emcee. How do you ensure your hosting style aligns with the expectations of corporate clients and corporate events?
I make it a point to physically meet the clients before the event. I try to understand what their expectation is, and what message they want to give out to the audience. These things, I think will come from experience, the more you work on your craft. Because every situation, every event, every show is different, every client is different. That experience will help you to sail.
Being the official emcee for the Chennai Super Kings, how did this opportunity come about and what has the experience been like for you?
The match was in Pune and I'm multilingual, they needed a Marathi emcee because the audience was probably 50 per cent Marathi, they also should feel involved and connected. I learned some lines in Tamil too because there were a lot of Tamil people who were coming to attend.
I came up with some slogans for the Pune Stadium which are still being used. Whether I'm hosting or not, that is still being used.
You have to be conscious about your language, conduct, and presenting yourself. I think it's a very important and integral part of the industry because people are looking up to you.
Could you share some insights into your preparation process before hosting a major event or a specific type of function?
I hosted the G20 this year, and I like to be well prepared, I want to know what kind of an audience is there, what age group, what is their work profile, what are their expectations, what the company is looking to get out of that event and I try to see how I can personalise the script. I try to get whatever information there is, whether the agency or client finds it important or not.
I make a flowchart about how things could work, I discuss my fillers and my openings and closings with the event agency as well as the client. We all sit together. I try to make sure everybody's on the same page, and I avoid any surprises from my end.
My dressing and taking care of my throat, that is also part of the preparation. It is not for one show. It is a permanent thing because my voice is what gets me work and that is what is going to keep getting me work.
What advice would you give to aspiring emcees looking to make a mark in the industry, especially in terms of developing their unique hosting style?
Just take your art very seriously, prepare very well and it is perfectly okay to say no. People have a little bit of apprehension to say no in a bid to get the show, get the event. They are ready to compromise but if I'm not comfortable hosting birthday parties, but I want to start doing shows, I want some content for my work, I will say yes, but then I'll end up going there and not giving my best.
It is okay to say no to shows you are not comfortable with. If the client expects you to do something you are not comfortable with, it is again okay to say no. Please put your foot down and say that no, I think this will work better or I will not be comfortable doing this again. A lot of people don't.
It's again, about the communication you have with the client and agency because many people think that what will they think if I say no? That also happens for the females. Female emcees do get exploited about dress options. Send us your dress options and come for a meeting for no reason. You should know how to carry yourself and put your foot down. Be firm about it but polite at the same time.
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