Without Storytelling, We Just Become Announcers
Read this exclusive interview with Khyati Kava as she speaks with EE about the world of emceeing
In the world of emceeing and public speaking, Khyati Kava stands out as a seasoned professional with a remarkable journey. In this exclusive interview, she shares her insights into the evolving role of an emcee, the importance of storytelling, and her strategies for engaging diverse audiences. Join us as we delve into the world of this dynamic industry.
How did you get started in the world of emceeing and public speaking?
I started very young, I was hosting my annual days and different functions in school, participating in a lot of debates and elections. My first encounter with the stage happened back in childhood, in school and professional emceeing began when I was in college through friends. We were looking to do some part-time work and I stumbled upon events then. That's when I figured that there was a world of events that I was totally unaware of back then.
Can you share some memorable moments from your journey as an emcee?
When I started, I was doing all kinds of variety of events whether it be a mall or a road show, or a college event. I had done all kinds of smaller events in my initial career. My first corporate event happened in Pune, and it showed me that all that experience helped me a lot. At the same time, I think the most memorable one must be this event I did in Andaman, Fort Blair. It was the 75th flag hoisting ceremony in the presence of PM Narendra Modi. The stadium was packed with 30,000 people and the gruelling experience of preparing for that event was very memorable, because it had a lot of protocols that you had to take care of, the kind of language that you could use, and still being able to connect with that wide audience was quite the preparation.
In your opinion, what qualities make for a successful emcee in today's diverse event landscape?
I think the most important would be to be able to adapt and to be able to grasp knowledge quite quickly because you have a very limited period to prepare and be there, sometimes not even a day's time. Sometimes you get to know about the event and all the agenda points at the venue itself. So, to have that adaptability, also have that grasping power to be able to just connect with the content that you are given, I think that's one of the most crucial points. Also, I feel another quality that really works is to have a sense of wit and to be able to just create spontaneous conversations and connections with the content and the audience on a human level.
Can you describe a particularly challenging event you've hosted and how you managed it effectively?
I'm not from a finance background in my academics. So, when I get an event that is more into finance and tech, that's generally a challenging space. But I think just an amount of prep work that we do with the client, having multiple meetings, even on a very grassroots level, just asking them key questions like ‘What are we trying to say to the audience through this event?’
I feel like my style of emceeing comes from simplifying that very technical and very jargon-based industry lingo. So, I try and build my script by simplifying, a more complex language, and a complex concept.
With over a decade of experience, how has the role of an emcee evolved in the events industry, especially in terms of engagement strategies?
I think it has evolved so much. Back when I was starting out, I was asked if I knew games to engage the crowd. That was a general ask. Now, over a period, it has evolved to a space where we've become more of a communication strategist for the event. Rather than just somebody who comes and announces or makes them play games. We try to collaborate and create content, which is more of storytelling, sometimes even theatrical.
The engagement goes beyond that now that can we add our own personal touch to it, our own personal anecdotes, and stories. What are the more intellectually stimulating questions that can be asked as an engagement activity instead of just making them play run-of-the-mill games? So many newer things are being experimented with. Technology is being added and it feels like it's going to be ever evolving.
How do you go about preparing for an event, especially when it involves a specific industry or theme you might not be familiar with?
We must do a lot of research. I sit and look up at the company mottos, visions, and missions. What are they all about? What is the kind of culture? Are they more hierarchical in nature? Are they more open in nature? So, the language and tonality of the event also change according to that.
We have a bunch of meetings before that with the client, with the agency involved as well, to understand what the flow of the event is and what they expect their emcee to be like. Do they want somebody who's super energetic and brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to it? Or do they want somebody who's sophisticated, elegant, and keeps a very formal tone throughout the event? We also get involved in script writing as well, where content and storytelling are added through our creative inputs rather than just a very blank script coming from them.
Could you share some tips for engaging and connecting with diverse audiences during events?
I think the first and foremost is to be able to connect with them through conversations. My go-to mantra always has been to engage with audiences, no matter what kind of event it is. A pro tip I can give is to build some trivia. I think trivia works well, no matter what kind of audience it is. But obviously, you must tweak the trivia according to the audience if you're working with different industries. I think those two things really work for me.
Apart from emceeing how are you diversifying into other domains?
I hosted an event for a fintech start-up, Jupiter Money, and at the end of the event, they offered me to join the company. We did a consulting project together for almost one and a half years where I helped with employee engagement, employer branding, and culture building. I find that experience itself was really enriching because I used all my experience as an emcee in a corporate context. I realized that even though I have a very niche skill set which is for events, it can be diversified and used in different domains. Working with an HR department in the startup, we realized that there were so many elements that were still about engaging with people, still about how to create joyful moments for the employees, were still about those things that emcees like me do at events anyway.
What role does storytelling play in your approach to emceeing?
Plays a major role. I think without storytelling, we just become announcers, which was the ask initially, but now if you can create a story around the content you're talking about or the industry you're talking about, built with facts, some personal stories, anecdotes, I think that just makes you more of a part of the event.
With the rise of virtual events, how have you adapted your emceeing for online audiences?
I think the pandemic hit us all, and quite harshly, we all had to adapt. I think, thankfully, I was one of the first few MCs who started doing a lot of virtual events. I believe with BW and E4M, I must have done over 100 virtual events at that point in time. We adapted quite quickly, and I think it just became a different medium to connect with your audience. For us as an industry and for me individually, it was basically just pushing through that hard phase.
What advice would you give to aspiring emcees looking to make a mark in the industry?
My two cents would be to start from the base, maybe start in your college, start with birthday parties, family functions, and anything that can put you on stage. The more you go on stage, the better you will get. There is no other way, there is no foolproof blueprint that you can use to become a great emcee. It is going to be trial and error. Keep going on stage and building that confidence and building that improvisation skill.
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