I never understood people who enjoy, no, thrive on public speaking. Some go as far making it their career to convince public speaking novices like me to know your audience, imagine everyone is naked, and most importantly, be confident. It didn’t help me then, and it sure as hell is not going to help me now or anything soon.
I am sure this innate fear is life serving me a dish of karma for all the times when I, as a student, never paid attention to my lecturer in front trying her best to get through to a group of rowdy undergraduates. I choose Biscoff and bread, ma’am, instead of listening to whatever you have to say, thank you very much.
Now I live life every day with a crippling fear of addressing a group of people in public which makes my work as a writer all the more enticing. That is why someone like Ram intrigues me. He’s a professional emcee with the most intriguing voice that somehow manages to cut through the crowds of people at the recent Comex show held at Suntec City Convention Centre. Sure, sometimes people ignore him, but the immaculate professional he is, Ram never waivers in his dedication to his craft.
My intrigue and curiosity for the art of public speaking has led me here to Ram’s home at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 on a Monday afternoon. His god-sister Lina opens the door, and immediately I’m thrown off by the setup behind her. Bright studio lights illuminate a plain backdrop with two chairs set up on opposite ends of a table in the room. In front of the table, Lina prepares two Canon DSLR cameras, ready to film this interview. A few moments later, Ram walks in, shakes my hand firmly and introduces himself.
“Are you okay with being filmed?” he asks. Still slightly taken aback, I nod my head, composed myself, and proceeded with the interview.
Alfieyah Abdullah: What inspired you to pursue emceeing as a career?
Ram Krish: I joined Class 95 FM’s Radio Star in 2017 and reached the top five. I was crippled with fear at that stage, and that’s probably why I lost the whole competition. It was fun, but I decided I wanted to do something else where I could utilise my voice.
I also wanted to do something more with my life instead of just acting, a little bit of voice-over work and conducting motivational training for schools.
There’s a bigger purpose, too. I was from the Normal Technical stream. Most people have the impression that coming from this stream, you won’t have the ability to speak well. I wanted to break that stigma.
A: How long have you been emceeing?
R: I’d say a good five years now. Probably since I was 24? I’m 31 now, so it’s been slightly longer than that. I was a sommelier back then with the Les Amis group, where I had to host a couple of events. That was when I realised that being an emcee could be something that I could get accustomed to.
A: Why did you not want to go into broadcast then?
R: Maybe it’s an opportunity that I have yet to encounter. Right now, with a family, it’s not easy. I’d rather choose to spend time with my daughter as opposed to having all that money.
A: What do your pre-event rituals look like?
R: If it’s a kid’s program, no alcohol. Everything else starts with alcohol. *laughs* If it’s going to be a large-scale event like a dinner and dance or a wedding, I need to at least have a pint of beer; not because I’m an alcoholic! It helps me feel a bit more relaxed, and I feel a bit more like myself. If it’s a kid’s show, I’ll pop a lollipop and have just warm water. Everyone gets nerve-wrecked. This is a way for me to pace myself throughout the entire event. My mantra is to make sure that everyone’s happy.
A: For events such as Comex, how much earlier are you given the script to prepare?
R: With Comex, I’ve been working for this phone company brand for a year now. It’s usually the same process—they’ll give me the script about a week in advance with their pointers, and I’ll make it work from there. The brand also has a familiarity with me. It depends on the partnership between the client and the host. I’ve also created my own script on several occasions. They’ll share with you the price point, and you’ll need to know a little bit of background knowledge of the product. Preparation is usually best done 24 hours before the event.
A: What’s a day in the life of an emcee?
R: A typical day of an emcee is not always rainbows and sunshine. It also compromises of fifty per cent sales and marketing, thirty per cent delivery and twenty per cent upgrading our skills as presenters.
A: What’s the biggest misconception about being an emcee?
R: The biggest misconception is that anyone can speak, so people will hire an emcee that’s cheap to present at the event. Clients need to ask themselves if this person will have enough knowledge of the product and the background of the event, or if they’re spontaneous enough. They must also be adaptable to changes.
Emcees are called Masters of Ceremonies for a reason—we’re able to change and lighten up the mood of a room and make everyone feel as if you’ve known us for the past decade.
A: Which event have you presented for where you felt immense pressure?
R: It was a close friend’s wedding. When you’re presenting for a friend’s special day, you’re no longer thinking about the money but more so about their happiness. It’s different from when a client pays you where, regardless of what happens, you have to finish your job. With friends, you might know the person for a few years or maybe even decades, and you want to keep the smooth friendship sailing.
For the wedding, I managed to remain enthusiastic right up to the point where the ceremony began; after which I felt that I was going to screw everything up and I was questioning everything I said or did. In reality, no one was picking on me. I was afraid that I wouldn’t do my friend’s wedding proceedings justice.
A: What advice would you give to someone who wants to enter the industry and wants to become an emcee?
R: That they can and should do it. This industry will teach you how to think on your feet, and it’s going to help you develop a better sense of human and social skills.
I hope they remember not to lowball their rates and to understand and empathise with others in the industry too. Although most people do emceeing for extra income, others are doing it as a full-time gig. If you start lowballing your rates, it will have a domino effect. The client might accept it as the market rate and think that it’s okay to be paying just that amount.
In the future, emcees might just be paid a dollar. We might as well go back to work in Maccas. If you’re going to do something, know what you’re worth.
A: How do you advise those who are starting out?
R: This industry, unlike many others, is a selfish one. No one’s going to be sharing knowledge readily or giving you all the opportunities you need. My advice is to create your portfolio first so that you’ll have it ready when clients ask for it.
Your portfolio should have an introduction of yourself, why people should choose you, and how you would promote a product. This will be how people judge whether you’re genuine and if you are a perfect fit for what they require.
Go out and host kids birthday parties and get someone to film them. Don’t jump straight into a wedding because that’s a once in a lifetime event. You don’t want to screw that up unless you expect the same emcee to host for the same groom multiple times! The best way is to approach marketing companies and event organisers. Not many of them will be too keen to have someone new overnight because they do want to see some credentials. Then again, how are you going to start if no one’s out there to help you?
Go out and approach people. Regardless if it’s marketing or event organisers, or even people like me. Once you do that, we’ll be eager to share what we’ve learned in our career with you too.
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