Samme Allen is a familiar face within the meetings and events industry. In the past, she’s held high-profile head of sales and business development roles at venues including the Barbican Centre, Twickenham Stadium and the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC). She’s also served as vice chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership - the umbrella body that represents the industry to government.
These days however, Samme is carving herself out a new role as an emcee and is about to launch an event hosting network of link presenters, trouble shooters and engagement facilitators to moderate virtual and hybrid formats around the world.
“With the rise of virtual and hybrid events, the moderator role has evolved way beyond the CEO trying to host the conference or just having somebody with good subject knowledge chairing panel discussions. It requires television broadcast skills and the ability to engage both in-room and online audiences across different venues, time zones and cultures,” she tells Glisser’s Vanessa Lovatt in episode one of the Hybrid Event Secret Weapons webinar series.
“I may have a show-caller communicating vital information into my ear-piece while I’m interviewing someone on-stage and, at the same time, be monitoring questions from the virtual audience. An emcee needs to be able to read both the physical and virtual room continuously to keep energy levels elevated and maintain engagement.”
To hear more from Samme on the ways that a moderator can help to engage audiences, watch the webinar on demand.
Samme brings all these broadcast-led skills to an event along with a passion for event design and her ability to offer experience-driven advice and guidance on participation and formats.
“You have to remember that hybrid is new to a majority of event planners and there’s a huge amount of uncertainty around creating the experience, using remote studios, briefing speakers and driving engagement across two different audiences,” she says. “We’re all learning as we go but I have the advantage of experiencing all the successes and challenges and being able to guide clients through some of the most common pitfalls so that they don’t make similar mistakes and have a greater opportunity to succeed. That’s why we offer end-to-end support and it’s why an experienced emcee should be brought onboard early in the planning cycle.”
An example from Hybrid Events Ignited - Glisser’s recent multi-hub conference in New York, London and online - was Samme’s suggestion that the in-room audiences needed ‘warming-up’ prior to the broadcast going live.
She says: “Planners are often so concerned about keeping the virtual viewer engaged that they start to neglect the in-room audience. Just as with a television studio audience, in-person attendees need their energy levels raised and to be told what to expect and how the show will work.
This can be done in any number of fun ways before the online broadcast goes live and helps to fully immerse the room. For the online viewer, seeing an in-person audience having a great time may make them decide to attend in future years.”
Samme’s soon-to-launch network of available conference emcees is being developed with three pillars in mind - experience, diversity and sustainability.
For a self-confessed lover of flying and for someone who, before Covid flew 40,000 miles in a single month for four different jobs, Samme is hoping that by connecting clients to experienced local hosts, she can help more companies to achieve their carbon targets while she adopts a more blended travel approach (combining multiple jobs in single trips) to reduce her own environmental impact.
“It’s not just about the environmental impact of flying hosts and speakers around the world for 45-minute presenting slots either,” she says when discussing the sustainability pillar. “There’s cost savings associated with using local suppliers, plus we want to have a more societal impact as well through the diversity of our roster and what we can do to benefit local communities.”
In response to a viewer question and to wrap-up the debut episode of Glisser’s Hybrid Event Secret Weapons webinar, Samme spoke on whether or not a hired emcee should have good subject knowledge, over and above all the broadcast-led skills she’d outlined at the start.
“The honest answer is yes and no,” Samme replies. “By spending enough time working with the client, preparing the speakers, liaising with the content providers and researching script questions, a professional emcee can navigate their way through any specialism.
As an example, I recently hosted the Saudi Arabia Railway Forum and the only thing I knew about trains beforehand was that I wanted to drive one one-day. That said however, our network of moderators do fall into certain areas of expertise and I’m more experienced hosting pharmaceutical and healthcare sector conferences.
Still, I’d recommend professional skills over subject knowledge when sourcing an emcee and I can’t reiterate enough that we need to be a part of the pre-planning and content phases of putting together a virtual or hybrid event so come talk to us as early in the cycle as possible.”
For more information on Samme Allen’s global network of emcees, please visit https://conferenceemcees.com