Emcees and commentary: advice and what to avoid?

Hi all,

In less than a month, I’ll be picking up the microphone to emcee for one of two divisions at the UK National Championship.

I would like to know what you think makes a good emcee and play-by-play commentary. What did you think of the emcee at a recent event you’ve been to? Are there any common things that emcees do that downgrade the quality of their commentary (e.g., sounding too excited it sounds disingenuous) that I should avoid?

This isn’t my first rodeo! I’m asking because I think there’s always room for improvement and I would be interested in hearing the views of competitors/coaches/volunteers. I have emceed at several VRC and VIQRC competitions over the last few years and it’s great fun. I’m an ex-competitor too, which I like to think gives me an extra perspective.

If the post is too vague do let me know and I’ll try and elaborate. Broadly speaking, I want to hear about experiences with emcees so I can take away the positives and negatives and refine my technique for Nationals.

I should say that I have read through several posts on the forum as well as the emcee guide, too.

4 Likes

We have been blessed with awesome MC’s for the last 6 years. The one that started this year does a great play by play of what they are seeing for the two minutes. They also mimic the referee call-out on who won auto and will say how the team did it. (Lots of parents / viewers don’t know why) They will go “On the red side” and do commentary then go “Moving over to Blue” and then do that side. So you really know who is doing what.

The two caveats (for roboteers that don’t have your MC background) is don’t say things that can be construed as “coaching on the sidelines”. So saying is “23A is moving into position to hang” is OK, saying “Team 23A needs to start hanging now!” isn’t and don’t be mean: “That driver for 23A couldn’t hit the goal if they were right in front of it”.

Sounds like you are pretty much set, good luck!

10 Likes

I have emceed at 2 IQ tournaments.here are some things I have learned that could be applied to VRC as well

  1. Don’t coach, but give the play-by-play. The parents can’t always see the field well, but they want to know what’s going on.

  2. Dumb it down for Grandma and grandpa. There will be some people in the audience that have no idea how the game works. If you say something that uses some technical language, explain what it means.

  3. Have fun. Show your enthusiasm for the students and the vex community. That’s what it’s all about. One of my favorite things to do is if there is a delay before a match, go over to a team and ask them what their strategy is and share it with the audience. (Oh wait. That probably not a good idea for VRC).

  4. Fill the void if needed. One of the most difficult part of emceeing is when the field is rather dull. If some teams are dilly-dallying and others aren’t making progress, you need to keep the audience engaged. Tell a (non-offensive) joke, talk about some rules, or my favorite, thank the reds and scorekeepers. If there is a delay before a score comes out for finals, I like to ask the audience who they think won, or start a wave or something.

I plan to do more events in the future, so if I learn more, maybe I’ll share! Good luck!

6 Likes

Thank you for your reply, Foster!

I do like the idea of being methodical with commentary for VRC, insofar as talking about the robots on one alliance first before moving onto the other. I have found that when I focus on what’s caught my attention at any given moment, it’s easy to miss out on the teams teams making a difference in the background. I find it’s easier to spread commentary for VIQRC matches given that it’s a co-operative game.

Explaining why and how things are scored in certain ways (particularly with respect to auton) is important, too. It’s something I try to do, though more so in the finals (regardless of VRC/VIQRC) because that’s when the majority of people are gathered round and watching. I’ll try do that more often during qualification matches at Nationals.

I definitely agree that as much sportsmanship, if not more, is expected of the emcee as is between the opposing alliances.

3 Likes

I’ve MCd at a couple VRC comps recently and the advice here is all really good. One thing I don’t like hearing during play-by-play is the MC reading out team numbers every time they talk about action. I do it for pretty notable events (like disablements) but when you’re talking about something like defense being played you can just refer to them as red/blue robots.

Another thing that helps comps run better is announcing which teams are queuing between matches (when you dont have specific volunteers for queuing). This has worked wonders and kept the most recent events I’ve worked on schedule. Best of luck!

8 Likes

I agree, it can be quite cumbersome. I realised quite quickly that trying to read number plates on moving robots is not ideal. It’s even more difficult when there are multiple teams from the same org. on the same field. Though I think it’s good to mention team names in eliminations/finals matches, after you’ve seen the robots a fair few times and have associated robots and people with teams.

3 Likes

Now that you mention it, I realise that I haven’t interacted all that much with the teams before matches start. Perhaps I won’t ask them for their strategy in a VRC match, haha, but maybe getting teams to summarise their experience so far. Have they had a particular favourite match up to that point? Which one was their highest scoring? Good shout!

Audience engagement is a great idea, too! Hopefully I’ll get to do more of that at the UK Nationals. I anticipate a far larger audience than what we get at local events. To be honest, I’ve found that at local events some teams who have been knocked out earlier would rather pack up than watch the rest of finals.

3 Likes