Great lighting is key. Smart décor is a must. But the mood of any gala, auction or awards ceremony lies largely on the shoulders of its master of ceremonies. Who you choose to represent your cause or organization on stage can be the difference between an event that is “ho-hum” or “electrifying.”

Texas Meetings + Events reached out to three of Texas’s favorite emcees. They shared with us how they got where they are—and what they’re doing now—along with some sage advice.

TiWanna A. Kenney
TiWanna "TK" Kenney is a self-described “woman of the world,” growing up a little bit everywhere—her father was in the army and her mother worked for the Department of Defense. She lived in Berlin when the wall came down, and it was there in Germany where she found her passion for helping others see the beauty in themselves and their differences.

Kenney moved to Austin in 2006 to attend culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu, deciding cooking was the best way to feed the soul. Her resume also includes a stint in the financial services industry—a perfect complement for a fundraising auctioneer.

M+E: Tell me a little bit about what you do for a living. 

I work with nonprofits to help them realize their wildest fundraising dreams. I serve as an event strategist preplanning and then serve as an auctioneer/fundraiser/emcee at their events. I work all around the country and honestly,  could not have imagined the immense joy that would come from helping people. I am licensed and actively work in California, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington state. I have the opportunity to partner and volunteer with incredible nonprofits doing, what I like to call, the “heartwork.” It is a life-changing and humbling experience.

In these times of COVID-19, we are still working to serve nonprofits by changing course with virtual events. This has been quite an interesting learning process, but we have spent hours working to find the best techniques to continue raising money for our nonprofit partners. Donors want to give, and it is important that we maintain and communicate with them. Virtual events can be elaborate, or they can be small productions full of heart. I have found the most important part of going virtual is telling a great story. You have to deliver the information in a way that can touch the heart through the eyes, so visuals are integral.

M+E: What was your first emcee job? 

My first emcee job was at a conference for college planning, while in banking. I spent a lot of time working with parents for financial education/college planning/federal student aid, and the work was presentation heavy. 

M+E: What do you like about emceeing? 

I love connecting with audiences and finding their energy. It’s a chal- lenge walking onto a stage with 200 people—even more so with 2,000. When I think about the fact that I am there to quickly find the com- monalities with that many people, it  is a challenge I gladly take on. Some like humor; others want facts, data and statistics. But no matter what, I deliver charisma and respect to those I am in front of.

M+E: What was your most memorable event? 

I will go to my first gala emcee event. It was...interesting. I was finding my niche with a crowd that was extremely diverse in culture, age and backgrounds. Finding the common ground of happiness, joy and what gets them pumped up to stay engaged throughout the program took me through many personalities. I laugh at the videos because my voice was pitchy—I was hyper excited—and any reaction I received from them made me turn that energy up three notches. We  had a great time, but boy oh boy am I happy that I have found my new presence.

M+E: Do you have any tips for event planners looking to hire an emcee? 

It is important that you know the energy you want in an emcee or moderator before you begin the search. A good question to ask yourself is what do you want the guests to feel when they are walking out of the door? Your emcee is the pacesetter. They are responsible for keeping the program on track, lifting the spirits if something goes awry, keeping time, sometimes filling time, and watching and feeling the energy in the room. It’s so much more than reading a script. Also, think about whether or not you are willing to write a script or if you want an emcee to use talking points and expound. Those are good bases to start with. The local newscaster is great; however, if you want a specific dynamism, you may need to look a little further. 

Chuck Cureau

One of San Antonio's most sought-after emcees, Chuck Cureau was born into a military family and traveled the world as a child, living in Greece, England and all over the United States. After settling in San Antonio, he studied television journalism and acting. He took a job as a tour guide at SeaWorld San Antonio to improve his public-speaking skills and soon became fascinated with training animals as a way to educate and entertain the public. So, at the age of 21, he taught himself to swim and took a job as a whale and dolphin trainer.

Cureau has hosted countless events for organizations, such as Valero, the City of San Antonio, the Miss San Antonio Pageant, SeaWorld San Antonio and the San Antonio Spurs. He has also had featured acting roles in “The Life of David Gale” (with Kate Winslett), “The Boys of Ghost Town,” “The Sunsetters” and “Spy Kids 4.”

M+E: Tell me a little bit about what you do for a living. 

Currently I’m public relations director at SeaWorld San Antonio. I’m also an event emcee, NBA arena announcer, SeaWorld marine mammal trainer, actor and karaoke champion. In addition, I’ve served as a national spokesperson for SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, appearing as an animal ambas- sador on several popular national talk shows.

M+E: What was your first emcee job?

I was the host of a radio show at the age of 12 on the Armed Forces Radio Network in Greece.

M+E: What do you like about emceeing?

I really enjoy the connection with the audience and the fun we have. I’ll jump off stage and interview someone spontaneously or will pull someone onstage and dance with them! Once establishing a rapport with the audience, it’s thrilling to then switch modes and deliver the message of the event, be it fundraising for a nonprofit, bringing awareness to a cause or helping to motivate a workforce.

M+E: What was your most memorable emcee event? 

So many to choose from! There have been several instances during Spurs games when I have met people with special needs or significant illnesses. It’s always rewarding to take a moment to spend time with them and enjoy their company, hear their story and meet their loved ones. I’ve had those same loved ones approach me, sometimes months after the event, and tell me how that moment of connection made them feel. I am particularly struck by one young child who was battling cancer, and I stopped to share a moment and a laugh with her. After her pass- ing, her parents told me that it was a very happy time for their daughter and one that they will never forget.

M+E: Do you have any tips for event planners looking to hire an emcee?

When looking for an emcee, make sure you hire someone who can deliver your message and achieve your ultimate goal. Experienced emcees can balance funny and having a big personality while reining it all in and transitioning to the purpose of the event.

To make an emcee’s job easier, please find time to give them as much background information on the event and cause as you can. Take them on a tour of your business/nonprofit and inform them of the history of the event. Provide them with a script, run-of-show and additional talking points that they can pull from to use opportunistically during the event. The more we know about the organization, the better we can achieve your goal. Some sort of script is essen- tial but allow the emcee to modify it to make it his or her own. Meet days before the event to go over the script so they can offer suggestions. Your emcee is not only a speaker, but also, in the case of experienced ones, a consultant who can help make the event run smoother and have a better flow.

Emcee work takes training, practice and preparation, and emcees should be compensated for their work. Just as an event has a budget for the venue, food, A/V equipment and entertainment (DJ or band), event planners should budget for emcee services. An emcee’s compensation should be based not on the number of hours that they will work at an event, but rather by the value they bring to the event.

Steve Kemble 

Event planner and emcee Steve Kemble, known as “America’s Sassiest Lifestyle Guru,” was recently profiled in The New York Times and has been named one of the top 10 event planners in the world by Departures magazine. He has thrown bashes for the likes of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, the Dallas Cowboys and Oprah Winfrey, and has made a number of TV appearances on shows ranging from “Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition” to CBS’s “The Early Show.”

Kemble’s first job out of college was with the event staff for U.S. Congressman Jim Collins. After Collins failed to unseat U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Kemble joined the Dallas Chamber of Commerce public rela- tions department and later served on the Statue of Liberty Restoration campaign under Lee Iacocca.

At only 26 years of age, Kemble founded his event-planning company, Steve Kemble Event Design. His work has been showcased in publications such as Real Simple Weddings, and, as a celebrity party planner, his tips and advice have been featured in magazines such as US Weekly, People, and Every Day with Rachel Ray. He also founded the Dallas chapter of International Live Events Association and served as the president of the Dallas chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He has garnered more than 25 industry awards, including MPI Planner of the Year. He has been inducted into the event industry hall of fame and is the youngest recipient of the Special Event GALA Lifetime Achievement Award.

M+E: Tell me a little bit about what you do for a living. 

Over the past decade, I've expanded my brand to include TV, radio and emceeing, appearing on "Good Morning America," "The Today Show," "E's Oscar's Red Carpet," and NBC's "Globes' Red Carpet," among others. 

I’m also active in the National Association of Catering and Events and served on its national board of directors. I was a founding member of the SEARCH Foundation and went on to serve as the chairman of the organization.

M+E: What was your first emcee job?  

Back in 2008, I was the event planner for a major corporate event, and the emcee for the evening had a flight cancellation due to weather and could not make the event. My client turned to me and said, “I think you would be great! Would you fill in?” I said, “100%!” And with that, I found my love for emceeing events!

M+E: What do you like about emceeing? 

It is both exhilarating and exciting!  I truly believe it is the role of the emcee to send the audience positive and energetic vibes, which will contribute to them having a memorable evening, and in many cases resulting in the organization raising much-needed funds!

M+E: What was your most memorable emcee event? 

I was the emcee for the Vine & Dine Dinner and Auction to benefit Ability Connection, a nonprofit dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. While on the stage during the    live auction portion of the evening, a gentleman raised his hand and asked if I would be willing to auction off the jacket I was wearing on stage. (In the emcee world, I am very much known for my wardrobe. I will usually dress in the theme of the event and change four or five times during the course of the evening.) I responded, “Sure I will. Can we start the bidding at $2,000?” He said, “Yes!” A bidding war ensued, and the jacket I was wearing that evening sold for $6,500, with all the money going to the charity. That felt so good!

When it comes to planning events, planners must be choosy when determining the venue. Setting priorities like location, size, and technological capabilities sets them up for a successful event, but often forces them to weed out dozens of venues due to their limitations. Although sometimes, a venue comes along that provides the perfect location, high-speed technology, and much more without having to compromise.

 

Whether a team is still working from home, or has made a phased return to the office, the past few months have seemed monotonous with not as many in-person meetings and events to break up work weeks. Meeting with a group boosts motivation, and Zoom meetings can’t compare when it comes to rallying morale. After months at home, planning small meetings and corporate getaways away from home is a great way to motivate and revitalize a team’s performance–especially when the destination provides all of the benefits that Colorado offers.

 

Nickole Kerner Bobley describes her childhood in The Woodlands as charmed. Summer days were spent exploring the community just north of Houston. One of her favorite activities was watching the installation of The Woodlands’ iconic public art. She and her friends would sit in awe, perched on their bikes, as the giant cranes carefully positioned the sculptures in place. It had a lasting impact on her. “I attribute my adult love of art to where I lived,” she notes.