How to run a forum – Step 5

Find a suitable master of ceremonies

Having a good MC is crucial to the success of a forum. The MC will take care of introductions, set the agenda and pace of the forum, handle the audience and keep things running on time. He or she will also create the mood of the event in terms of language used, humour and tone.

It is recommended that you find someone who has a strong presence, has experience in public speaking/running groups, and is knowledgeable about AOD. It is important that this person knows how to handle difficult questions and situations that may arise during the forum, e.g. audience members becoming upset or angry. If media representatives are present, the MC will need to let attendees know so they can remove themselves for photos etc. if they so desire.

Try contacting the following to find a suitable MC:

  • local government agencies (such as councils)
  • CDAT chairs/members
  • AOD/youth organisations.

Troubleshooting difficult situations that could arise.

Just as we encounter different personalities in life, we can expect to meet them at a forum. Here is some advice for the MC on how to handle such people.

  1. If you have a person who is dominating discussion, be polite and respectful but firm. Acknowledge and thank them for their contribution and state that time is running short and we need to hear from everyone. You might also suggest that they come and talk to organisers and/or panel members when the forum concludes.
  2. Within any type of forum or group there is the potential for people to become emotional, and sometimes this can be scary and confronting for the MC and members of the audience. Where possible, try to defuse the situation by speaking calmly and quietly – acknowledge the person’s concerns and assist where possible. Local support organisations could be approached in advance and invited to be present to help audience members.