Standing on stage, with hundreds of eyes on you and the spotlight shining in your eyes, can be a pretty daunting experience. What is it like to host a major event? We speak with Robin Loh, one of the emcees from SMU Broadcast and Entertainment (SMUBE) hosting the various events at the ASEAN University Games 2016. Robin will be hosting the Badminton finals for the games.

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Make the athletes feel like rock stars. That’s one of the things we learned from Mark Richmond and the team from Sport Singapore during our emcee training sessions leading up to the ASEAN Para Games. That was a really cool, really nice experience. You have to treat the athletes like they’re rock stars, amp the energy and crowd up, so that when they enter, ready to take on the field, they feel like champions already!

The spotlight is very much on the athlete. It’s definitely never on us, the emcees. The ASEAN Para Games was especially memorable and a real step up from school events, even major ones like Convocation and Patron’s Day, because it’s on an international level. Having hosted ASEAN Para Games, I’ll take this experience and hopefully turn some of our athletes at the ASEAN University Games into some real celebs.

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Robin, on the right, hosting Convocation with a strong team of emcees from BE

With the home crowd, we’ll definitely put in more effort to amp up the energy a bit, especially when we’re announcing “representing Singapore!” We don’t overdo it of course, and we make sure to be energetic and pumped up for athletes from all countries. It’s especially awesome when we secure a medal for Singapore. We tend to underestimate our athletes and their sporting achievements and ambitions, so it’s great to be part of these events as we build up our sporting foundation.

Take your time. Enjoy the moment and remember to build up the suspense a little bit more. That’s one useful piece of advice I got from the DJ at the ASEAN Para Games. It’s crucial to slow down your pace a little bit so that people can take time to digest what you’re saying. That’s especially important with an ASEAN audience. Not everyone speaks English as a first language, so we need to put in the effort to pronounce our words properly, speak slower and keep things simple and impactful.

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Left: At the ASEAN Para Games in 2015 Right: Hosting an event at Singapore Street Festival 2015

Before I go up on stage, I’ll be preparing and psyching myself up. I visualise myself at the event, whether it’s a stadium or stage, and just imagining how it’ll be. Preparing myself for the worst as well, just in case anything screws up. That way, I can be more prepared to adapt and improvise on the spot.

I’m always a little anxious just before I head out. I’ll drink some water as my throat gets very dry when I’m nervous. I’ll go through what I want to say in my head, to make it flow as best as possible. I’ll relax my body and jump around, shrug my shoulders, loosen up. Even though I’m relaxed, my voice has to be super energetic, because if the intro is a downer, it sets us up very poorly for the rest of the day.

It’s important to start well and give that real impact to show that this is an event that you, the audience should care about.

It’s same whether on stage or presenting in class. Rehearsals are super important even if it’s on your own. Visualise your part in your mind. Make sure you know what the rest of the team is talking about, obviously, so that you can handle any Q&A’s. Even if you’re not sure of your answers, don’t show it on your face. Be confident and as calm as you can. The truth is that everyone’s nervous, but you just go for it and do your best.

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One of my favourite hosting experiences was at a SMU Voix concert. I really enjoy watching their a cappella performances, so when I got the chance to host them, I was super happy. I was very nervous as well because I didn’t want to let my directors, who’d chosen me to host, and my friends in Voix down. Luckily, I was hosting with Royce Lee, who’s very experienced and guided me along. It was a totally new experience, very fun and it really pushed me to become better.

When hosting with a co-host, one of the biggest and most exciting challenges is improvising and reacting on the spot. You’ve got to have an implicit understanding of what each other is going to say, and how we’re going to react, which is really challenging. Not everything we said came from the script. It was very fun because we made the audience laugh. The vibes were really good and everyone had a good time.

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Robin and Royce, hosting SMU Voix’s Do You A Cappella 2015

With that experience, I proved to myself that I can improvise on stage. It’s exhilarating. It’s difficult to describe the feeling. It’s just very satisfying. It’s one thing training for it; it’s another when you’re on stage and doing the actual thing. The pressure is on when the spotlight hits you. You can’t really see the audience clearly. You can’t gauge reactions, except only by sound. And when you get it, it’s an incredible feeling.

Improvisation will definitely be helpful at the ASEAN University Games. You have to quick, and react on the spot when the results come in. You have to know how to pronounce their names correctly, and who to go to and ask if you’re not sure. Confidence is key as well. Without all the experiences I’ve had, I don’t think I’ll be able to do a good job at the AUG at all. At least now, I’m on a better footing to represent SMU and Singapore in a better light.

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What’s my greatest takeaway from my hosting experience?  Be brave. Go ahead and pursue what you want to do. I’m naturally a quiet guy but I have an interest in making people laugh, that’s why I gave hosting a try. I auditioned in my freshman year, and I failed. I don’t know why I tried again as a sophomore, but thankfully I managed to get in. It just proves to me that I can do things if I put my heart into it.

Appreciate every experience you’ve had. Don’t forget the lessons that you’ve learned, or whoever is trying to teach you along the way, because you’ll never know when they’ll come in handy. Even though the journey will be tough and full of obstacles, there’s always something positive to gain. You just have to look harder to find the silver lining.

If it’s something you really want, you will eventually find a way to succeed, one way or another.
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Cheer on our athletes at the ASEAN University Games, happening in various venues across Singapore.

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