Anna: Welcome to podcast episode number 10. You’re here with Anna Wang. We’re kind of doing a little bit of a different intakes of who our guests are. Today we’ve got a special guest Jessica Kalalo who is an amazing MC in the Sydney industry. I probably would say Jessica a lot of people always think because she’s got an Asian background and she looks Asian that she’s an Asian MC. Welcome, Jess.
Jessica: Hi. Thanks for having me, Anna.
Anna: So, Jess being an MC you’re still really young and vibrant but who is your audience when your MCing? Because of the nature of the fact that you look Asian you are Asian. What languages do you speak?
Jessica: I speak English predominantly as you can tell from my accent my Aussie twang. I speak a little bit of Indonesian and I can say some greetings in some other languages. As long as you teach me, I’m happy to learn. But otherwise, it’s predominantly English.
Anna: So, predominantly your actual clients your brides and grooms the people that come to you what nationalities are they?
Jessica: There are a whole mixture of nationalities; [inaudible 00:01:17.20], Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians. What else I’ve had? Chinese, I’ve had Greek, Ozzie, Indian, you name it. And Scandinavian as well.
Jessica: It’s been amazing.
Anna: Great. That’s great. What made you become an MC?
Jessica: Oh, can I tell you how it started? There were probably three incidents on how I kind of started. The first was I had this high school friend who was getting married and she had picked a bridal party and she knew I was comfortable with speaking in public. So, she asked me to be her MC and I thought, this will be easy. This will be really, really so easy that I could do it with my eyes closed. But I was so wrong.
She had a very very beautiful wedding out in La Perouse and there was an Indonesian procession. I’ve never seen it before since her wedding. There were all these people bearing gifts and there were people with instruments and drummers and dancers. It was absolutely beautiful. Throughout the whole time I thought, okay this is easy. Introduce the next person, introduce the next person. Okay job done. And you know what I’ve got to do? I forgot to announce the groom’s speech. That was the first time I was actually asked to MC.
The second time I was asked to MC, this was by a random friend from church. I thought I’m not going to make the same mistake again. Can you believe I went to the library because I’m a bit of a geek like that. And I went, “Are there any books on how to be a wedding MC?”
Anna: Oh, my goodness.
Jessica: And there is.
Anna: There is?
Jessica: Yes, there is. Can you believe it? It’s by Pete Miller on How to be an MC. I read that back to back. It gave me the best tips. It was the best book for anyone wanting to be an MC actually.
This wedding, I’m really thankful to this couple Christian and Rizza[?]. They actually trusted me enough to do their wedding and that was at the QVB at the time. I just had an absolute blast. And thanks to that book it was just the start of something that got increasingly better and better and better. And yeah, and the rest has been from going from friends, then other friends ask, and other friends ask, to finally to people I have never met before asking.
Anna: [Inaudible 00:03:40.07].
Jessica: Yeah, exactly right. I still can’t even believe I can call it that, but yeah.
Anna: Do you do this full time or it’s like more of a hobby still?
Jessica: It’s kind of like a phase of in between actually, because I come from a hospitality background. Studying tourism business, got into hotels, got into the airlines industry. So, always customer service. Having worked full time and doing this MCing on the side, slowly there’s been more MC gigs and it’s been slowly taking up more of my time. But we can talk about the other things that take up my time at the moment. There are a few things happening.
But yeah, it’s probably a part time thing, but I absolutely love it. I can’t believe I can actually do this work, to be honest.
Anna: The MC is probably one of the most important person in a wedding because you literally run the whole night. If you weren’t there and you weren’t organized, you’ll probably find like, okay so when’s the cake cutting or when’s the speeches or what’s happening? A lot of brides that I’ve noticed that come to me is, I’m just going to get a family friend to do it. I’m just going to get my brother to do it. What can you give a bride in advice of what not to do in choosing an MC?
Jessica: Well, in choosing an MC, it is absolutely lovely to have somebody that you’ve known for a very long time to MC for you. That’s absolutely fine. But what people don’t realize is like you mentioned, it’s about timekeeping. It’s about prompting people. It’s about gathering people together and grabbing everyone’s attention to make sure the night runs smoothly.
Your friend or your cousin may not necessarily want to be there in the first place. They might want to have a drink and a boogie and they just want to get their party on. An MC is actually dedicated to you to make sure everything runs smoothly. When the bride and groom are getting ready, your MC is getting the crowd ready as well. They’re getting everybody prepared. The vibe is going to be there because of that MC.
If the cake’s gone wonky, the MC is going to fix it. If someone’s going to gone missing, the MC is going to call them. If there’s an issue with random people turning up at your wedding and needing a spare seat at the last moment, the MC is going to help you with that because they’re almost like the go-to person on that night to help solve any issues. Because the bride is just supposed to honestly enjoy and not worry.
Anna: Enjoy and not worry.
Jessica: Exactly. Yeah.
Anna: How does the bride and groom choose their MC? Or how does a venue recommend an MC? There’s so many MCs out there today. There are so many nationalities out there that’s, so many bilingual speaking people. How does a bride choose their MC? Why would they choose you, Jess?
Jessica: Oh, you’re right. There is a whole sea of MCs. Some people are recommended by word of mouth. Some people see a beautiful website or Instagram but then again, it’s only pictures. They choose I think based on… For me personally, it comes from word of mouth. People have experienced an event that I’ve done.
It’s quite a funny thing. Every time you’re up on stage, you had an extra 200 to 300 pairs of eyeballs on you. The impression that you leave behind on them sticks to that person. They would remember you for their own wedding or a cousin’s wedding or something like that. It’s something that you can ask your friends about, I would say, because a lot of times guests think, oh I will never hire that MC or, I would hire that MC for very different reasons. So, whether they speak another language, it depends what you’re looking for actually.
I do a lot of storytelling in my MC works. I don’t just introduce a dad, father of the groom. I just give a bit of a background story on each of the speakers. I think that’s a little bit of a point of difference that I’d like to have. It makes it more personal because you know what? You have couple spending so much money on this amazing reception venue, and you’d want someone who’s invested in making that party extra special. It’s not just calling up, okay next speaker, next speaker.
Anna: Exactly. It’s an experience.
Jessica: Exactly right. Stories are deserved to be told. Because if you think about it, only half the room know the bride, only half know the groom, or might be a whole section courtesy of parents inviting their friends that don’t know the bride and groom at all. But what I hope to do when I MC is get everybody in the same kind of standard. And so they kind of know a bit about…
Anna: A bit about…
Jessica: Yeah. It makes for a really special experience. Yeah.
Anna: How do you how do you find working with other vendors? When you get there on the night, obviously, everything should be almost finished. Your flowers should be up. Chandeliers should be up. The venue should have all their cutlery ready and then the breads on the plate. Have you ever like gone to a wedding and it’s just like, oh my god this is nowhere near finishing. How do you find working with other vendors? Have you ever come across that situation?
Anna: I saw your face going, oh my god this sounds so familiar.
Jessica: Well, this is why an MC is really important, because even before game day, even before your wedding day, you would have sat down with them and you have talked about your vendors, gone through the run sheet with them. So, you kind of have a heads up on who the vendors will be. And sometimes you’re like, oh I recognize that name. They’re on the ball. This person I haven’t worked with. Let’s see how they go. Brides themselves, helping them with a run sheet sometimes it’s really good because some of them are unorganized which is why a good MC can help with a little bit with that. And wedding planners as well. Love people that have wedding planners as well because that means everything’s on point.
I’ve been to venues where there have not been name cards set down. So, you have to help out with that. Or people are angry because particular decorations not ready by certain time or trust work is not ready. It still has to be adjusted. Seeing a lot of the work that you do and a lot of other decorators installers do, it’s like … yeah. That has to be on point as well. Or even food. Food that hasn’t like other things that haven’t arrived, or cakes that are slanted which happens.
Anna: Oh my gosh. I’ve had a few of those and you don’t want to touch it because you’re like, okay if I touch it and it falls or the top is a bit more, an it’s like, oh my god that would be our fault. So, you’re like, what do we do?
Jessica: Cakes that melt. Do you know what? Blackstar pastry cakes, you know that strawberry watermelon one is beautiful. It tastes wonderful. It looks fabulous, but it melts. Keep that in mind, brides. It needs to be in the fridge for a very long time and just take it out.
Anna: Just before…
Jessica: You know what? It’s vendors that I’ve worked with are all absolutely lovely and I get to meet so many of them and spend time with them whether it be a band, photographers, videographers, photo booth people. They’re all so lovely. There are some that really really, you can tell which ones love their job and others that just…
Anna: Have you got any black listed?
Jessica: Yes. I’m sorry for that one photo booth company that canceled on my bride on the day of the wedding. Blacklist. Thank goodness there was another company that came in to save the day.
Yes. Things like that where you think, how can you do that to your bride and groom? This is their one day. You just you just have to be…
Anna: Professional. Look, things happen in life. We always say things happen. Everyone’s human. There are always errors. It’s how you adjust and kind of… If you’re not going to make it, find another business and say, hey I can’t make it because of certain reasons, but I found someone to replace me. They’re coming. If they did that, then you wouldn’t even blacklist them, because they solved the problem for you.
But because of the fact that they cancel, and you had to run around and find someone. It’s how they handle the situation is what you remember. It’s not what they did.
Anna: That’s what I keep saying to everyone. If something happens, it’s how you apologize. It’s how you rectify it. And that’s what people remember. It’s like, oh my god. Look, the flowers weren’t in season or the flowers that came in was so wilted because it was 50 degrees. But you know what… she had another bouquet waiting at the reception because she knew it was going to be dead because it was so hot, we’re melting. It’s how you kind of handle that situation and plan it. It’s how people will remember. They’re going to write a review, the flowers, they were so dead when they came and…. you just go, oh it was such a hot day. We knew the flowers was going wilt, but there’s a spare bouquet in the fridge waiting for me. All of those things that we have to think above and beyond for a client.
Jessica: It’s customer service. Whatever you do, and because it’s such a big day, people have invested so much time and money in it. It’s the least that you could do. I just think it’s just… you’ve only got one shot. Fingers crossed, you get married once and it has to be as perfect as it possibly can be and people should do their best for the bride and groom, I think.
Anna: As an MC, now that you’ve fallen into this part time, what else is it that you’re doing in your other part time?
Jessica: Like I said before, I’ve been in the hospitality industry and customer service. I work as part of an events team at a hotel as well and do social media there. I also help out with the hot import nights Miss [?] pageant as well. There are a few balls in the oven at the moment as you would say. Yeah.
Anna: Wow. And you’re thinking to be an MC for much longer time. Other than this, is there anything that you feel is a shift in being an MC or how from before when you first started to now, is there any difference?
Jessica: I think there is. I think people are willing to put their money towards the professional MC. I think they’re starting to understand that it’s more than just announcing the next thing that’s going to happen. That it’s a whole entire package, and the fact that that person up there is a representation and a spokesperson for the bride and groom. You know what I mean?
With MCs setting the tone for the wedding, yeah, I just think couples are not inclined to book male MCs. Being a female MC I think it brings a bit of a different flavor to the table.
Anna: There’s not many female MCs around. It’s predominantly male dominated as an MC. How do you find that then?
Jessica: I find that, just a bit of word of mouth really really helps. I think the use of social media has been really powerful. Being a female, I think it hasn’t hindered. It’s just more opened up people’s eyes on to, oh my goodness a female can actually do this, and maybe have a different angle towards things.
Obviously, I’m not as masculine and I’m not as loud, but microphones are loud.
Anna: Do you change your tone when…
Jessica: Hopefully not when I’m speaking. But I think that female touch, it definitely impacts the wedding. It gives it a different vibe for sure. There are very few females out there like Robin, Angela, Sun, female [inaudible]. I’m not sure how to pronounce ther name, and [inaudible] from up and coming. It will be great to see more females out there.
Of course, we’ve got the lovely males out there that have been doing it for ages. It’s just…
Anna: Is there an association like how do they choose their MC? Is there somewhere that, you know if you haven’t been recommended and your venues given you a list and you don’t know like who these people are? What should the clients do? Do they Google like best MC in Sydney? What can you recommend or suggest?
Jessica: I would suggest just doing a Google search. Of course, Google is your one stop shop. Also look up hashtags in Instagram. There are a lot of MCs that are out there in that sense. Also, you can look up your ABR. You can look up all the different directories. You may find an MC there. But, yeah. I don’t even have an… I don’t even have a website myself. Can you believe that? Maybe I should make one. But it’s been Instagram, honestly.
Anna: And word of mouth.
Jessica: Yeah. It has such an impact and such a reach. I’ve been made friends with this… There’s a lovely MC, a female MC in LA who’s Vietnamese. Her name is Kahn and she’s killing it over there in Orange County LA.
Jessica: It’s amazing what Instagram can do.
Anna: What tips can you provide for people who want to become an MC?
Jessica: I can tell you what, you don’t necessarily have to have the confidence. You can always work on that. I would suggest Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a club where you practice your public speaking and you go through different modules. With a whole bunch of people in the room who in a very loving very lovingly and supportive way, encourage you and also critique you so you can actually improve. And you can practice on people that actually want to hear you. And it’s an amazing tool because you know what? I would never have found out if you be conscious of your ums and your ahs. You’d be conscious of timekeeping. Or the fact that, you know a little secret between you and me, is when I stand I have a bit of a power pose going on which doesn’t look as ladylike when you’re in short dress. Hence why I wear a lot of long dresses because that’s just how I…
Anna: Power pose.
Jessica: That’s just how I stand when I speak. It’s a funny thing being a female MC. That’s another thing to think about which I envy the male MCs actually, because male MCs they have a couple of jackets they can choose from or some suits. But female MCs, I believe, have to consider actually we ask the bride and groom what color would you like me to wear? Would this suit the decor that you’ve chosen, the color scheming of your wedding. And heels, walking around in heels and hair and makeup. It’s just a whole another level.
Anna: Gosh. It’s like attending your wedding [inaudible].
Jessica: Exactly. And you see what I’m dressed in now. I wouldn’t be in sneakers if it wasn’t raining.
Anna: You must have a massive wardrobe of dresses.
Jessica: Yes. Of dresses that I would not normally wear, but I do it because it’s for work. I can’t complain, really.
Jessica: But do you wear a few of them like over time you just, I haven’t worn that for a while. Put that one back on. That one’s to this wedding. Let’s just wear that.
Jessica: It’s quite interesting. A lot of brides are quite vocal with… actually a lot of grooms also are quite vocal about what I wear because they want it to… Again, you’re representing them. So, they want to have you wearing something that kind of matches them. I’ve only had one one or two brides that said wear whatever you want which is nice as well, but it’s also quite confusing for me. I just like being told, okay this will suite. That’s fine. Yeah.
Anna: Well you’re not going to rock up with a nice beautiful white dress that has a bit of beading on it and all of that stuff.
Jessica: Exactly right. You know what, it’s there will be one out there. One day we’ll see that.
Anna: But it’s just like some of the entertainers, [inaudible], we’re not going to name names, where they come out and they’re in this beautiful white dress and massive slits and they’re so like, wow. But they overtake the whole bridal party and it’s like you’ve spent so much money for this entertainment, but they’ve just overtaken the beauty of the bridal party because she’s come out all glamorous and showing off.
So it’s quite interesting how a female entertainer can come out. I think that that’s, you know what, that’s okay for me to wear something that’s kind of bridaly or taken over.
Jessica: I mean, the bride and groom chose them based on that because of that look that’s the entertainment factor. I’m hoping, well for myself, I don’t wear anything that’s got too much boob, too much back, too much leg because it’s… you have grandparents, you have aunties and uncles. And people are actually looking at me for quite a long time. The worst thing would be like just a slip up of anything. That’s my biggest worry. If I have a Muslim wedding, for example, I’m a lot more conscious of being more covered up than I normally am. Again, I envy the males. But in that instance, yeah, it’s lovely to be able to dress up for just the night, but it is a bit of work and a bit of thought, I think. Yeah.
Anna: A bit of thought on what you’re going to wear.
Anna: It’s an exciting industry. Do you do MCing outside of the wedding industry?
Jessica: I do. I’ve hosted a live stream for hot import nights. That was quite interesting having to interview car owners and models and motorbike owners.
That was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and having to host, sorry, presenting a segment on Maxim TV.
Anna: Wow. That’d be interesting.
Jessica: Hot important nights is something that, it’s a lifestyle, modified car show with models and import models, basketball, e-gaming, all that kind of stuff. It’s just a whole different world to the wedding stuff that I’m normally used to. Speaking about it is not as easy as with a wedding, but with a lot of practicing, you get better. It’s been a blessing. I have been so blessed to have had all these different experiences that culminate into making my job now. It’s just easier or being better at it. Yeah.
Anna: What inspires you? Like overall, even just MCing, how you speak? Is there an inspiration, an MC that’s around that kind of you look up to?
Jessica: At the time when I started, the guy that wrote that book, Pete Miller. I was thinking, wow he must be fabulous. Of course, all the boys like Jeremiah is wonderful and Robin and Joe and Robert and all these other MCs. But in terms of speaking, I just think. I just want to know that I’m doing the absolute best that I can for couples. It’s never about me. It’s always about them. I’m there to help facilitate. And so, I just wanted to be the MC that I wish I had at my own wedding which is probably what drives me more than anything else.
Anna: If you were to get married again who would you choose as the MC?
Jessica: Oh, my goodness!
Anna: There’s probably a few of them, but who’s your top pick?
Jessica: Oh, I don’t know. I couldn’t possibly pick. I think I would elope.
We had an amazing wedding. It was a cocktail style. We didn’t even have a dance floor because as you know, we’re at night clubs every single weekend back in the day because of work. So, the last thing we wanted was another DJ, the dance floor. I think eloping would be nice.
Jessica: Yeah. Do know what? I always change my mind. Every time I’m at a wedding, I’m thinking I should have had that as my dress. I should have had this as my venue. I should have had these decorations.
Anna: Oh goodness. I think we start wrapping up a little bit on pretty much the whole MCing and everything. Is there any advice you can give to brides or last-minute advice to actual suppliers or even just other MCs or people that want to be an MC? Do you have any last last-minute advice to anyone?
Jessica: I would say to be honest, you are there to be of service. It’s never about you. You were there to help make that couple feel really special on this like really memorable day. If you can do your best for them, then everything should fall into place. Join Toastmasters, practice your public speaking.
Stay polished. Try not to get rallied. Don’t drink on the job.
Anna: Actually, that’s funny how you said don’t drink on the job. I remember many years ago. There was this Asian male MC that towards like 10 o’clock or towards the end of the night when it’s party time, he used to just get smashed and dance on the dance floor with all the guests. Great that he was with them. But when it comes to like bouquet tossing, see you later. This guy was smashed.
Jessica: Oh, my goodness. That’s just no. I couldn’t do that. I mean, if that’s the vibe you’re going for, grab that MC. That’s absolutely fine. [Inaudible]. I’m happy to get on the dance floor. You can absolutely have fun at weddings. You’re there to connect with people. You’re there to bring the vibe up and you’re just there to celebrate. That’s absolutely fine. And I’m going to eat cake as well. I get a bit sad if it’s fake cake, but that’s okay.
You know what? You’re there to do your job, and you’re there to be very [inaudible]. I’m there right until the end to say goodnight. That’s all what I would say for MCs. Be focused on your job and do the best that you can because you’re there not for yourself, but for the bride and groom.
Anna: Thank you. Thank you for coming, Jess. Thank you for taking your time and sharing a story. Please, I’m sure we’ll see you around, but if you come across anything or any inspiration that you feel like you’d like to share, how do we actually get in contact with you Jess?
Jessica: Oh, my goodness. You’re making me think, should I start a website? For now, you can find me @withlovemcjess on Instagram. That’s probably the best spot or hit me via email on the details on my Instagram. But otherwise, say hi to me even if you want to learn the tricks and trade of being an MC. Feel free to hit me up. I’m happy to share the love.
Jessica: Yeah. Feeling blessed.
Anna: Thank you, Jess.
Jessica: Thank you so much for having me.
Anna: Thank you.
Thanks for joining us today for episode number 10. Look forward to hearing our next speaker next week which we won’t to announce who it is. It’s someone very special in the industry, and someone that have been around for a while. Keep listening and you get to see who he is.