RASP MC Checklist
Recommended steps to aid planning and delivery
The evening's generic schedule


Before the reading:

Recommended arrival time is 30 to 45 minutes before the published start time.

  1. Consider emailing the featured reader to introduce yourself, tell him or her when you'll be there, etc.
  2. As needed, the RASP sound system (microphone/amplifier) can be used. Arrange in advance to get it (or have it delivered), and help set it up if necessary (test to make sure feedback isn't a problem).
  3. Arrive at the location at least one-half hour earlier than the start of the reading. Greet the staff cordially and let them know you're in the building. (Note: at the ORSCC, you'll be required to sign a check-in form.)
  4. Set up at least two rows of chairs; three is preferable (statistics show that if a room is more than 2/3rds full, people tend to leave rather than sitting beside someone they don't know).
  5. If there are portable sound-resistant partitions available, set them up at least three to five feet behind the last row of chairs.
  6. Set up a table to put snacks on.
  7. Make sure the honorarium payment check is received from the treasurer and ready to give to the reader.
  8. Prepare a sheet of paper to use as the sign-up list for the open mic. (Note: an open mic signup form is on the RASP website.)

At the reading:

Please remember that the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center (ORSCC) is Redmond city property and we are their guests. The center is used by people of all ages and ethnic groups, so it is important to curb the reading of objectionable content or use of inappropriate language. We want people to feel comfortable at a RASP reading so they are eager to return.

  1. Introduce yourself to the featured reader to make them feel comfortable and repeat the order of the program so expectations are clear (each reader is expected to read for about 20 minutes, follow by a Q&A session of 10 minutes).
  2. Make sure to get the sign-up list going.
  3. Welcome everyone, say who you are, and say a bit about what RASP is. I sometimes say what will happen during the evening (featured reader, then Q&A, then a break during which time books can be bought, then the open mic—and/or some open-mic readers to start). While MCing, it's good to be conscious of the person who's there for the first time, explaining what's going on without overdoing it. Be cheerful, upbeat, and welcoming.
  4. Consider starting with open-mic readers to get a vibe going or if people are still gathering and you want to have the featured poet read a little later (optional).
  5. When introducing open-mic readers, be sure to say the person's whole name as listed on the sign-up sheet (don't say just first names, as has been done before—it doesn't help newbies know people and makes them feel "outside" the group if they don't know the person's last name). Try to do more than just say the person's name—say something about the next reader, or think of a segue from the previous reader, but AVOID saying that anyone is a hard act to follow (not everyone will agree, and saying that may put unnecessary pressure on the next reader).
  6. Introduce the featured reader by reading the bio from the RASP Web site. Please try to expand on it if you can do additional research online, or add a bit of personal commentary (such as, I'm a big fan of legal thrillers, so I'm looking forward to hearing selections from so-and-so's novel). If you can hold up his or her books when you mention them, that's good too—and mention that they'll be available for sale at the break.
  7. Be prepared with at least a couple of questions for the Q&A, at least a starter question (you may want to research about the featured reader online beforehand, or questions may come naturally out of the bio and/or the reading itself). If possible, let the audience ask most of the questions. If the audience is reluctant to participate (which happened at the most recent RASP reading), be prepared with some follow-up questions so the Q&A session doesn't end too soon or feel undeveloped. A good interview strategy is to inject follow-up questions that dig deeper into what a person just said. I find that it helps to mention to the audience, when you invite their questions, the full range of what the featured reader does (poetry, fiction, whatever). Try to make the Q&A session last at least ten minutes. If the questions are flowing well, I see no problem letting it last five or even ten minutes longer—many questions indicates that the audience is into what's happening. To wrap it up, make a judgment statement of some kind and thank the featured reader.
  8. Announce the break (how long, at what time you'll restart) and that books will be available for sale. Also announce when the next RASP reading will be (get the name of the featured person, and the date); if you can, mention more than just the next month but several months. You might also ask if anyone has any performance-related announcements (especially poetry). Thank the venue for letting us read there.
  9. When you restart, again welcome everyone, and thank the featured reader again.
  10. Depending on the time left, divided by the number of people signed up, you might want to announce a maximum time limit for the open mic, but no more than five minutes per person (usually less than that—closer to three or four minutes). If there are children present, you might gently mention that the reading is a family venue, unless readers who are signed up are regulars and would already know that. Also, if you can tell that it's the first time a person has read at RASP (don't be afraid to ask them, even from the microphone), try to get a special applause for it being their first time. Be prepared to interrupt someone if they are clearly reading too long or if they read content inappropriate for the audience.
  11. At the end of the sign-up list, if there's time, ask if anyone else would like to read who hadn't signed up. If there's a LOT of time, consider going through the open-mic list a second time. I sometimes ask (beforehand) if the featured reader could read something to end the evening, but make sure you set this up beforehand (in general, don't spring it on them and put them on the spot).
  12. Repeat an announcement about when the next RASP reading is, and thank everyone for coming. Also thank the venue for letting us read there. You might also mention the Web site address, especially if there are new folks present.
  13. Make sure to give the payment, perhaps with a thank-you card, to the featured reader (this could happen at the break rather than at the end), and thank the reader in person for his or her participation.

After the reading:

Mandatory ending time for the reading/open mic is 8:45 p.m. By 9:00 p,m, the room must be returned to original setup/arrangement and guests must exit the ORSCC. Consider asking guests for assistance with the the room arrangement.

  1. If the sound system (microphone/amplifier) is used, pack it up and return it to where it came from, or arrange to return it to the storage site.
  2. If the honorarium check wasn't given to the reader at the reading, make sure it's sent to them afterwards.
  3. Put away the chairs, table, and partitions (Note: this may take extra time, so don't hesitate to ask for help from the audience.)
  4. If a mess has been made around the snack table, you or someone you designate will need to clean it up. The old boy scout rule ("always leave the place cleaner than you found it") applies in any location generous enough to let us used it.
  5. Be sure to tell the staff goodbye so they know you are the last to leave. Cordially thank them for their support of RASP (Note: at the ORSCC, you'll be required to sign the form again showing that you've checked out.)
  6. Consider sending email to the featured poet to again thank them for coming.
  7. Congratulate yourself for a job well done!

Another suggestion is to consider having some sort of theme to your being MC, such as reading famous quotations about poetry, or mentioning birthdates of famous poets and novelists born on that date (or near to it). A couple of months ago, at SoulFood, I asked everyone in the open mic (if they wanted to) to say something they were thankful for before they read their poem. It made for a very warm evening. Adding something like this keeps people on edge, adds another facet to the reading, and provides greater interest. It shouldn't detract from the time readers get to read, though, if time is an issue.

Another thing I try to do when MCing is to look for people who are new to me, and go and talk to them during the break or afterwards. Perhaps ask them how they heard about RASP. Talking to them helps encourage them to come back, and do give them that invitation.

—Prepared by Michael Dylan Welch


Evening Schedule

Times are general and can be adjusted to suit MC and/or as needed for program flow

6:00-6:30
---Sign in at reception desk (MC or President)
---Set up (MC and others)
    --Bring out chairs, table, divider, lectern, music stand
    --Put out food & drink, RASP donation jar, posters/print collateral, sign-up sheet for Open Mic
    --Get trash can liner from reception staff if needed
    --Put up posters on front door to building as well as both entrances to auditorium
    --Turn off heating system/noise abatement

6:30-7:00
---Greeting time (MC)
    --Greet people as they come in, watch for Featured Reader
    --Ask Reader to put out books to sell (if any) on the table

7:00-7:05
---Start program (MC, all)
    --President of RASP introduces MC (optional)
    --MC introduces herself/himself, welcomes everyone, mentions Featured Reader
    --MC talks about RASP, lists order of events

7:05-7:45
---Open Mic readers
    --Be sure to mention first-timers, and say full names, make sure to get pronunciation right

7:45-8:05
---Introduce Featured Reader (MC, keep it short)
    --Featured Reader presents selected personal works

8:05-8:15
---Q&A (MC, Featured Reader)
    --Encourage questions from audience

8:15-8:25
---Break (mingling)
   Note: If Mike Meredith is there, ask him to get up and "pause for the cause" (donations)

8:25-8:45
---More Open Mic (or encore from Featured Reader)

8:45-9:00
---Thank everyone for coming. Invite guests to help with breakdown (MC)
    --Mike Meredith or MC gives honorarium check ($30) to Featured Reader
---Breakdown
    --Put away tables, chairs, divider
    --Make sure all trash is picked up and leftover food & drink is carted away
    --Take down posters
    --Sign out at reception (MC or President)