Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Nathan Cassar: Master of Ceremonies – Event Industry Insights

In this exclusive interview with Jesse Samberg, the host of the interview series, we delve into the entrepreneurial journey of Nathan Cassar, the Master of Ceremonies behind Nathan Cassar: Master of Ceremonies. From his unexpected start on a cruise ship to his current position as one of Australia’s leading professional MCs, Nathan shares his insights on overcoming challenges, creating unforgettable experiences for clients, and his ambitious plans for the future of his business. Join us as we explore the dynamic landscape of event entertainment and the evolving role of professional MC services with Nathan Cassar.

Interviewee Name: Nathan Cassar

Company: Nathan Cassar: Master of Ceremonies

Interview Host: Jesse Samberg

The Interview

Let’s get started. First, we’d like to know more about how you started your business journey

Nathan Cassar : My entrepreneurial journey kicked off in an unexpected place: aboard a cruise ship at 14. Watching a Cruise Director in action, I knew I had found my calling. That single experience sparked a passion for live entertainment and set the course for my future.

My early career was a series of strategic steps toward my dream job. By 2015, I was part of Princess Cruises, starting as a Junior Assistant Cruise Director and quickly moving up to Fleet Supervisor, Entertainment Experience. In these roles, I led a team of over 150, overseeing entertainment across the fleet and introducing new shows like ‘Can You Survive?’ and ‘High Seas Heist.’ This period honed my skills in leadership, creativity, and event management.

When the pandemic hit, the cruise industry paused, but I didn’t. Transitioning from sea to shore, I discovered a new avenue for my talents at my brother’s wedding, leading me to pivot to a professional Master of Ceremonies role. This shift wasn’t just about adaptation; it was about seizing opportunities. During the lockdown, I launched “Quizanity,” a virtual trivia show that connected over 200 participants weekly, showcasing my ability to engage and entertain, even in challenging times.

April 2022 marked a significant milestone with a revamped website and brand, positioning me for success in a changing world. Adding to my repertoire, I joined as Host of the Just As Planned Weddings Podcast in 2023, offering a platform to share industry insights and stories with vendors across the country and internationally.

Today, with over 220 events and 20+ awards under my belt, my journey from a mesmerized teenager on a cruise ship to one of Australia’s leading professional MCs is a testament to where passion, resilience, and adaptability can lead. I’m passionate about creating memorable events, and every opportunity to step on stage is a chance to make a difference, bringing energy, professionalism, and a bit of flair to every occasion while simultaneously working to revolutionise the entertainment and MC industry in Australia.

Reflecting on your business history, what stands out as the single greatest challenge you’ve successfully navigated, and how did you overcome it?

Nathan Cassar : challenge wasn’t a single event but an ongoing battle against the scars left by childhood bullying. From my earliest school days through to high school, I faced relentless bullying for simply being myself. This experience could have side-lined me, denting my self-esteem and confidence irreparably. Yet, I chose resilience over resignation.

The transition from a bullied introvert to a public performer seemed counterintuitive. The very essence of being on stage—vulnerability, exposure, and boldness—clashed with the protective shields I had built. But my passion for entertaining and connecting with people wouldn’t let me retreat. I channelled this inner conflict into action by spearheading the “It’s Not Cool To Be Cruel!” anti-bullying program during my high school years. Collaborating with the Enough is Enough Anti-Violence Movement and the Wests Tigers Rugby League Team, we developed a comprehensive bullying prevention initiative that not only served as a healing process for me but also made a tangible difference in the lives of many students.

The feedback from parents, witnessing the positive changes in their children’s lives, was profoundly affirming. It wasn’t just about addressing bullying; it was about empowering myself and others to find our voices and stand tall against adversity. This journey of transformation has been a cornerstone of my development, both personally and professionally.

Today, each time I step onto a stage, whether it’s to entertain an audience of one or a thousand, I’m driven by a deep-seated desire to spread joy and positivity. My past experiences have equipped me with a unique perspective and approach to my work. I aim to create memorable experiences, leveraging my skills as a dynamic, eloquent, and humorous entertainer. Overcoming bullying has instilled in me a determination to be the best version of myself—turning my once perceived weakness into my greatest strength.

Businesses often face ongoing challenges. What does your business consistently grapple with, and how do you tackle these challenges head-on?

Nathan Cassar : In the landscape of the entertainment industry, especially within the specialized niche of professional MC services, the challenges are multifaceted and continuous. One significant hurdle I face is overcoming the “Tall Poppy Syndrome,” a cultural phenomenon particularly pronounced in Australia, where success and distinction often draw criticism rather than commendation. This was especially palpable when I first stepped into the role of a professional MC, introducing innovative practices that, while successful, were initially met with scepticism.

Another persistent challenge is navigating the competitive and sometimes misconstrued perception of what a professional MC truly represents. The role of an MC is often undervalued, viewed through a reductive lens as merely someone who makes announcements. This oversimplification overlooks the depth of expertise, coordination, and entertainment value a seasoned MC brings to any event. Particularly in the wedding industry, there’s a common misconception that a friend or family member can easily take on the MC role, underestimating the impact of professional skills in enhancing the event’s success.

To confront these challenges, I lean on a support network of mentors and colleagues who have been instrumental in helping me develop the resilience and coping strategies necessary in this field. Embracing both confidence and humility, I’ve learned to navigate criticism with grace, channelling negative feedback into fuel for improvement and innovation.

Addressing the competition, especially the inclination for clients to opt for “in-house” MCs among friends or family, requires a strategic approach. I tackle this by showcasing the undeniable value professional MCs offer, including vendor coordination, entertainment expertise, and ensuring that everyone involved can fully enjoy the event without the burden of responsibility. Through an extensive portfolio, engaging public calls to action, and continuous industry education, I aim to illuminate the indispensable role of professional MCs.

My strategy involves not just highlighting the gaps an amateur approach might leave but also emphasizing the unique benefits brought by professional mastery. By positioning myself as a thought leader and demonstrating the tangible advantages of hiring a seasoned MC, I work tirelessly to shift perceptions and underscore the significance of our role in the success of both weddings and corporate events. This endeavour isn’t just about overcoming challenges; it’s about redefining the value of professional MC services and ensuring that this ancient art form continues to be recognized as an essential, rather than optional, element of event success.

Can you share with us the most unforgettable story involving a customer or client? What made it memorable, and what lessons did you draw from the experience?

Nathan Cassar : One of the most touching moments in my career was encapsulated by a unique trophy that now holds pride of place in my office. It’s a golden microphone trophy, inscribed with “Best MC In Sydney – 22-02-2022,” a gift from a remarkable couple, Allison & Ben. Mid-reception, they presented it to me as a token of their gratitude, expressing thanks for what they described as my integral role in piecing together their wedding. This gesture was more than just humbling; it was a profound affirmation of the impact my work can have.

In the world of event hosting, there’s an unspoken rule that the spotlight should always remain on the guests of honour—whether it’s the wedding couple, a company’s CEO, or award winners. Yet, in that unexpected moment, the spotlight shifted to me, and it was both moving and surreal. It reinforced the essence of my commitment to creating unforgettable experiences. This couple’s gesture highlighted the importance of every interaction, from the initial planning stages through to the final moments of an event.

This experience taught me invaluable lessons about the depth of appreciation clients can have for thoughtful, personalized service. It underscored the significance of every detail in the event planning process—each email, each decision, contributes to the overarching memory of an event. This recognition from Allison and Ben served as a powerful reminder of the unique role I play in people’s lives, not just as an MC but as someone who contributes to the fabric of their cherished memories.

Every time I glance at that trophy, I’m reminded of the responsibility and privilege I must exceed expectations and leave a lasting positive impact on every event I’m part of. It motivates me to continuously refine my craft and approach each event with the same dedication and passion that earned me that golden microphone. In essence, this memorable client interaction not only celebrates a milestone in my career but also serves as a constant source of inspiration, driving me to create experiences that resonate deeply with those I work for.

Looking ahead, what are your current plans for your business when you retire?

Nathan Cassar : Retirement? That concept feels like a distant melody, far removed from the rhythm of my current life. At 32, with a fire for entertainment that burns as brightly as ever, I’m nowhere near ready to set the microphone down. As long as there’s a demand for the unique flair I bring to events, I’ll be there, ready to don my suit and contribute to unforgettable moments. My work is more than a job; it’s a piece of my essence.

However, I’m not blind to the future and the necessity for growth, scalability, and leaving a legacy that transcends my personal brand. The essence of “Nathan Cassar: Master of Ceremonies” is uniquely mine, yet I envision transforming it into something far greater. My ambition stretches beyond personal success; I aim to innovate and elevate the entire MC industry, mentoring emerging talents and setting new standards for event entertainment in Australia and, hopefully, on a global scale.

The blueprint for the future includes the establishment of an MC Collaborative. This platform will unite professional MCs, fostering industry recognition, authority, and educational opportunities. It’s about lifting the entire profession, enhancing the skills and knowledge of both current and future MCs. My dream also extends to launching an MC and entertainment agency. This entity will not only serve as a beacon of excellence but will allow me to gradually shift from the spotlight, empowering the next generation to dazzle audiences with their own unique talents.

Even the notion of retirement doesn’t imply withdrawing completely. I see it as an opportunity to focus more intensely on thought leadership and the education of upcoming generations. My goal is to imprint a legacy that forever marks the industry, championing the power of live events to bring joy, connection, and, ultimately, happiness to people’s lives.

My vision for the future is clear: to cultivate a legacy that enriches the event experience landscape, ensuring that the art of MCing continues to thrive and evolve, long after I’ve taken my final bow. This is not just about building a business; it’s about crafting a movement that celebrates and perpetuates the joy and connectivity of human experiences.

Navigating the small business landscape can be both challenging and rewarding. Can you share a bit about the specific hurdles you’ve encountered in areas like sales, marketing, and adapting to changing customer trends?

Nathan Cassar : In the dynamic world of event planning, both the wedding and corporate sectors are gradually recognizing the value of professional Master of Ceremonies (MC) services. This shift from seeing professional MCs as a luxury to an essential part of event budgets is noteworthy. While the percentage of wedding budgets allocated to MC services in Australia might seem modest, it represents a significant departure from past practices where MCs were often bundled with venue packages or filled by friends or family members. Similarly, in the corporate realm, the trend has moved towards hiring professional MCs. This evolution can be attributed to the pervasive influence of social media, with executives increasingly cautious about their public appearances to avoid potential mishaps that could negatively impact their company’s reputation. Professional MCs offer a safeguard, providing polished, gaffe-free presentations that align with the company’s brand and public image.

Yet, as the cost-of-living rises, convincing potential clients of the value of investing in professional MC services over more cost-effective, in-house alternatives becomes challenging. This period has also seen a rise in ‘slashy’ service offerings, where providers combine MC services with other roles, like DJs or event managers, presenting a budget-friendly, albeit less specialized, alternative. This burgeoning trend necessitates a strategic response to underline the distinct advantage and value that a dedicated professional MC brings to any event.

To navigate these challenges and solidify my position in the market, I’ve employed a comprehensive strategy. This includes enhancing my service offerings with added value, such as providing unlimited contact with clients, personalized site visits, and bespoke runsheet creation. These measures ensure a seamless, tailored event experience that underscores the unique benefit of professional MC services. Moreover, forging partnerships with over 40 preferred vendors and securing exclusive deals not only offers substantial savings for my clients but also reinforces the value and appeal of choosing my services.

To address the growing competition and changing customer preferences, I’ve ramped up my digital presence. Through social media, podcasts, media appearances, and speaker engagements, I aim to provide industry education and assert my niche leadership. Additionally, creating new videos showcasing my on-the-ground MC work helps potential clients visualize the impact of my services, further supported by targeted advertising campaigns. I’ve also expanded my offerings to include specific upsells and value-added services, such as audio guest books and video interview services, which are set to launch in 2024. These initiatives are complemented by enhanced client communication through milestone SMS and email updates, ensuring a positive and engaged client journey.

Looking towards the future, I’m launching an MC Masterclass series aimed at professionals seeking to refine their MC skills, establishing my thought leadership within the industry. Pursuing prestigious industry awards and forming an MC industry collaborative are also key components of my strategy. These efforts are designed not just to adapt to the shifting landscape but to actively shape it, demonstrating the indispensable value of professional MC services in creating memorable and successful events.

Leaders Perception magazine would like to thank Nathan Cassar and “Nathan Cassar: Master of Ceremonies” for the time dedicated to completing this interview and sharing their valuable insights with our readers!

Interested in connecting with the host of this interview series? Feel free to reach out to Jesse Samberg on LinkedIn: Jesse Samberg’s LinkedIn Profile

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