For Paul Asika, being a master of ceremony is both an art and a calling.
The 30-year-old has been an emcee for over a decade now, earning enough to pay his bills and raise fees for his children.
Mr Asika, is also a graphic designer and video editor who is a darling of many businesses intent on hosting events as well national holiday functions.
â€œI learnt a lot from Ruben Robi, whom I had the privilege to work with during agricultural shows hosted by the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK). He noticed that I had talent and helped me to nurture it,â€ says Mr Asika, a resident of Nakuru.
Working with corporate customers, he says, can be both interesting and challenging. In his work, he claims to have met and mingled with the who-is-who in the country, including President Kibaki.
â€œI have learnt how to engage even the most important guests and break the ice in order to get them to relax and enjoy the function,â€ says the master of public oratory.
His clientele includes parastatals, the government, private companies, religious gatherings, small and medium businesses, and individuals.
Use of the Internet
â€œThe clientele has changed over time, with many formal functions calling for a relaxed atmosphere and more mingling among guests.â€ Mr Asika says that he has to be creative in order to satisfy the needs of each guest and for this, he has learnt to make use of the Internet.
â€œI keep myself updated on the latest trends in the world of public speaking through online tutorials and a lot of reading. I also make sure that I do not replicate what I did in one event at another.â€
In order to boost his fund of knowledge, he buys and stocks both English and Kiswahili books so as to keep his spoken language an edge and above that of his competitors.
His humble beginnings as an errand boy in the church have borne fruit for a man who says that in a low month and over Sh100,000 during peak seasons.
â€œThe busiest months are from July to December, where I am busy every weekend and sometimes week days. However, when business is low, I keep myself busy with my graphic design jobs and video editing, which I have also taught myself.â€
Secret to success
He says the toughest part of his job is how some customers communicate. He notes that some of them do not give enough information beforehand, yet they expect the emcee to be well versed in the content.
He says the secret of his trade is having an approachable personality besides being humble to clients. One must also invest in background research about the organisation that has asked for his services in order to know what to say, when, and to whom.
â€œAs a professional, it is important to know how to approach issues such as the fees to charge. I usually let the client lead the negotiation for the price, but I also make it clear that they need to show commitment, say, by paying up their deposit on time.â€
He says he approaches any job not just as business, but as an opportunity to serve the people whom he will be talking to.