Greg Ward can talk.
Admittedly, it’s what you expect from a professional MC. After all, talking is the man’s livelihood. But what I‘m saying is, he can TALK. Hanging-on-his-every-word talk. Mouth-wide-open talk.
He’s a word magician. And I find myself completely mesmerized.
The easy thing would be to put it all down to talent. And there is no doubt in my mind that he has oodles of it. But clearly, there is much more to it than that. Listening to Greg, it’s just as much down to determination, passion, guts, focus, integrity, but maybe most of all…self-awareness and curiosity.
During our korero, his stories are his vehicle; a whole caboodle of them.
So without further ado…
Stories from a Global MC: The One about his First Australian Job as an MC
A solid 25% of Greg’s work as a professional MC is with our neighbours across the ditch. Anybody who ever tried to find a footing in the Australian events industry as a non-local, knows that’s not an easy thing to do. Curious to find out how Greg pulled it off, he launches into his first story.
‘The instigator was a random cold call for an event in Queenstown about 15 years ago.
The Australian-based client found me on Google. Of course, I said ‘yes’ and sent off the proposal. As a random side-note, I mentioned I would be in Sydney the next week.
Would he like to catch-up while I was there?
He thought it’d be great.
So I got off the phone and booked a flight.
The truth was, I had no plans whatsoever to go to Sydney, but this was too good of an opportunity to pass up on. So I spent about 1,000 bucks and had a meeting in their offices that lasted 45 minutes. I headed back home the same day. What it showed them though, was that I was accessible and willing to go the mile.’
Many years down the line, Greg’s first Australian job spider-webbed into scores of other jobs and it’s utterly fascinating how he can track back quite large amounts of money to that one job.
Stories from a Budding Virtual MC: The One with the Video Pitch in Spanish
That’s the thing with Greg. He’s very connected to who he is and what he wants. When the right opportunities come along, he pulls out the magic like a flash and strikes without mercy.
Greg has more stories to prove it. It’s time for another one.
When the CEO of a Swiss-based organisation mentions as a throwaway remark that he’d like to put Greg in front of 1,000 delegates during their global conference in Barcelona, our boot-strapper professional MC doesn’t hesitate. He hires a professional recording studio, gets his pitch translated to Spanish, learns it verbatim and presents it straight down the barrel of a camera. Were they impressed? You betcha!
He got the job… because he was the spark plug global MC who wanted it more.
The Power of the Tool Bag
But you would be a fool for thinking Greg’s stories are the superficial chitchat of a gutsy fake-it-till you-make-it guy with a good amount of luck.
What the video pitch story really tells is that when you have a vision, you dig into the bag of tools you have available to get you there. For Greg, that particular moment cemented the power of virtual imagery that ultimately will get a surprising tail (we have some more on that later).
But his tool bag also serves him well during events. It allows him to bring a surprise element to his gigs and keeps both the delegates and the organisers on their toes. During Award Events, he may just pull his opera chops out of the bag (the man has a past career as an opera singer, would you believe!) as a way to take the stuffiness out of the event.
The Magic of ‘The Triple Win’
Much of Greg’s success as a professional MC he attributes to ‘The Triple Win’.
In a nutshell, the idea is for himself to win, but equally for the client to win, and of course (last but not least) for the event -including delegates and sponsors- to win.
As far as Greg is concerned, he’ll do whatever it takes to get it right. He’ll physically walk the route the delegates will take on the day of the event to get the timing of the program right. He also reads the magazines clients subscribe to in order to get a better feel for the company culture.
As much as the stories make me smile, I also strongly believe that this kind of attitude (that is not too dissimilar to the hospitality business when you think of it) takes centre stage in the Events industry in Aotearoa. As an industry in this country, we have an ethos that entirely focusses on how we can best help YOU, our client.
It’s something I’m very proud of.
Stories from an Accidental Virtual MC: The One with the Premonition
Inevitably, the conversation turns to 2020.
When I ask Greg to reflect on the shock that went through New Zealand in March last year, it’s time for another story.
We’re February 2020. Aotearoa is still blissfully unaware, but the rest of the world is getting itchy. Greg is late for a Zoom meeting with an overseas client. The first words Greg catches are ’ … and that’s why we are going to cancel the conference.’
His mind starts racing.
When it comes to his turn to speak he says:
‘Don’t cancel it. Just go virtual.’
Back then, it wasn’t something he’d done before. Ever. But he was determined not to lose the client. Little did he know it would be the blueprint for his future as a virtual MC.
Fast forward a month and Greg found himself in lockdown with no work and a lot of time on his hand. In his tool bag he had some audio gear he used as a musician, an old Logitech webcam from one of his mates, 16 metres of lime green cotton fabric from Spotlight and a garage light that was hidden away in a corner.
It was the start of what is now his super-duper, high-tech, next level studio from which he works as a globally recognised virtual professional MC.
Greg’s Oh-Ah-Ha Live Moment: The One with the IT Server
How else would we end our korero with Greg other than with a final story?
It’s a story about the wisdom of knowing the difference between what you know and don’t know. Here goes….
Somewhere in between his career as an army professional and an opera singer, Greg worked in IT. Bent over a faulty server, he’s scratching his head over how to fix the damned thing. His client is watching over his shoulder, latching on to the idea that Greg may be out of his depth. After a bit of to and fro about who knows what, the client speaks in a thick South-African accent:
‘Either the answer is inside your head, or it’s outside your head.’
For Greg, it was an eye opener. Ever since, if he finds himself stuck, he always asks whether the answer is inside his head or whether he need to find it elsewhere.
As a professional MC (live and virtual), keynote speaker, performance artist and event consultant, Greg Ward has officiated for, presented to, or performed at more than 1,000 events both live and virtual in over 35 countries.
His work has impacted more than half a million delegates and audience members across his career and his ethos of ‘whole of life’ client relationships are at the core of his business, with a complete focus on achieving and exceeding his client’s event goals. To support this, he’s insanely curious about human behaviour and is a serial learner.
A former Communications & Electronics operator in the Royal New Zealand Signals Corp, Greg speaks three languages, can fly aircraft, drive trucks, cars & motorcycles, is a multi-instrumentalist musician as well as a trained actor and opera singer, provides monster voices for the Power Rangers franchise and alongside his corporate and association roles, revels in sharing and teaching the art of improvised song.
His past and current Board roles include President NZ Improv Society, Board Member Don Oliver Youth Sport Foundation, Vice President, and now President of the Professional Speakers Association of New Zealand and is in the process of becoming a Board Member for NZ Cadet Forces 5 Squadron in Whangaparaoa.