We’ve all heard a tenor or bass singing out of his natural range, a worn-out comedy routine, or a challenging song attempted by someone who isn’t able to do it justice. I cannot tell you how many things I’ve heard justified with this line: “But the audience responded well.”

Here’s a little secret: (Most) audiences are rooting for the person who is on stage to succeed. If a tenor is pushing the absolute limits of his vocal range, going for a note he probably should have left in the practice room, most audiences aren’t hoping that his voice cracks and he totally flubs the high ending. Even if an audience has heard a joke (like the “sister tenor” joke) so many times that it’s no longer funny, they’ll probably laugh to be polite.

The best emcees recognize that audiences will respond favorably to a lot of things. But they don’t use that as a crutch. Instead, they keep the big picture of what their group wants to accomplish in that concert in mind—edification, entertainment, ministry. Then, from the wide variety of things to which audiences respond positively, they utilize the ones that most effectively take them toward their desired result.