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How to Host the EPPIES    

How to Host the EPPIES An Essay by Jeff Strand

August, 2016

Jeff Strand, EPPIE MC for Life and Supreme Ruler of all that is EPIC!

On Saturday, August 26th, at 9:00 PM in the Embassy Suites in Omaha, Nebraska, I had the great honor of hosting the first annual EPPIE Awards Ceremony. The audience had the less great honor of listening to me, but in the end I think everybody agreed that not one single person had taken their own life ... at least not in a way that attracted undue attention. Because of my unbearably generous nature, I have decided to provide you, the potential future EPPIES master of ceremonies, with this guide to hosting the awards.

The first thing you must do is be asked to host the ceremony. In my case, the request came from Patricia White. I have an official transcript of her conversation with Ginny McBlain, the EPIC conference chairperson, so that you might see what qualities are necessary in a host.

PATRICIA WHITE: [Bad word omitted]! That [bad word omitted] Pauly Shore just backed out! Now who the [bad word omitted] are we going to get?

GINNY McBLAIN: Is Hugh Beaumont available, or is he still dead?

PATRICIA: [Bad word omitted] [bad word omitted] and [plural form of bad word omitted]! We might as well cancel the whole [bad word omitted] ceremony!

GINNY: What about Jeff Strand?

PATRICIA: [Bad word omitted] him! I won't have my precious awards sullied by his deviant presence!

GINNY: We'd better hurry ... people are almost done with dessert, and the finalists are starting to get antsy!

PATRICIA: Ah, [bad word omitted] it, then. But if he screws up I'm gonna kick his skinny [very long, confusing bad word omitted]!

Actually, I made that up ... which is the key to successfully hosting the EPPIES: just make a bunch of stuff up! You're not supposed to be providing valuable information. Your job is to look really stupid, so the nervous finalists and presenters out there can rest easy knowing they won't look any worse.

I am now going to provide the complete text of my opening comments with detailed analysis. Study it well. Learn from it. Become one with it (unless your monitor was expensive).

"I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm going to enjoy this much more knowing that we're bugging the people next door."

This was, of course, a reference to the previous night, when our Future of E-Publishing roundtable discussion was interrupted by the very loud awards ceremony going on next door. By making this comment, unfortunately, I jinxed the ceremony, and during the second half we got to listen to the wedding party next door. However, on behalf of the EPIC board I would like to offer our best wishes to the bride and groom, and may they have a long, happy marriage.

"I just noticed that these shoes are really slippery, but I want you to know that if I slip and fall I'll think it's just as hilarious as you will, so you're laughing WITH me, not AT me."

That was a vicious lie. I wouldn't have thought it was funny at all. I probably would have burst into tears and started flinging unawarded EPPIES at people. But the shoes WERE slippery, and the danger was most definitely present, so I figured I'd cover my butt should the worst happen.

"I'd like to welcome you all to the first annual EPPIE Awards Ceremony! I'm sure it'll be an exciting night, and it's already been an exciting weekend! It's really incredible when you think about it. We finally get to meet all of these wonderful people that we've known only through the Internet live in person! At this very moment you're sitting next to people who've known but never really met before ... and right now they're thinking 'Damn! I wish I could check my e-mail!'"

Back in 1995, I attended the World Horror Convention, where I met a whole bunch of my online friends in person. At one point, somebody excitedly mentioned that she'd brought her laptop computer, and could do an Internet chat WHILE SHE WAS THERE AT THE CONVENTION! Everybody around thought that was the coolest thing imaginable. So did I.

"You know, laughter just doesn't sound right from you. I've been off balance all weekend hearing that, because I keep expecting to hear LOL! Or ROFL! Or colon, minus sign, end parenthesis."

If nobody had laughed at the previous e-mail joke, I would have looked like a real ass delivering this material, wouldn't I? But that's the kind of risk an EPPIES host must take! My biggest concern was that I'd mix up the smiley face icon punctuation, but I didn't.

"And when people are done talking, I keep waiting for a signature file. Something like "Yes, Jeff, I agree, you do look like quite the stud muffin in your tuxedo. Escargot of Death, available September 2000 from www.BadSnails.com!"

I could have used this moment to shamelessly promote one of my own books, but I chose to go for a cheap killer escargot gag instead. It's that kind of dedication that separates the true EPPIE hosts from the pathetic wanna-bes.

"What's most incredible is that all weekend I've been able to chat with people and not get kicked out of the room for no reason?"

LOL! ROFL! :-)

"My original plan, in keeping with the spirit of the evening, was to put all of my notes on my Rocket eBook. Now, my Rocket has 40 hours of battery power and the capability of holding 40,000 pages of text ... believe me, this could have been a banquet to remember. But then I figured, I've never hosted an awards ceremony before, and I'll probably get nervous and stumble over my words and read the wrong thing at the wrong time. You know what? Let good old-fashioned PAPER take the blame. Don't say I never did anything for the cause!"

Actually, I had every intention of using my Rocket Reader, until I realized that I'd be unable to make any last-minute revisions. This is crucial when an hour before the ceremony you discover that your "You've Got Mail? joke really, really sucks. At the last minute I also threw out a comment about how we e-authors have progressed from saying "It IS a real book? to "Yes, it's like the one Stephen King did." Plus I would've dropped it.

"The Embassy Suites were a great hotel for this, weren't they? I saw my room and I was like 'Forget the conference. I'm staying here with my two TVs.' It's almost a waste. I'm doing everything I can to get my money's worth. I didn't bring any food, but I've got a refrigerator ... I'm keeping my shoes in there! And I'm microwaving the free soap. We even get a cooked-to-order breakfast ... I thought that meant 'Do you want your Pop-Tart burnt or really burnt?'"

First Rule of Hosting an Awards Ceremony: You can't go wrong with a Pop-Tart joke. Really. Try it yourself. I didn't really microwave any soap, but it would've been cool.

"Because this is the first time we're doing this, I feel compelled to share some rules, to make sure we al/conduct ourselves with the utmost grace and dignity. If you do not win, please keep your booing to a moderate level. If you must fling food, use an underhand throw only ... we don't need people getting hurt. Those of you writing paranormal, keep the evil spirits at your own table. Those of you writing children's books, I don't want to hear any immature obscene variations on the winner's name. And those of you writing horror ... don't even THINK about it."

I think this ended up getting the strongest reaction of anything else I said. If I'd known that beforehand, I could've stretched this bit out for another good eighteen or nineteen genres.

"Please note a change on the program. Due to hotel regulations, if there's a tie tonight, it will NOT be resolved by catfight. Sorry."

Personally, I think literary excellence is a boring way to determine winners, and that all of the awards should be given out a vicious wrestling match. Of course, considering the unbelievably high female-to-male ratio, it's probably just some sick fantasy. Sorry I made you read about it.

"Another official announcement. Only 13 hours and 15 minutes left until Post-Conference Depression. Stock up on emergency chocolate now."

Men don't use chocolate to deal with their problems, but this joke shows that I'm in touch with my feminine side, as any successful EPPIE host should be. Next year I'm going to cry and get a run in my stocking.

"Also, at this point I should probably tell you that we're only committed to giving out the first two awards. If you want the ceremony to continue, at least 75% of you will have to fork over a buck."

The most important rule of hosting any awards ceremony is trying to find a way to profit from it. I figure I could've cleared $150 pretty easily, but then I decided I didn't need the tax headaches.

With that, my opening remarks ended and I had to let other people talk, which sucked. My job for the rest of the ceremony was to introduce the presenters, using the following rules:

  1. GET APPROVAL FIRST. If you've going to tell a large crowd of people that Carrie Masek has the winner of the next award written on her navel, you must first determine that Carrie Masek isn't going to beat the crap out of you afterward, just as a safety precaution. I'm pretty sure I could've taken her under normal circumstances, but she won an EPPIE and those things could cause some wicked facial damage if used properly.

  2. DON'T SCREW UP. When I introduced Maryann Miller, I was supposed to say "Since she wouldn't tell me how old she is, I was going to suggest you shout out guesses, but then I decided that would get me killed." Instead I said "that would probably kill me," making it sound like the moral agony would be fatal. A good EPPIES host has no moral agony.

  3. PRONOUNCE THE NAMES CORRECTLY. I even asked Valerie Whisenand how to pronounce her name beforehand, and I still messed it up. Fortunately, she was a good sport. At least during the ceremony. Afterward, she borrowed Carrie Masek's EPPIE and beat the crap out of me in the elevator.

Jeff and his lovely assistant Linda Slater demonstrate how to pronounce Betty K's unfortunate married name.

In all humility, I think my greatest success as the master of ceremonies at the first annual EPPIE awards was that the ceremony ran 45 minutes shorter than anticipated. I mean, c'mon, Billy Crystal may drive a better car, but HIS awards ceremonies run four %$@#'hours! The winners have to wait FOREVER to get drunk!

Anyway, that's all I have to share. It's not that difficult, really. Best of luck in your own EPPIE-hosting experiences, and have a wonderful day.

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