Masters of Ceremonies
In her 15 years as Master of Ceremonies, Anna Almlöw has dedicated her time to popularising traditional celebratory occasions at KTH.
“Here at KTH, we are a modern and inclusive university in that we think carefully about the composition of guests – from the families of doctoral students to leaders within the enterprise sector and academia,” she explains.
One of the KTH work rooms is a hive of activity ahead of the Royal Institute of Technology's biggest academic occasion – the annual doctoral awards and inauguration of professors.
Anna Almlöw is handing over the baton as KTH Master of Ceremonies to Hanna Sundelin next year, and right now, the two of them are in the process of organising the seating arrangements for 1,100 guests - a complicated task that they perform with the aid of paper strips.
“When I was appointed MC here in 2004, I often shook my head and thought “next year we are going to do things differently”. The first thing I changed was to get rid of the paper system for invitations and introduce an IT system,” she says.
Her motto has always been to “maintain the ceremonial traditions, but ensure they keep up with the times”. For example, KTH ceremonies have always been held in Swedish rather than in Latin, which is the case at many other universities.
“The proceedings at KTH ceremonies have gradually been slimmed down, you need to make sure every part is relevant. For instance, our doctoral graduation ceremony no longer involves hats, and hats are now reserved for honorary doctorates,” Almlöw says.
In recent years, doctorate degrees have been awarded in Stockholm Concert Hall instead of City Hall, and the usual procession has been eliminated for reasons of space – much to the chagrin of parts of the faculties.
“This has, however, managed to cut around 20 minutes from the time-consuming programme. We have achieved a good flow of events on the stage since we decided to reverse the running order, so the presentation and celebration of PhD candidates is now first on the programme agenda. Which ensures everyone enjoys their moment in the spotlight that they so well deserve,” Almlöw explains.
What are the most important skills you need as a Master of Ceremonies?
“You must be able to speak to everyone. Students, families, prizewinners and industry representatives. It’s also an advantage to be impervious to stress and solution oriented, and ideally, have some experience of what it involves,” says Almlöw.
Before coming to KTH, she spent ten years organising major events at Stockholm’s Grand Hotel, such as royal dinners and international state visits.
Hanna Sundelin, who will take over as MC at KTH in summer 2020, has most recently been working with KTH international alumni. Before that, she worked in communications at Stockholm City Theatre and the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, including events such as Open House and Culture Night.
“Before that, I was a producer at Teater Scenario, a 50-seat fringe theatre in a basement in Odenplan. Being a producer involves everything from making the coffee to fixing the budget…”
Almlöw interposes to add that even a master of ceremonies is something of a producer role.
“I well remember before the first ceremony in the Concert Hall, I made sure to check the entire venue in great detail,” she explains.
“From restaurants, I’ve learnt the importance of making sure table linen is just so and to remove wilted flowers from vases in the event location. These are the kind of details that make all the difference.”
Do you have a check list to tick off during the preparations?
“I have a minute schedule in my head,” says Almlöw.
“That’s why I keep detailed notes,” Sundelin adds.
What’s the very best thing about working as a Master of ceremonies?
“The best thing is greeting the guests at the ceremony, living up to their expectations of the evening and knowing that everything is ready. You can then enjoy the evening,” says Almlöw.
“On several occasions, Anna has told me “but you do as you wish” when we have gone through various parts of the ceremonies. But I am getting such a well-kept machine to manage, I think I will probably MC these academic occasions a couple of times before I start changing anything.”
Text: Katarina Ahlfort
Photo: Håkan Lindgren