With over 25 years of experience in the coffee industry, Anna Gutierrez shares her experience as an emcee in coffee competitions.
BY VASILEIA FANARIOTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT
Photos courtesy of Anna Gutierrez
Here, she shares her experience on the importance of having an energetic and passionate emcee at coffee competitions and how it can make all the difference in elevating the event. Read on to find out more about her journey in the world of coffee and why she believes in having an enthusiastic voice behind every competition.
What inspired you to take part as an emcee in a coffee competition?
I initially began my involvement with coffee competitions as a judge, both sensory and technical. However, from behind the stage, I felt drawn to want to know more about the competitors other than just what they had carefully scripted for their competition routines.
Once I began emceeing, I fell in love with the personal connection I was able to make with those taking the stage, some for the very first time. I came to realize that being an emcee was so much more than having fun and hearing my own voice over the speakers. It was my responsibility to help share others’ voices and stories. Not only that, but I have strived to take my role very seriously in making sure the competitors had one final moment to take a deep breath and relax so they could really appreciate how far they’ve come and enjoy the moment and all of their hard work.
What can you tell us about your experience as an emcee at competitions around the world?
I began emceeing at some of the smaller regional and qualifying events over the years. Eventually, I moved to helping mostly on the Barista stage during the larger qualifying events and United States Barista Championship.
Although most of my experience emceeing has been within the United States, I did have a wonderful opportunity to participate in a coffee event for women as a judge in Amsterdam a few years ago.
What would be your defining moment as an emcee to date, or most memorable instance during one of these events?
To be honest, the most memorable moments have been from competitors saying how much I may have helped them calm their nerves a little right before taking the stage or answering any last-minute questions they had moments before starting their competition time.
I also had a really kind situation in an airport. A competitor stopped me while we were all headed home to take a selfie together and thank me for being such a great support to the barista community. That really meant a lot to me.
In your opinion, how does having an emcee enhance the overall experience of a competition for competitors and audience members?
The role of an emcee is so important for both the audience and competitors. Not only do I feel like it’s my responsibility to be there for the competitors. It’s (also) a unique position where you are bridging the gap between the audience members, some of whom don’t even understand all of what is taking place on stage.
It’s also important to keep up the attention, excitement, and energy in the room during a competition so the competitor feels all of the love and support they deserve! You definitely have to strike a careful balance between showing support for the competitor while also paying keen attention to their routine so you don’t end up interrupting them or throwing them off of their presentation.
What do you think are the unique skills required to be a successful emcee in coffee competitions?
I think I’ve found success as an emcee and being on a stage with a microphone through my experience in music as a singer as well as getting involved with teaching seminars at different trade shows over the last nearly 20 years of my professional coffee career.
From there, I also think it’s so important to have a thorough understanding of the competition as a whole, including the other roles of those on the stage as well as the rules and regulations. This is where I truly can appreciate the experiences I had in being able to judge and understand both the sensory and technical side of the competition routines.
Could you tell us about some of the unique challenges that arise when hosting a coffee competition and how you have navigated these?
You have to be ready at all times to pivot. Whether that is running across a stage, jumping in front of the camera at a moment’s notice, grabbing a dish bin and clearing tables with a microphone in your back pocket, or helping a competitor in some way, you need to be on alert at all times.
Even during the routines, I am trying to pay attention so that I can include a piece of info they shared in their presentation during our follow-up Q&A time. It’s exhausting … but I absolutely love it.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your experience as an emcee or with coffee competitions?
The main reason I even had a desire to get involved in emceeing at events in the first place is mostly through my heart for people and naturally being a cheerleader to my core. I love to see others succeed and have their shining moment on the stage, so I use it as an opportunity to become the biggest hype girl I can!
It’s just in my nature to be that way. I feel so proud of the competitive baristas I’ve had the opportunity to personally get to know over the years and see and be proud of all of their hard work and growth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vasileia Fanarioti (she/her) is a senior online correspondent for Barista Magazine and a freelance copywriter and editor with a primary focus on the coffee niche. She has also been a volunteer copywriter for the I’M NOT A BARISTA NPO, providing content to help educate people about baristas and their work. You can follow her adventures at thewanderingbean.net.
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