Emcee & Entrepreneur Extraordinaire

A series of challenges in life has caused Adi Afendi to embrace a change in career and rise to the call of being an Entrepreneur in his own right

BY YVONNE YOONG

Many find it difficult to embrace change, especially at a later stage in life when challenges are thrust upon them. Thus, it takes mammoth courage and willpower to weather through the storms of life calling for a change. Some resist riding out the waves of adversity while others take challenges in their stride.

Adi Afendi is one such person. Although everything was earlier rosy in his life – with career, family and friends falling into place, fate took a twist and threw a curveball of challenges at him in his late 30s. A series of unfortunate events suddenly came into play – leading to a lost in his career, marriage and his father, all in quick succession. He almost fell into an abyss but with the support of positive people around him who showered him with much-needed care, support and love, he bounced back in 2013.

At the age of 40 back then, he decided to forge a new career out of his passion and gift of the gab and became a Master of Ceremonies and Protocol Consultant. He later registered his business under the name Adi Afendi Management – buoyed by the optimism he has always possessed in the area of public speaking as evident in his secondary school years spent studying at the English College Johor Bahru in the late 80s, and later at St. John’s Institution, Kuala Lumpur in 1991.

In 1993, Adi took on a professional degree course at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Bangi. While studying, he continued to emcee at various events for the faculty and even took part in international debate tournaments representing the university in various countries. In 1996, a year before his graduation, he was invited by the university’s Chancellory to emcee at the annual convocation ceremony – the rst- time a student was asked to do so at UKM. The protocol and structure involved during the emcee session intrigued him. After graduation, he pursued his career and built a family. He also continued to emcee at small events including weddings for relatives and friends.

In 2009, he left his professional career to join the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA). Back then, the MIA was in the throes of hosting the World Congress of Accountants (WCOA) in 2010 whereby accountants from all over the world would converge in Kuala Lumpur to discuss matters affecting the industry and the economy. He volunteered as one of the Emcees for WCOA and was sent for training at the Department of Ceremonials (Jabatan Istiadat) of the Prime Minister’s Department to learn about all facets of protocol involving royalties, VVIPs and foreign dignitaries – leading up to the event in October 2010. This further bolstered his fascination for protocol and structure.

In 2013, due to a series of personal life circumstances, he then decided to quit his employment altogether and pursue a career as a full-time Master of Ceremonies and Protocol Consultant and register his company under the business name of Adi Afendi Management. That has been a record ve years now.

Having emceed at events since the early 90s back in UKM but only as a side activity – taking off from after graduation where he emceed for various small events, he says his role model was his late father – also a talented public speaker who encouraged him to keep the art of pantun repertoire alive at Malay weddings.

The turning point for Adi was when he took on the role of an Emcee for the WCOA in 2010. This was when he was employed by the MIA which was the host of the event. The decision to become a full-time emcee was made in 2013 when he began to treat this vocation as an entrepreneurial business by providing emcee services for corporations and individuals.

Realising that most Emcees start their career in this line earlier on in life and would have already achieved some form of prominence by the time they reached 40, Adi was aware that starting out relatively late, he really needed to go into full gear. He also realised that he had to plan ahead as he didn’t envision having that much time to spend with his daughter by the time she goes to university.

Armed with a strategy in mind, he realised that to in order to get ahead, he needed to differentiate himself from other Emcees in the market by positioning and branding himself right.

Joining an international networking organisation of like- minded people with the sole purpose of helping each other nd business for nothing in return, Adi got connected to TM’s HyppTV (now known as Uni TV) in 2014. As destiny would have it, he became a TV host for a current affairs talk show called Persepsi which ran for 87 consecutive weeks. Upon the show’s hiatus, he became a TV presenter for the English business news that ended up creating more visibility for him and opened more doors of opportunity.

He also took part in a spot of acting – rst for HyppTV’s serial docudrama called Graduan Bawa Teksi as one of the regular cast members and then as a guest Actor for Astro Ria’s drama Dia Bidadariku alongside Erra Fazira, Hisyam Hamid and Tisha Shamsir Alam – directed by screen legend Aziz M. Osman. He also recently received an offer to play a role in a local blockbuster movie slated for release next year.

In 2013, he was the Emcee at the Putrajaya International Islamic Arts and Culture Festival and the International Islamic Forum. In 2014, he Emceed at the KL Converge event organised by Multimedia and Communications Ministry. In 2017, he was Emcee at the International Cooperatives Alliance Global Conference organised by ANGKASA. And the list goes on.

Adi also found himself emceeing at property-related events such as the annual Havoc Hartanah convention since 2015; Sime Darby Property Lifestyle Collection in 2016; #JomCariRumah convention since 2016; The Iskandar Malaysia Accolades 2016/2017 Forum and Awards Night; and many more. The most recent property event was the 27th National Real Estate Convention 2018 organised by the Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (RISM).

To improve himself further, Adi took up Mandarin lessons in 2017 with the hopes of being able to offer services in that language, particularly given the economic direction of this country in the foreseeable future. Emceeing at high-pro le events and being able to speak an additional language has lent Adi an added degree of prominence that hasy set him apart from the competitors.

“To stand out and make it in business, one needs to stand out,” af rms Adi knowingly.

Interestingly, his rst job as a full-time Entrepreneur kicked-off at the Hiburan Seni Budaya event hosted by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL). The weekly event, showcasing various Malaysian cultural performances held at Lanai (the courtyard of the Coliseum Theatre along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) to entertain the crowd and tourist ran for a year. Earning a token sum of RM500 per night, it formed a launchpad for Adi.

Although he found it dif cult at rst, given his personal commitments at the time, he weathered and stuck through the stint which helped him hone his skills and build his pro le. He later on continued to collaborate with the event company which organised this for several years.

From there, things started to snowball pretty fast. Soon, Adi was emceeing at international performances held at Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur including international sporting events such as the “MBA Jump Smash Badminton International Junior Age Group Championship 2013”, the “Malaysian Invitational Ice Hockey Tournament 2014” and the “Winter Guard International Malaysia Championship 2015” besides emceeing at other international conferences and seminars.

He was also given the honour to emcee at events where the Guests of Honour inclyded the Sultan of Selangor as well as members of the royal families of Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah and Johor. He has also emceed for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and several other Cabinet Ministers.

Adi was also given the opportunity to emcee a number of high- pro le Malay, Chinese and Indian wedding receptions. And, in 2017, he was given the biggest honour of his career to date when he was invited to be one of the emcees for the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games Kuala Lumpur 2017.

Having gained both knowledge and practical experience in protocol management, Adi conducts workshops in that area and has done so for the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia, Petronas and Saudi Arabian petroleum giant Sabic International, among others.

Many Milestones

Adi Afendi is also active in community activities. For the Komuniti Bebas Denggi programme undertaken by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, not only did he get to emcee the of cial launch – he was also heavily involved going down to communities and help educate them about dengue. He was the unof cial ambassador of sorts.

The best parts of his job says Adi, is the amazing opportunity emceeing has granted him to meet various people.

“At the 2013 International Islamic Forum, I had the opportunity to shake hands and share a light moment with former Prime Minister TunDr Mahathir Mohamed who was the keynote speaker at the event,” he shares.

“I also had the rare opportunity to personally meet Tunku Zatashah, Princess of Selangor during the Selangor Symphony Orchestra Inaugural Concert 2015 Media Conference where she is patron of the orchestra,” he enthuses.

When asked to rate his success as an Entrepreneur, Adi confesses that he is still learning the ner ropes of the trade, adding that it would be presumptuous of him to say that he is at the pinnacle of success but still has a long way to go.

He shares that while not many may view emceeing as a business or enterprise – out of the hundreds of Emcees and Deejays in Malaysia, only a very small handful of them are actually doing this full-time as a main source of income. Most are doing it on a part-time basis while holding regular 9 to 5 jobs elsewhere.

Adi sees himself as an Entrepreneur and he considers his services of an Emcee just as any other Small and Medium- Sized Enterprise (SME). He has registered his business as an enterprise with the Registrar of Businesses. As a business owner, he says there is still has much to learn, especially on the aspects of marketing and business planning.

Dispensing advice to Entrepreneurs, he says that “Perseverance is key. Never give up. One must always rise to the challenge and face the odds. The road to being a successful Entrepreneur is one fraught with obstacles, but only the strong will end up victorious,” he says.

He also adds that one must surround onself with positive people, people who will help one along the way and keep a distance from negative people who will only dampen one’s spirit.

“Thirdly, always keep a positive outlook on things, no matter how bleak the situation. Fourthly, mix around with the right kind of people. Befriend those who can help you achieve your goals. Don’t be scared to make friends with people of high society as well as top corporate gures. But never expect a free ride.

“You must earn the jobs based on your merits and strengths, not purely on the basis of friendship which might lead to cronyism.

Next, always get out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourselves and go to the next level,” he advises while adding that one must invest in knowledge and learn from others to constantly be on top of one’s game. Walking his talk and taking the bull by the horns, Adi has signed up with a private tutor to learn Mandarin in the hopes of emceeing in this language one day.

Not satis ed to rest on his laurels, Adi has marked out other goals including aiming to emcee at the Miss Universe Malaysia organised by the Miss Universe Malaysia Organisation and the Malaysian Annual Real Estate Convention organised by the Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents or even collaborating with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in promoting this beautiful country – and he is still working towards realising these goals.

“Success is an ongoing process. However, I am profoundly grateful to where I am now at,” he re ects.

Adi has come up on top of his game by standing out from the competition – refusing from day one to remain as an ordinary Emcee at shopping mall roadshows, corporate dinners and family days. He constantly ups his game by taking on more and more challenges events such as those involving royalties where absolutely nothing must go wrong.

In the spirit of constant learning, he attends events and observes how other top Emcees do their jobs. He will emulate the good styles and techniques and make them his own while also attending marketing workshops to learn how to market himself. He would pick up new skills which will add value to his services like playing a musical instrument and learning to sing in another language.

Being prepared is another unique selling proposition for Adi. Taking nothing for granted, he will take the time to practice what he has to say. Although he has emceed hundreds of events, the next emcee job is always a brand new one for him.

“I still gets butter ies in my stomach before I go up on stage. A lot can go wrong even with experienced Emcees,” he says with a smile, explaining why he would always practice even the night before though he may have done similar events in the past.

Before stepping on the stage, he would give himself a quick once-over, then start with a prayer, take a deep breath and dive right in. And, prior to the event proper, Adi would rst furnish the clients with a list of information he requires such as the event rundown, exact names of Guests of Honour and VVIPs, and a bit of a write-up about the event.

Arriving at the venue early is a must, says Adi. Like a ritual, he will walk the stage and “own it” as it will be his domain for the next few hours. Adi would also make sure the microphones are in good working order and he would silently practice his speech to him again to boost his con dence level.

Adi says he has two of role models whom he holds with the highest degree of respect and regards.

“One is Dato’ Mahadzir Lokman and the other is Ezzah Aziz Fawzy. Both are Masters in the industry and I have admired both of them for years. Their poise, grace and professionalism in emceeing events are legendary.

“The way they command the audience’s attention and their abilities to elevate the events to a higher level are inspirational. I aspire to be at their level one day in the very near future.”

His emceeing skill is also being passed down to his daughter whom he had given the opportunity to co-emcee with him occasionally. She was also the emcee for Sri Aman in Musical Colours 2018 @ PJ, the biggest, most extravagant musical concert organised by a secondary school in the district if not the state of Selangor shares the avid traveller who has also earned himself a diploma in photography from the Nikonian Academy.

Adi has several emcee jobs lined up for himself in the coming months, though nothing major so far. He is also currently focusing on building his acting career as a means to create more visibility for his emcee business.

Commenting on his future plans, he hopes to establish his very own Adi Afendi Academy for aspiring Emcees, particularly fresh graduates and undergraduates where they can learn the full aspects of protocol management, grooming and marketing.

In the near future too, he hopes to build a community of Emcees whereby he will provide in-house training for them to increase their value and help market them to various clients. He plans to also guide the members of the community in various administrative and legal aspects of the business such as billing, taxation and handling of possible disputes.

Highlights of Adi’s Emceeing Career

Like every other business, there are highlights to his career as an Emcee. Adi has no shortage of them as seen listed here:-

  • In 1996, the rst highlight of his career, albeit not professionally yet, was in emceeing at the 24th UKM Convocation Ceremony. It was his rst event involving royalty where the Chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) was the Yang Di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan.
  • In 2014, Adi got to explore the funny side to himself and crack jokes when emceeing aat Dry Comedy: Where Is The Water? Stand Up Comedy Show with Harith Iskander 2014.
  • In 2014, he had the honour of emceeing the KL Converge! 2014 organised by the Ministry of Multimedia and Communications Malaysia, where he got to meet celebrated people from the global lm industry including renowned movie director Roger Christian and legendary composer Steve Sidwell.
  • • In 2015, he was invited by the Royal Surveyors Institution of Malaysia (RSIM) to emcee at its 54th Royal Institution of Surveyors Annual Dinner 2015. It was his rst event as a professional emcee involving royalty where the Guest of Honour was the Sultan of Selangor.
  • In 2016, Adi was engaged to emcee at the Orando Holdings Sdn Bhd Handover Ceremony to Dato’ Lee Chong Wei 2016 where he got to personally meet the Badminton Champion after his return from the Olympics.
  • In 2017, Adi was one among only 20 Emcees in Malaysia who were given the honor to be the Masters of Ceremonies at the 29th South East Asian (SEA) Games Kuala Lumpur. Adi was given the additional honour of emceeing at the rst medals presentation ceremony during the SEA Games where Malaysia won the Gold Medal presented by the Minister of Youth and Sports. This series of occurences were a triple honour for Adi.
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