At a business social last night the hosts and sponsors ran up against a very common problem when it was time for them to say a few words and announce the winners of the silent auction they were running. No one was listening. Giant clusters of people all over the ballroom just kept on talking; the din loud enough that even with a sound system the emcee was barely heard.
It happens time and time again at networking events. All talk, no listening.
Four years ago I witnessed an emcee that knew what to do. He stepped to the mic, smiled at the blissfully buzzing audience of several hundred, and said, "If you can hear the sound of my voice please turn to the person next to you and say shhhhh." He repeated it two more times. Each time I could hear the decibel level plummet until after the third time he said it every eye in room was on him and every mouth was silent. Simply amazing! He'd engaged the audience in a polite moment of policing themselves.
I tried it myself a few years later as I stood before a loud and unfocused audience. Same wonderful result. These days it is standard emcee procedure for me.
Word of warning: Once you have the full attention of every person in the room they will want to hear something worth paying attention to.