It’s no secret that production has the power to make or break a meeting. Missed lighting cues, malfunctioning microphones and haywire visuals are every planner’s nightmare.
With the added technology that accompanies virtual and hybrid events, the stakes are even higher. That’s why many planners choose to work with production companies, teams whose techs and experts can streamline an event’s audiovisual and technological needs. To ensure their event’s success, it’s in each planner’s best interest to learn how to collaborate effectively with these important stakeholders.
Whether they’re partnering with a production team or handling event production on their own, here are some ways planners can be sure to hit their marks.
Providing A Vision
One of the best ways to improve an event’s production starts by having a cohesive vision for the event long before it takes place.
Ryan Dawson-Fuerman, event manager at Perfection Events, said the first thing to consider about an event’s production is “being on board between the client, us and any vendors that we’re bringing in from an A/V or production standpoint. [Make sure] that we’re all on the same page about what that vision is and how we’re all going to execute it.”
Many clients have specific ideas for their events. Whether these ideas are grand or relatively simple, it’s the planner’s job to make that vision a reality in whatever capacity they can. According to Washington Arias, president and CEO of Everlast Productions, planners should be upfront about their client’s vision for the event by giving the production team a big picture of how they want the event to look and feel.
“It is important to know what is expected of us and what experience you are looking to achieve for your attendees,” Arias said.
The initial pre-production discussions should also include conversations about budget and the scope of a project to keep the client’s expectations realistic. For instance, adding virtual components to events can dramatically affect the cost of production. While many clients may think hosting a panelist via Zoom or added streaming services is as simple as connecting another computer to the production booth, technology components like this can blow a huge hole in their budget.
The planner, the production team and, most importantly, the client all need to know what to expect out of their event and agree on how to achieve their dreams while staying well within their means.
Communicate the Details
When it comes to executing events, details matter. The more details a planner can give their production team, the more likely their event is to succeed.
Sarah Soliman, president and CEO of Soliman Productions, said this process often starts with RFPs. Planners should ensure “that the RFP is fully developed and includes room dimensions and specific details on what the actual needs are for each room.”
While pre-production details of an event are usually still being nailed down during the RFP process, it’s important to give as detailed of an outline and as much information to the production team as possible, or for planners to record that information themselves.
The number of rooms or spaces an event will have, the number of panelists a general session will feature and the number of attendees expected are all details that will affect the number of resources required to successfully pull it off. Additionally, details help production teams and planners work out a “run of show” or detailed outline of how the event will play out from a production standpoint.
“The more information we’re equipped with, the better it is for us to understand the overall flow of the event,” Soliman said.
Once the project begins moving forward, the planners should stay in close contact with the production team and the client to keep on top of the ever-shifting details. Soliman recommends having weekly calls to keep everyone in the know about changes that could affect the event’s logistics.
No detail is too small for a production team to take note of, because any little change could have a huge impact on the program. If the keynote speaker shifts from being in-person to virtual or the company CEO decides to give their speech 15 minutes sooner, keeping up with developments like these prevents any upsets and makes the event run smoothly.
Establishing an Effective Team
When it comes to pulling off an event of any size, an efficient team is like a well-oiled machine.
“Whenever we work with a production company, we call them partners, because we’re really working in lockstep,” said Dawson-Fuerman.
In pre-production, this often means collaborating with the whole team of audiovisual techs, project managers and producers to make important decisions about the event’s execution. Expert audiovisual technicians can help the productions run smoothly by quickly and effectively troubleshooting and working through any issues; if they’re very seasoned, they can even predict and stop potential problems from breaking out.
When it comes time for the event itself, there should be a director or a producer who can make sure the run of show is being executed effectively. It becomes the producer’s job to call out cues and help manage any difficulties that may occur during the event. Even if a planner chooses not to work with a production company, this role is important to fill.
“A producer serves as a captain leading the ship,” Soliman said. “If you don’t have someone doing that, there is no safeguarding that production, and it’s just kind of a free for all.”
Preparing for ‘What Ifs’
When relying on technology, it’s important for planners and production teams to run rehearsals, double-check equipment and implement back-up plans. These safeguards help prevent errors and catch problems before the event occurs. Getting all necessary materials to production teams well in advance allows them to do these practice runs as well.
“We try to have PowerPoint slides, any videos, any assets they need for the event,” said Dawson-Fuerman. “We want them to have them in their hands so they can be doing their own run throughs and testing.”
Arias said it’s also critical to give techs access to the event space as early as possible. Whoever is doing an event’s production should have plenty of time to set up before an event and incorporate the set-up into their timeline.
Sometimes, no matter how many times the equipment is checked or how expertly trained the techs are, technology malfunctions and things go wrong. These breakdowns can sometimes be chalked up to human error, like missed cues, or unpredictable technology such as power outages. Especially when it comes to virtual and hybrid event components, factors outside a planner’s control can be to blame for disruptions, and not everything can be planned for.
Whether a planner or production team member makes a mistake, or something goes wrong through no fault of their own, the best plan of action is to be transparent with the client and inform them about the problem and potential solutions quickly.
Handling a malfunction gracefully means “staying in contact with the client and ensuring they know what we’re doing,” Soliman said. “They’re not understanding if they don’t know what’s going on.”
“The best thing to do is to remain calm, take a few deep breaths, try troubleshooting the issue, don’t be too proud to ask for help, be patient and polite to your crew, and be honest when speaking to your client,” said Arias.