Creating a Smooth Stage Production
Author Note: This article appeared in the August 23, 2018 issue of Small Meetings Magazine. During my career over the past 23 years as a conference and event planner guiding the process of creating stage experiences that elicit desired emotion from the audience, I continue to encounter planners who don’t fully grasp the nuances of how much is involved to bring production together seamlessly. Since numerous people contribute to each step in the process, if you miss a step, a domino effect occurs that leads to chaos and the potential for embarrassing errors on stage.
Perhaps it’s the amount of intricate detail involved or fears due to a lack of knowledge that leads planners to outsource content development or hand over to another department to take the lead, thereby blocking the planner’s involvement. But, is this the sensible thing to do? Are you letting a golden opportunity pass by to elevate your position and develop stronger relationships with internal and external stakeholders?
Stage production development requires clear communication and an overall vision throughout the planning process. Some of the components to think about are a timeline, event flow, stage set, scriptwriting, visual presentation (PowerPoint), audio presentation (music), and stage logistics. Your A/V company is critical to the success of all this being successful to ensure technological direction is understood and quality control measures are in place.
Once your team has determined what they want the audience to experience, it’s time to start asking questions to shape the end product. This is where the authenticity and emotion come to life to help create the event flow and content. Here are some helpful details to consider and get started:
Why does the “circle of involvement” during production development need to stay tight?
You might have heard the saying “too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the broth?” This is particularly true during production development. There might be plenty of ideas coming from a multitude of sources, but stay true to your convictions and keep that circle tight. Not only is there no room for information to be miscommunicated, it’s inefficient to be spending your time cleaning up wrong information just to get back where you started.
Who should be involved from the planning department? The most senior person in the department needs to be appointed as the primary point person who is able to collaborate with the C-suite confidently (and often with confidentiality). They’ll not only have the authority to guide the process and make final decisions, but this will help to keep your circle tight.
How do you go about developing the event flow and content? Start with conversations about what you want the audience to see, feel, and hear! What emotions do you want to evoke during a program and at what point in the event flow will that happen? This is a tremendous opportunity to further engage your high-level stakeholders.
How do you choose who will be on stage? This is a big deal; I’ve worked with CEO’s who are magnificent on stage and there are other times that was not necessarily the case. (No judgments here; not everyone was born to be on stage.) There’s a balance between those who have something to say and those who should say it.
Here’s my suggestion to “back into” who will be presenting on stage: Let the top person inside your company or association first tell you who they want to see onstage and make sure those selected are based on meeting goals and objectives. Will there be some level of politics involved? YES. Do you need to discretely and respectfully speak up if anyone selected doesn’t have the right stage presence? YES. At the end of the day, you want to protect the integrity of what’s being produced. Your CEO will respect you immensely for delivering with integrity and conviction.
Whether the responsibility for production belongs to your department or you find it necessary to bring in an outside consultant to manage content development and stage production, my hope is that more are educated about the process. The more empowered you’ll be to participate and shape the experience and results of what happens on stage and demonstrate, your value as a meeting professional will increase.
Remember: what happens from the moment those ballroom doors open is LIVE. You don’t get any do-overs on stage so don’t leave the production to chance!