Last night I was watching a televised event that was revealing the new name and logo for the first Las Vegas professional sports team ever. This event was highly anticipated by the residents of Las Vegas; we were all anxious to see what the new NHL hockey team’s name would be, and what the logo would look like.
As the owner of the team took the stage and started his presentation, I made some critical observations of the stage design and all of the production elements. I thought the stage design, lighting, video, and audio were all well done. I also knew there would be some special effects and fanfare to accompany this presentation.
As the presentation started, everything was going well—until the owner called for a three-minute video to play that would explain how and why they chose the name of the team. Well, the video did not play on cue, and the owner was now in unknown territory. He left the stage and the MC came on and did a good job of covering up the dead air. The owner came back to the stage and called for the video to play again. Once again, the video did not play. I immediately became uncomfortable for the production team, and started to think about all of the things that could lead to a problem like this.
The MC asked a few questions of the owner, and he hesitantly called for the reveal of the logo. The reveal happened on cue, showing the audience the new logo and name, as well as confetti cannons, lighting, and audio effects.
The new name: the Las Vegas Golden Knights. As a resident of Las Vegas, I didn’t quite understand how they came up with that name, and neither did many of my friends. The importance of the video that explained the “how and why” was a critical piece of the reveal. If you go watch the video, you have a better understanding of what I am talking about. I saw many Facebook posts that said, “We are the Silver State, not the Golden State; that is lame.” This miscue even made the local news.
Now, on to the reason for my post. I own a production company, and I have had my share of miscues—but nothing like that. I want to take a minute and explain how a production crew can get to a place where something like this happens.
- Load-in and rehearsal time. All too often, the person who negotiates the venue contract never thinks about what the production team will need regarding load-in time or rehearsals. In the production game, if you want a smooth show with no missed cues, you need to start with a tech rehearsal and follow it with a live rehearsal. We live in a time where technology rules our lives, and at times, things happen. You need time to ensure all of your technology works and that the backup works as well. This is why rehearsal times are so critical.
- Low budgets. Usually the first thing to go when budgets are being cut are production elements like special effects, custom scenic elements, custom video displays, backup equipment, and labor for rehearsals. Don’t let this happen to your show.
- Presenters who are unprepared. An unprepared presenter can expect that the production crew knows the presentation as well as they do. Yes, we look and go through the slides, video or audio elements prior to them going on stage. But that doesn’t mean we know what they want or when they will want it. Getting in sync with your production crew is as easy as asking them if they have any questions. Don’t assume anything when it comes to a staged event—and I mean assume NOTHING.
- Bad media. All too often we have encountered bad media. Many times I have said to myself, “That guy is a billionaire/millionaire; his video is going to kick ass,” only to find out his audio was blown out and the video was created in a low-res format. If your production team has time to play back all media to screen and listen to the entire video, they will be acutely aware of any problems that are coming before they happen. The production team needs the time to watch and listen to everything before it gets played in front of an audience. Ask your production team if they have seen your media.
- Backup, backup, backup. We have been asked many times by our customers if we really needed four playback machines and my response is usually the same: “I am sure it will suffice, but I would like to have two more.” Redundant equipment can make all the difference in the world when problems arise. If you haven’t experienced any problems with your staged events, I am sure your production team has, and they had the expertise, knowledge and backup gear to make sure you didn’t realize that there was a problem. If you see a lot of computers backstage, you should instantly feel more confident that your production team is ready for you to take the stage.
Because this is a part of our daily operations, all we can do is hope that the customers and presenters care as much as we do. Our production team has the utmost respect for anyone who takes the stage, and we want to be the invisible technology geniuses behind you and your presentation. The audience experience really counts, and the lack of preparation can affect that outcome—such as the one with the team name and logo reveal I wrote about earlier. I am sure the Las Vegas Golden Knights will be a great name and the residents of Las Vegas will understand how and why the name was chosen eventually, and all will be well.
As my team prepares for an event next week for 15,000 to 20,000 people, we are watching all media, playing back all presentations, reformatting videos, preparing backup systems, calling presenters, and communicating with our customer and their teams to ensure that we can do the best job possible.
Our job is to take the audience on a journey that will be memorable, inspirational, educational, and entertaining. Good luck to all who are taking the stage or playing the part of the invisible technology geniuses behind the scenes.