5 Tips to Make you a Stronger Stage Manager

Last week, I had the privilege to attend two amazing educational events. The first was the inaugural Broadway Stage Management Symposium, a packed weekend of discussions, networking, and panels with some of Broadway’s most seasoned professionals. The second was Tinc Productions’ Management Intensive, a weeklong, hands on program designed to provide a glimpse into the world of producing and managing live events. I’ve come away with a few practical tips for stage managers and other aspiring event professionals that have already started to make an impact on my daily work.

Tip #1 We Can’t Do It Alone.

Being a manager encompasses a little bit of everything. So there will always be people on the team above, below, or beside us who know more about a particular function or process. Openly acknowledging this allows us to identify what we need the most help with and connect with other professionals who can complement our skills. Networking is not just “who we know,” but rather who can help us become better stage managers, better people. Something that Narda Alcorn (Production Stage Manager, Broadway – A Raisin in the Sun) said at the Symposium really struck a nerve. Speaking about her longtime Assistant Stage Manager, she said:

“I am better because of him.”

Tip #2 Don’t Let the Good Ones Get Away!

When you find the right person, it clicks. PSM of Gigi, Bonnie Parson likened this process to dating. It’s a funny thought, but also incredibly accurate. Hopefully, every job provides us with opportunities to “hit it off” with our colleagues but this is not always the case. Like dating, not every encounter is a success. There are so many different people we will engage with as freelancers. And when we truly connect with someone who complements us and raises the quality of our work, why would we ever let that person go?

Tip #3 Do What Makes Sense for This Show, Not the Last One

Good technique creates a solid foundation for event managers, allowing us to respond to the specific needs of a project. In truth, this means potentially throwing out everything that worked on the last project if it doesn’t make sense for the current one. In his Symposium presentation about technology and his digital calling desk, Chicago PSM Josh Halperin put it bluntly.

“Everything you should do should be for the benefit of the show.”

If your next project presents you with challenges you have yet to face, don’t be afraid to create an entirely new system.

Tip #4 Check Our Perceptions at the Door

I sat in on Day Three of Tinc’s Management Intensive, when the theme was interpersonal skill and conflict resolution. Tinc’s COO, Melissa Johnston took the class through multiple scenarios, each time encouraging the attendees to produce the clearest path to solving problems. The end result: simply letting go of our own perceptions can solve many problems. What we think our relationships should be, what we think should work based on our experience, even what we judge to be valid or invalid issues: all of these perceptions are rooted in what works best for ourselves. The opposite may be true for the person with whom you’re currently butting heads. The first, and often easiest step we can take is to look inward and take stock.

Stage Managers are superheroes!Tip #5 Look from Someone Else’s Perspective

The next logical step, once we self-assess, is to try to imagine the mindset of our colleagues. Use whatever we know about them, their work history, their strengths and weaknesses to better understand where they are coming from and what is causing an issue to arise. In her recent talk at TedxBroadway, Dr. Laurie Santos spoke of our unique ability as human beings to “perspective shift.” We may often find that after taking the time to do this, most problems can be addressed before they are ever able to fully develop.

 

By finding and latching on to good people, putting the needs of the project first, and checking our preconceptions at the door, we have a much greater opportunity to find success as live event managers.

To listen to Laurie Santos’ full presentation from TedxBroadway, visit https://youtu.be/Yv4iV60Dps8

What stage management tips can you share? Let us know in the comments below.

By: Kaitlyn Ackerman

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