This is part 3 in a series about the phases of event production. Check out Part I: Investigation and Part II: Planning for information on those early parts of the process.
Did you sleep last night? I hope so. Today is event day and it’s going to be a long one. You’ve asked all your questions. You’ve planned the event to perfection. You have backup plans and backup plans for your backup plans. The crew is booked, the vendors have their assignments, your coffee is still hot and your Über is pulling up outside your place. It’s time to get to work, so how should a good event manager tackle this day?
1. Get There Early
As a production manager, you should be one of the first people on-site. Why is this so important? Because this will be one of the only times, maybe the ONLY time all day when you’ll be able to get your house in order. And in relative peace. You’ll be able to plan out all the logistics of your event and best prepare yourself for the challenges ahead.
One of the first things I do is prepare for my arriving team. I tape out load-in pathways, post signs directing my vendors where to park and unload, and get sign-in sheets ready for my crew. It’s important to ensure you know exactly where things will go when they come off of the trucks. This is when a checklist comes in really handy for your event planning. Keep in mind the truck packing order. What is coming off first and where is the best place to put it? You don’t want any gear getting in the way of the work. Take time to prepare the space for people and equipment before the barrage of activity starts.
2. Hold a “Pow-Wow”
When the crew arrives, it’s a good idea to bring them all together for a quick circle meeting. This is your opportunity to set the tone for the load-in. Give them an understanding of the event and allow them to meet each other. You need everyone working together toward the same goals and on the same timeline. On-site, goals mean nothing without an understanding of time. By providing this information to your production crew, you empower them to make decisions. They can establish how to best to prioritize work and share responsibilities to meet the day’s benchmarks.
3. Build It!
Once everything is loaded in to the space, it’s time to put it together. Because you thought ahead during pre-production, you already have a build plan in place. It is vitally important that your build is complete and the room is ready is no less than 30 minutes before you expect the first people to arrive. Sometimes, you might be done long before this but never should it be less.
4. Time to Light the Lights
Doors open: it’s show time! The event itself should have been planned out just as thoroughly as each of your other steps. Note that not everyone involved will be as seasoned as you are. Some may be more so. Knowing your team inside and out will help you communicate and, if necessary, resolve conflicts on an individual level. Execute your plan. Make sure to check-in with your client as the event goes on. He or she may not need anything but in the instances where your attention is desired, there is nothing worse than the client not being able to find you.
5. Close up Shop
When the event is over, touch base with the client one last time. His or her stress level has likely diminished (as has yours!) and it is much easier to connect on the experience as a whole.Thank them for the opportunity and congratulate them on their successful event. Cement your reputation in their minds so when the next event comes along, you’ll be the first person on the call list.
6. Strike with Care
Load-out, or Strike comes so quickly after the show, mistakes, sometimes dangerous ones can be made. Your crew is tired, you are tired, and corners are often cut for the sake of speed and the promise of a drink and sleep. Don’t let this happen. You should have a clearly defined strike plan in place. In fact, you can even set up for strike as part of your initial load-in. How you store your packing material, for example, can really help get your load-out off on the right foot. In general, the same rules apply for the strike as did for your load-in. I like to think of the trucks as my new “venue.” How do I want to load-in the gear to the trucks so that everything is packed safely, accessible, and easy to unload later?
One other important note. Just because your main client has left the building does not mean you aren’t still working for someone. The venue manager has become your new client. Your job is now not about getting an event up and running. Your job is about returning the venue to a better state than you found it. It’s terrific if the client loved you. That should mean more work. But if you manage a careless load-out, damaging the venue walls, equipment, or something else, do you think that venue manager is going to be working with you again? Likely not. Take care of the space. Pick up your trash, sweep, pull up all the tape, re-paint, and take out the garbage. And if you do damage something, be upfront about it. Apologize and work to resolve it. The venue manager sees a lot of events come in and out through the doors, any of which he or she could recommend you for. A successful career in event production is all about relationships and in many ways, venue managers literally hold the keys.
You did it! Well, most of it. You’ve loaded-in, produced a killer event, and loaded-out leaving your venue pristine. It’s time to take some deep breaths, and recharge. Because next, you have to put a pretty bow on this event.
Did we miss anything? What tips do you have for “controlling the room” on event day? Let us hear them in the comments below.