On the day of the performance
By Sofie Haag
In this chapter we will talk about what to cover during the actual day of your performance.
Once you get to this stage, you have probably spent many months preparing and planning for this day, and now it is finally here. As with everything, the secret lies in preparation and communication. The devil is in the details, and just like you are planning what is going on stage, what happens around it is equally important.
To the customer, the experience starts at the moment when they consider attending your event, and it ends after the event when they are back home again. This means that if someone does not feel welcome when they arrive, have to wait for their tickets or are being disturbed during the performance that is most likely going to affect their overall impression of the event. The opposite is also true. If everything runs smoothly, someone makes them feel welcome and goes over and beyond to look after them, they are more likely to feel that this was great and want to come back for more. Its therefore important that you do what you can to make sure it is a good experience. This could include looking after important people on your guest list, for instance Danish/Nordic cultural attaches, ambassadors, stakeholders, key people from the corporate sector and the performing arts, sponsors, partners and other important contacts who are there on the day. Make it quick and easy for them to access their tickets and find their seats, get food and beverage if that is being served and hand them a program if you have one for the performance. You could set aside some space, a dedicated reception area, for all your VIPs where they can meet and network before the performance and during the interval. It is also advisable to have at least one person looking after them if possible to ensure they are having a good time. They might want to meet with the performers, attend a pre-performance talk or come back-stage at the end. Have a plan in place and keep your guests well informed so they know what is going on.
Remember, people will forget what you say or do, but they will not forget how you made them feel.
This also includes everyone involved in the production. By looking after the artists and production team, making sure they have what they need and are being well looked after, they are more likely to do well at the performance and spread a good word of mouth about you leading to more opportunities in the future. And if you spend time to get to know the people at the venue, respect their traditions and internal code of conduct (which may vary between countries and cultures, so do your due diligence before you arrive), they too are more prone to speak highly of you, thus increasing your chances of being invited again.
All of this might sound like common sense, but common sense is not always common practise. It takes time to plan an event, and on the day it has to run like clockwork. This includes having a protocol for when things go wrong, and how they are to be dealt with.
So, how to you set yourself up for success? Here is how. When the day arrives, everyone involved should know their roles and responsibilities and who their contact person is on the site. It does not matter if you are working front of house, back-stage, on stage, looking after the journalists, key people from your industry who are attending, VIPs or doing something else. You are all part of the same team, and it is only by working together and supporting each other that you will lift the experience to the next level. Magic happens when it is all perfectly coordinated and someone is keeping an eye on the whole picture.
The person who is in charge should arrive early to set things up within their respective area of responsibility and trouble shoot if need be. Everybody should have a contact list and running order where the day has been broken down into hours and minutes, outlining who does what and when. This will create flow and make it easier to communicate throughout the day. Have keys, passwords, wi-fi-access and all the practical things you need ready from the start so you don’t have to spend time chasing that information.
Set things up in good time before the audience arrives and clear the area of things that do not belong there. If you have a stand with tickets and programme books for instance, do not leave the boxes visible under the table. If you are using microphones front-of-house, test the sound and the speakers, sort out the cables, keep it clean and tidy for a good look and feel.
The same goes for back-stage, on-stage and the reception area, which should each have their own checklist for logistics and technical aspects.
If you are documenting the event, walk the photographer around the site so they know where they are allowed and also when they can take photographs. If the performance is being recorded with video and/or audio it could be disturbing with a clicking camera (and a photographer running around), so this has to be planned beforehand to avoid negative surprises on the day.
A common mistake is that the focus is on the performance only, and not what the adjacent areas looks like or what level of service is offered on site. I mention this, because the production should have its own production plan, and so should the management of all the things surrounding the event. What is often lacking though is the presentation of it all. Give this area some extra love and attention, and you will notice a positive difference in how it was perceived.
A word a caution – if you have been invited to a venue there might be things you cannot do anything about (you cannot interfere with how they run things or change their staff). If so, just observe and make a note for the post-production evaluation. It could well be that your observations may lead you to choose another venue next time or the opposite, that this was such a success that you would love to come back.
Once the event is finished, thank everyone involved and bring everything with you. Do not overstay your welcome. Instead, if you wish to meet up afterwards, reserve a place somewhere for people to join after the performance. That way you do not risk it being to crowded and your company having to break up into smaller groups to find somewhere to go. That would leave a bad aftertaste to an otherwise great experience.