"We are only as good as our pre-production and paper work in this industry; it's worth taking the time to get it all right and scheduled before we get onto site. There will always be unforseen challenges in our industry especially because we go live, but if your planning is methodical and meticulous, these challenges can be be dealt with better on site. It doesn't have to be chaotic...all too often, approvals and rehearsals are left to the last minute and this can compromise the end result" says Leah McCrae, Managing Director of Strike Productions technical event support company.
"This industry works 24/7, on evenings, weekends and holidays, organising and running events and making sure that they go smoothly. Time management errors cost us existing and potential clients, as well as tarnishing our reputation. Missing a deadline is simply not an option".
Strike Productions are old hands at corporate events, road shows, conferences, product launches, gala dinners, exhibitions, television broadcasts and rock concerts and with each production they encourage a meeting with the creative team as well as the technical specialists, so that the concept can be discussed and most of the obstacles ironed out. Tasks have to be prioritised, workloads structured and deadlines set, to be strictly adhered to. Once an order of programme activities is established, each activity needs to have an allotted time slot, with a bit of leeway in case of unplanned hitches within the production schedule.
"You can have the best caterers, the most wonderful venue, amazing artists and magnificent decor, but unless a practical time plan is followed, the result won't meet the expectations of the client." says Leah. "Once an event goes live and the crew are running the show according to the rehearsed show schedule, a professional team can cope with the guest speakers running overtime and the caterers learn how to monitor the food being brought out according to the timing of the show. But if not enough time is given to set up and rehearsals, this is where it all starts getting messy. Clients must enquire about how much time the technical company will need to load in and set up, as this is this critical. This includes the health and safety aspect as well as ensuring that there is enough time to run full rehearsals and technical cues. Clients cut back on venue set up time in order to cut back on budget and it proves to be disastrous in most cases".
Striking a perfect balance between a well-structured, organised programme and some flexibility to allow for unanticipated snags, like a power failure and changes to presentations, should be the goal. But the most important factor in the whole plan for an event comes down to rehearsals. Usually, these are kept to a minimum because of budget constraints, but they are imperative to ensure that every detail is attended to before the show goes live. Leah is adamant about everyone's participation:
"Clients forget that they plan these events for weeks and months in advance - they eat, sleep and live these events. They brainstorm and present the concept, they write up production schedules that describe how the show will run; they have days of rehearsals with artists and directors. They need to realise that the technical crew need to run the show a few times in rehearsals, because it is imperative that they get to know the cues and understand the show, plot lights and set sound before they go live. The pressure is huge for them between the time that they set up to addressing the last minute changes of the show. I am hoping that our clients will start appreciating what the technicians have to take on and will consider the importance of timing. Everyone has to be involved in rehearsals; the artists, director, the technical crew, and mostly the client, from the beginning though to the end - especially when expectations are so high. There is ample time to express any concerns or address any unforeseen problems during the rehearsal slot. Digital technology allows pre-sets to be saved until edited. Once the client and the director are satisfied with the result, the pre-sets are signed off...this includes lighting, sound, and all other technical details. You can't just change sound levels once an event is live; it is not as simple as just pulling down a fader as it has a domino effect. There is a process that needs to happen which takes a good amount time and concentration. All these concerns can be addressed in rehearsals".
In conclusion, once all the details are taken care of by the event planner, it's crucial that each element is checked, approved, rehearsed and any changes made within the timing plan.