On site at a conference, I’m a middle man. I am the liaison between the conference organizers, the speakers and the production crew. Since the first two are going to blame me for anything that goes wrong on stage, it’s essential that I work closely and well with the AV crew.
And I do. The audio visual team running things behind the scenes at business conferences are true professionals. They know their job is to make sure the conference runs flawlessly. I would never pretend to know more than they do about wireless microphone frequencies, lighting angles or set design.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t offer suggestions that I think will make us all look and perform better.
That starts with a script, which is known variously as a show flow or run order. Well in advance, I provide this to the AV team in a format we’ve agreed upon, showing minute by minute the cues for such things as how many chairs to have on stage, when to add or take away chairs, public announcements over the loudspeaker (known as a Voice of God or VoG), which speakers to mic up, what music to play when they walk on stage, when to put which slides on screen, when to go to image magnification of the speakers, what to show on screen during refreshment breaks, etc.
During the conference, I’ll sit next to the technical director, who is calling the show (that means he or she is on headset with the entire crew, giving them cues for sound, lighting, video, etc.). That way I’m there in case we need to make a change from the run order when, for example, the next speaker is late and we need to extend the time of the current session. Or when, heaven forbid, the director calls up the wrong set of PowerPoint slides or the wrong VoG – which despite the best preparation occasionally does happen. With a small AV crew, I’ve even had to run up on stage to hand the speaker a microphone when his or hers shorts out.
In general, I trust the AV team completely. The audio tech always has a much deeper play list on his iPod than I do and a better sense of what music fits which audience. The video director is much faster at anticipating who will answer a question and then switching camera shots than I could ever be.
Even so, I’m the one nominally in charge. I tell the technical director when to start the program, I manage the countdown clock facing the speakers and speakers come to me with special requests (one speaker refuses to wear a lavaliere microphone and insists on handheld, another needs a special table for his notes next to his chair on stage). I also have been known to insist on different camera angles so that the conference organizer’s logo can appear more prominently on screen and in photos that will appear afterward on their website.
But at the end of the day, teamwork is key to making it all run smoothly behind the scenes—and on stage.