Live media production is one of the most important—and most often overlooked—aspects of event planning. It’s a shame too, because media can make or break an otherwise great event. No doubt you’ve witnessed it before: a beautiful evening with delicious food, stunning decor, wonderful service, and an amazing venue. As the evening builds to a climax, the momentum is brought to a screeching halt by some otherwise preventable technical problem: audio feedback, a stage too dark to see the speaker, a video that “won’t play”…you get the picture.
Most often these “monstrous media moments” happen simply because technical production is so far outside of most people’s area of expertise. And since event planners don’t know what they don’t know, important details get overlooked. I’m here to help. Over my next few posts I’ll discuss the “Top Ten Dos & Don’ts” when it comes to specific areas of event media. Today, let’s cover the most essential first step in flawlessly executed event media production: Making a Plan.
MAKING A PROGRAMMING PLAN
In order to create a good programming plan, I recommend creating a simple spreadsheet. This spreadsheet will consist of rows that list each element of the program, and corresponding columns with details for descriptions, time, audio, video and lighting. Here’s a step-by-step guide for each field:
1. List your elements in rows
Each row in the spreadsheet contains a specific moment in your programming: a host introduction, a slideshow, a video, a toast, etc. Don’t leave anything out here—no element is too small.
2. Create a column for a description
Take the time to write out exactly what this element is all about—who will be on stage, what they will be saying, what is the purpose of this moment. These details will force you to consider the overall structure of your program, as well as make sure every element is essential and in the right place.
3. Create a column for time (in minutes)
In this column, mark down an estimated time you believe this element should last. Most of the time people underestimate this. A good rule of thumb is to add 20% on to what “feels right”. For an Emcee greeting that you think should take 5 minutes, mark it down as 6 minutes. Ultimately, thiis column will help you tabulate the total runtime for your event, as well as set clear guidelines for speakers and guests to know how much stage time they’re allowed.
4. Create a column for audio
This column should list every important detail for the audio engineer: who is speaking, how many people are on stage, what kind of microphone they will use, etc. If there is a video with sound or background music—anything that makes noise—write it here. This will allow the media team to make sure there is proper equipment available, and encourage you to think about secondary elements such as transitions and ambience.
5. Create a column for video
In this field, write down what should appear on the video screens during each element. It may be a power point presentation, a logo, a video, or even a black screen. Not only will this help you think about the aesthetics of the moment, it will also help you determine the emotional flow of the programming element: is it an upbeat moment? Use bright, cheerful graphics. Is it melancholy? Maybe go for something simple. More than anything else, this will help you be certain that you’ve gathered every necessary graphic, video, and presentation required for your event.
6. Create a column for lighting
This section should contain as many details about the lighting design as possible: color of the background wash, focal area of stage for key lighting, and special effects, etc. If a blackout or partial blackout is required for video, note it here. Besides making sure you’re on the same page with your lighting director, preparing this section will help you identify any potential issues related to stage blocking, scene transitions, and other considerations related to the physical blocking of each element.
7. Create a final column for special notes
Every event is unique, and some elements may require special consideration, observation or preparation. Communicating these issues in advance to the media team will not only help prevent unpleasant surprises, it will convey a sense of consideration and hospitality to those around you. Remember, hospitality is always about anticipating needs!
SUMMING IT UP
While this type of planning may seem like overkill, it has proven time and again to be well worth the time and consideration required. Remember—you only get one chance at a great event. Invest this time beforehand and you’ll be sure that your event media will be smooth running and flawlessly executed.