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Myth Busting: Live Event Myths

Over my career I’ve been a part of a staggering number of live events. It’s hard to count, but it’s easily into the hundreds, and if you took the time to count and you told me it was over a thousand, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been a part of everything from the Olympics to WWE WrestleMania, NBC shows, Cleveland Indians, all the way over to Large Scale Corporate Meetings, and everything in between. Now, as the resident “Quote Guy™” at PEG I’ve also quoted tons of live events, and I’ve heard plenty of myths and questions about live events. In this blog, we put to rest some of the most common ones.

Live Event Myth 1:
“We Don’t Need Comms”

Whether you’re watching a small local theatre production or a major nationwide sporting event, the unsung hero of all live events are comms. But I’m sad to say, one of the first things that people ask when they want to reduce the budget or scope of a live event is asking to eliminate comms. For those who don’t work in the nitty gritty of live shows, “comms” refers to how the crew working an event talks to each other. The most typical way for comms to be handled are wired or wireless belt packs. Basically every crew member gets a small device the size of your palm that goes on their belt or a desktop and you plug a headset into it. In that headset you can hear the entire crew (it gets fancier on bigger shows, but let’s keep it simple) and talk to anyone in the show, whether they are right next to you or miles away. Now, why they get cut. The thing is, people attending live events don’t see comms. They see the event, they see the stage, they see the video board, they hear the speakers. So when it comes to receiving a quote for a live event, they have no problem paying for those things that have made an impression on them in shows they’ve personally attended. But they see comms on a quote list and think “Eh, that’s probably just a luxury.” It’s the opposite. Comms are the most important thing in a show. Without comms, the entire production falls apart. How do I know? Because when you do hundreds or even thousands of shows, you end up being a part of shows where there’s bad comms or no comms. And the whole thing unravels. Communication first, glitz and glamour second.

Myth 2:
“We Don’t Need a Load-In/Build Day”

Now, this one has some exceptions. If you tell me you want to do a small show with one or two cameras, in a venue we’ve worked in before, especially if we’ve done the format before, sometimes you can get away with a same day load-in (But bring your coffee, it’ll be early). But most times, this is what really happens. When we put together a quote, there’s naturally the time, equipment, and crew of the actual show day(s). But on productions of any significant scale, there’s often time a load-in day. This is a day where we come on-site prior to the event and setup all the video, audio, lighting, and (yes, see above...) comms, and make sure everything works. Now, often times when we put together a quote, after our good friend comms above, the first thing that’s proposed to be on the chopping block is the load-in day. This is for a number of reasons. It could be budget, it could be that the staff to let us in doesn’t have time, it even often is simply that with the client’s smaller events that they handle internally they generally don’t do a load-in day, so it’s a foreign concept. But the load-in day is a vital part of most shows. It’s the day where if there’s any sort of problem - it can be discovered and fixed. Yes, sometimes this is that one of our cables are broken or missing, and we need to replace it. But oftentimes it’s actually most beneficial for the client side. Sometimes the set is 99% perfect, but there’s one added touch they didn’t know they’d want until they see it all built. Other times a last-minute change by a higher-up requires a change in format. As an example: “Yesterday we decided we want to do an audience Q&A, can you setup a few mics in the crowd?” Of course! But that’s always easier to do when there’s a buffer in case equipment that’s not on-site needs brought in. Another reason that pops up are run-throughs. It’s very common during the build day that a presenter wants to come run through their slides. That’s no problem, that’s part of the gig, and being prepared is better for the presenter and for us. Often times when that happens on a build day a presenter finds they have part of their presentation that doesn’t work as well as they thought when they actually say it out loud. With a load-in day, they now have the ability to revise that part of their presentation and make it work the way they thought it would in the first place. Now they’re happy and prepared, and it’s a smoother show for everyone. The last, and sometimes most important consideration, is that you can do internet tests on a build day. With a build day we can do a test and confirm the in-house connection isn’t dropping frames and will be stable for a stream. That alone can worth its weight in gold, because often the main connection to the building is actually more than capable, but the I.T. department just has to make a few changes to the configuration of a particular port we’re plugged in to. Easy to do the day before, potentially chaos if done on-the-day. Live events are fun to produce, but do require a lot of planning and coordination. Taking these two busted myths into consideration will definitely help make sure your live event is a success!

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