Celebrating 10 Years!



If you’ve been in the A/V and production business for a while, you’ve already heard this story. A client tells his A/V vendor that he’s worried the event might not go off exactly as planned, and the A/V vendor says, “Don’t worry, we’ve screwed up much bigger events than this.” It’s funny because it’s true. We’ve all had something go wrong, and sometimes something goes very wrong. If an A/V and production company tells you that nothing has ever gone wrong at one of its events, turn and run because you’ve just been lied to. So, what do you do when the unexpected happens?

As someone who’s been in this industry for many years and produced hundreds of events, I’ve seen a lot of things that could have gone wrong, and some that did. As an event planner, you know that things can and do go wrong, but that one of the keys to success is to “never let the audience see you sweat.”  As much as you plan, rehearse and visualize an event, there are always things that can go wrong. They are often out of your control. But here’s the important point: How you control the “out-of-control” is what can make or break your event.

You always want a quality staff handling your A/V and production needs, but never more than when there is an emergency.

Recently, we were onsite at an event where everything was running smoothly.  Then, all of a sudden, the room went black.  It surprised all of us, and we didn’t know what had happened to the power.  Luckily, the blackout only lasted a few seconds, but it presented a lot of problems. The audience was there. They knew what had happened.  What they didn’t know is that a reboot was necessary and that it might take a few minutes to get the large projectors and lighting systems back up and running. Unfortunately, in this kind of situation, a few minutes can feel like an hour.

So, what do you do?  When something happens at an event that is out of your control, the only thing you can control is how you respond, and you should do that with honesty and professionalism. Here are a few tips to smooth out even the roughest rough spots:

Remain calm – If you take things in stride, the likelihood is that the problem will be corrected quicker and with less stress. In the heat of the moment is not the time to ask “How did this happen?” It’s the time to spring into “fix it” mode.

Be honest with your audience – If you need to walk on stage and state that there was a power outage and that it will take a few moments to reboot the system, do it.  It’s far better than leaving them guessing or having your speaker pace back and forth onstage saying, “Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?”

Be prepared – Always have a plan B.  In our power outage example, plan B would be simply to get on stage, explain this is a live show and things beyond our control can happen. Apologize and then engage the audience. Something simple you can do while waiting for the program to get back on track is ask them to turn to the person next to them and discuss a few concepts they just learned.

Don’t sugarcoat the problem – By that I mean, don’t discount it, but don’t make it a big deal, either. The more of an issue you make it, the bigger it will seem to the audience.

Never point fingers – It’s never good to say, “the A/V team had a system failure.” Or “the hotel must have had a power problem.” Or “can you guys get us a mic that works?”  Or “You aren’t advancing the slides when I click.” It just makes you look bad. Simply be professional. For an event planner, that means just solving the problem. For a speaker, it means keeping your cool and asking to have your slide advanced or asking for a new mic.  Just being professional will make you look better in the long run.

When the room went dark at the event I mentioned above, we followed our own advice. We were honest with the audience. We informed them what had happened and we announced it would be a few minutes until we got everything back online.

In the world of live events, there is a certain level of uncertainty. The difference between the “good” and the “not so good” A/V and production companies is how they handle the situation.

At OnCue Staging, we expect the “unexpected” and we help minimize the negative impact of situations that are out of your control by handling them with honesty and professionalism.  Our job is to make event planners sweat less about their A/V and production needs and make their event planning easier. OnCue Staging. Because OnCue’s on it.

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