The Ultimate Event Production Playbook

This is a complete guide for event production companies and event managers alike. If you are an event producer, learn how you can achieve a more efficient production process. If you are an event manager, get insight into how to pick an event production company that will suit your goals.

01

What is Event Production?

Event production is the technological and creative execution of an event using sound, lighting, video, design, and more to control the atmosphere, mood, and emotion of attendees. An event producer will work with clients (typically meeting planners or event managers) to identify the concept of the event, and subsequently plan the logistics and technical components, including audiovisuals, vendors, crew, equipment, budgets, and more.

If you’re new to the event industry, you’ll often hear words like “event planning,” “event management,” “event coordination,” and “event production.” While many of these terms are often used interchangeably, each require different personnel with a variety of skill sets. On the other hand, if you’re already a seasoned pro, here’s a quick refresher before diving in-depth into event production throughout the rest of the guide.


Event Planning vs. Event Management vs. Event Production

Event planning is about managing the activities prior to your event, which includes selecting venues, finalizing event dates, managing budgets, hiring a caterer, and more. On the other hand, event management is essentially the project management of an event, which may involve registrations, managing staff during the event, and resolving any onsite conflicts that arise. In short, event planners create the blueprint for an event, while an event manager takes ownership in seeing the plan through to execution on event day.


Event production elevates an event to the next level. Rather than focusing on planning and project management, event production focuses on the live, stage presentation of an event. Working with presenters, audio visual crews, and technology vendors, event production teams produce and deliver amazing live experiences at an event.

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02

How Do You Make Your Event Production Company Stand Out?

A successful event production company is a partner that is able to turn their clients’ visions into a tangible production plan that can be shared with production vendors, crew, and venues. Essentially, they convert the client’s vision into something that the greater production industry can understand and deliver on. Many event production companies handle virtually all production aspects, so their clients can focus on the big picture themes.

With so many event production companies out there, how do you make yourself stand out?


The first thing to note is that the best event production companies will have experience producing hundreds of events in multiple industries, and will be able to tailor their focus to their clients’ goals and needs.

Potential clients might ask you key questions that will help them determine if your event production company is the right fit. This includes questions related to what your core services are, if your team is able to travel, whether or not your company can hire and coordinate your own AV labor, and whether or not you are up to speed on event production trends.


They may also expect advice on local venues and transportation, permitting, power requirements, and other potential logistical issues. Be prepared to answer these questions and provide recommendations, and you’ll be well on your way to acquiring new clients.

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03

What Type of Events Can an Event Production Company Produce?

Event production companies can produce various types of live events, including corporate events, live sporting events and broadcasts to turn their clients’ ideas into a reality.


Corporate Event Production

Corporate events can range from conferences and trade shows to team building and product launch events. The goal of these events ranges from raising brand awareness to potentially acquiring new customers. As an event production company, you’ll need to make sure to work with clients early on to identify what the exact goal of each event is. Use your industry expertise and learnings from past events to address issues like audience engagement, employee retention, and more.

On top of that, in the corporate world, it’s all about ROI. In the same vein, corporate event production needs to help achieve those ROI goals too. The best event production agencies understand this and can help their clients set and achieve event ROI goals. If you’re an event production agency working on a corporate event, you can bet that if you’re able to help measure and maximize your client’s ROI, your client will be coming back.

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Live Sporting Events

Fan experience is everything at sporting events. The production team’s ultimate responsibility is figuring out the best way to activate fans during the game and get them excited to be a part of the live event.  However, there are so many challenges related to timing during a live game. Being able to react to live game play, reorder elements last second, or even add new elements is key. A great production or game presentation team can run games dynamically and change their game scripts on the fly while still making sure the entire game runs smoothly.


Televised Events and Broadcasts

Similar to sporting events, the experience of the listener or viewer is essential to the success of the show. Event production companies can flex their expertise in audiovisual technology to ensure the audience is enthralled. When it comes to televised events and broadcasts, there isn’t much leeway for errors and missteps. Everything is timed down to the second. The best event production companies prepare well enough to predict and prevent miscues in order to deliver a smooth event or broadcast.

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04

The Full Event Production Process: From Pre-Production to Load Out

Any live event production has a lot of moving parts. Being able to identify and understand what needs to be done during the event production process is only half the battle. The other half? Learning the most effective way to complete the process.


Pre-Production

Pre-production is the first step in the event production process. This should typically start three months prior to the day of the event but can range down to less then a few days. It begins with listening to the client pitch. During the entirety of the event production process, the production team needs to be able to help the client thoroughly plan out the concept, coordinate graphics and videos, build the production schedule, and create a script for the event.

Since the production company’s staff that is coordinating the event usually only makes up about 10% of the onsite crew, booking your show crew should begin almost immediately, two to three months before the event if possible. The production team needs to reach out to show technicians early on to confirm availabilities and day rates, as well as book travel and lodging. These costs add up, so make sure you are prepared and can appropriately budget for this large expense on your invoice or proposals.

Roughly two months prior to event day, the production team will work out the set design and branding and scope out gear costs associated with AV vendors (rental and staging companies), furniture, and equipment. Since you will be bidding on how much you think you can put on the show/event for, keeping costs efficient and realistic will increase the likelihood you will win the bid and still be able to deliver on the vision.

Coordinating with the client on their presentations and collecting powerpoints and scripts is a large part of the pre-production responsibilities. As much as possible, you don’t want to arrive on show site with unknowns about the run of show.  While there will always be last second changes and additions to the show, the production companies that really succeed are the ones that ask the right questions during pre-production and really focus on removing the unknowns leading up to the show.

Another key part of the pre-production process is set and room design. On smaller shows, this will likely focus more on simple stages, projection screens, and pipe & drape. Larger shows will often have a custom fabricated or rented backdrop. This is where the coordination and communication of a successful production company really comes into play. Being able to coordinate between the audio, video, and lightings to ensure you have the right AV gear to bring a set to life is key. You should also be able to properly measure distances from screens to projectors and design the lighting and truss rigs so that they fit in the room.


One month out from your event, the production team should begin building out a production schedule. This schedule should outline when AV vendor trucks should arrive at the docks, load in and show crew call times, load in schedules with meal breaks, client rehearsals and technical cue2cues, when the show starts, and details about the load and travel back.

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On-Site

The second step in the event production process begins a few days before the event. At this time, the rental and staging companies and production team should arrive on-site for set-up (load in) and rehearsal. Oftentimes, clients won’t fully understand what is involved in set-up and the importance of setting aside time for tech run throughs and client rehearsals. It is the job of a production company to carve out the required time here and give your crew what they need to be successful. This is where the production schedule and run of show is of utmost importance. It becomes the “plan” while onsite. Typically, the entire show flow, or rundown, isn’t even built and finalized until you get on-site.


While on-site, it is imperative that all crew leads involved in producing the event have a staging meeting to go through the show flow item-by-item with the lead show crew, show caller, and producer. At this time, they will finalize technical details, fill out the run of show with AV cues, and discuss potential issues. Next, the team should have a cue-to-cue / run through from their respective positions in the venue on headset. This is the time to step through all of the cues for a given show and really see how it all comes together. The run of show really gets dialed in during this period, often with multiple cues being changed or re-written entirely. Having a dynamic tool like Shoflo for managing the changes to the run of show will really help your team stay in sync.  After the cue-to-cue, it is best practice for the production team to run through a rehearsal with the client present. This gives the client full transparency into what to expect and allows the client to request any changes that they want made to the rundown.

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Show Day

On show day, the show crew should come in several hours before doors open. This gives everyone a chance to get their coffee and then run one more cue-to-cue before the show. This will often be a time where the client can get an extra rehearsal, if needed. The show crew should have the latest version of the show flow printed and distributed across back stage at this point. Using a real-time collaborative tool like Google Sheets or Shoflo makes this process 10x more efficient.

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Load-Out

The last step in the event production process is load-out. After a successful event, the production team breaks down the stage and all the AV, packages up their production office, and finally goes out to celebrate! The rental and staging crew generally take 1-3 days to pack up all the gear and load it onto the trucks. Depending on the size of the event or how busy the event production crew is, the team may be headed straight to another show! This is where making sure that your load in / out crew is the right size relative to the complexity of the show. You don't want to be short-handed while loading in or out. This will slow down your show crew and is frustrating for everyone involved.

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05

Building an Event Production Team

An event production team ensures the success of live events. They drive efficiency, manage production logistics and show planning, and keep the event on track. Here are a few event production jobs that need to be filled for a full team.


Roles of an Event Production Team

Producer: The producer is in charge of the production logistics and works with the client to develop the content and creative elements of the production prior to the event.

PA [Production Assistant]: The production assistant offers a support role, providing assistance to the producer and the crew. They are often considered a jack of all trades.

Production Manager: The production manager handles the planning and executing of the event, with an expertise in implementing the overall creative, technical, and logistical elements that help an event succeed (event design, build strategies, audiovisual production, networking, logistics, partner sourcing, partner management, asset management, budgeting, negotiation, and client service). Production managers and their teams run the event from concepts, to implementation, to live show, to load out.

Stage Manager [Show Caller]: Supervises the execution of all show elements in a production. The stage manager sits in the tech booth in order to have a clear view of the stage. He or she gives direction by calling cues from the show flow, communicating directly to the crew during the performance or presentation. The stage manager is the point of contact for the client and producer to share their vision for the event. They will sometimes be referred to as the show caller.

A1 [Audio Engineer]: Primary audio technician responsible for designing, installing and operating the audio system in a meeting room or show venue. The A1 operates the audio console from the tech booth, typically at the front of house. The A1 sets and monitors the levels for all audio sources in a program, including microphones, VOGs, play-ons, video playback, etc.

A2  [Audio Engineer]: The audio technician who assists the A1, places the lavalier microphones on the presenters, coordinates the frequencies of the wireless microphones, and manages the communication requirements of the crew. The A2 is usually found backstage monitoring the audio equipment. This position is recommended for larger meetings or events with multiple microphones.

LD [Lighting Designer]: The primary lighting technician responsible for designing and supervising the installation of the event lighting package in a meeting room or show venue. The LD develops the lighting plot, taking into consideration the technical requirements, as well as the artistic aspects of color, coverage, and intensity. The LD directs the lighting focus and creates the lighting looks used during the program.

Graphics Operator: The technician responsible for the organization and operation of all presentations and graphic elements in a production. In addition to creating graphics, the operator manages any on-site changes. During the presentations, the graphics operator advances show graphics when prompted.

Riggers: The technicians who hang show components overhead in a meeting room or show venue. Rigging technicians are trained in safety and must reach a level of certification to legally perform their duties. Riggers can be hired directly or can be contracted through a service. Many hotels and venues have an approved rigging vendor that is familiar with the property and has an understanding of the structural weight capacities of the hang points in the venue. The rigging supervisor requires a CAD be provided in advance of a production to approve the placement of equipment rigged to the ceiling. Additionally, the weight of equipment needs to be factored prior to being flown. Ceiling heights and chandeliers must also be taken into account when designing a rigging plot.

Teleprompter Operator: A teleprompter is a video screen system that delivers scrolling, scripted text or bullet points to a presenter during a show. Teleprompting can be viewed in the DSMs, or more formally, in glass paddles placed to the sides of the lectern. The teleprompter operator maintains pace with the presenter’s delivery. Since the presenters do not have to look down at notes on the lectern, they can maintain eye contact with the audience and appear to be speaking naturally and spontaneously.

Mic Runner: The person who moves efficiently through the audience with a wireless handheld microphone during interactive sessions. Mic runners generally position themselves close to the stage, facing the audience during a question and answer (Q&A) session. They scan the audience and make eye contact to encourage participation. When attendees raise their hands, the mic runners move quickly to them and raise their hands or paddles to signal the presenter onstage. When a mic runner is recognized, they ensure the attendees use proper mic technique.

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06

Collaborating With Your Event Production Crew

The most important aspect of any team is being able to communicate effectively. In event production, communication is especially important because there are many roles with cues that need to be hit at a specific time.  The only way to ensure everyone has what they need to hit their cues is clear communication and show flow. Not being able to communicate quickly causes breakdowns in production and efficiency.


Creating Rundowns or Show Flows

Creating and perfecting your production rundown as a team is key to a successful event. Historically, event production teams have built their rundowns in Excel. However, Excel doesn’t allow teams to be agile and adapt to changes quickly enough to implement them seamlessly. Excel also requires many saved versions and the need to print copies and get them around to your crew. Even in preparation for the event, building production rundowns becomes difficult because different members of the production team are often working off of outdated versions of the show flow. Any time a detail is changed or the order of the rundown changes, every member of the team needs a new version of the rundown to ensure the crew is operating in unison. Not only is it a waste to print out that many pieces of paper, it also becomes nearly impossible to keep up with the constant changes.

Real-time event production software solves this problem. Rundowns can be edited on mobile devices and tablets, and changes are made and shared in real-time. That way, the event production team is operating with access to all the information they need to put on a successful event.

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Centralized Files and Personalized Event Production Notes

Centralizing information is key for better event organization and collaboration. It is best practice to keep this information in a place that is accessible for the entire event production team. One simple way to accomplish this is by creating a Google Drive folder that is shared across the team. However, different members of the team may need access to different information. If the information isn’t organized logically, it can become difficult to find. Exacerbating this issue is the fact that new versions of these documents are created daily, or even hourly, in the days before the event.

One way production teams can improve this process is by using an event production software like Shoflo as a central hub for all event documentation. With Shoflo, since everything updates in real-time, team members can easily access the most updated versions of all relevant information.

Different team members can also personalize their own event production notes. Team members using Shoflo can add private notes to elements of the rundown, hide and reorder columns that apply to them, and use global highlights to drive attention to the specific elements that apply to their job. This allows for better collaboration and a cleaner workflow for every member of the team. Remember, event production notes are important, but keeping them easily accessible to the appropriate team members is just as essential.

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07

Challenges of Event Production

Every job has its challenges, and event production is no exception. In order to continuously put on successful events, these challenges need to be addressed by event production companies in tandem with their clients.


The Client Does Not Have a Clear Vision

For event production companies, one of the biggest challenges is working with a client that doesn’t have a clear vision of what they want their event to accomplish. When a client doesn’t give enough information on goals or even logistics (like what the venue is or what the budget is), the event production team needs to be able to create this roadmap for them.

If you are an event production company, make sure to ask your clients the right questions, including questions about their intended audience, which aspects of the event (execution, professional techs, gear types) are most important to them, what their budget is, and any past learnings they might have from past events.

It’s also easier for both sides if there is a base to work off of. Did you produce similar shows in the past? Have you worked with this client in the past? If you have your old cue sheets, revisit them and see what you can learn. If you’re using an event production software like Shoflo, you can create templates for similar shows or refer back to your old show templates and duplicate them so you aren’t starting from scratch.

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Finding a Trusted Crew

Crewing is often a difficult process because of the sheer number of freelancers who all need to be available for the days of the event. Sometimes, trusted crew members are already booked for other events or are only available for part of the event. When hiring new crew, there is always a risk of someone underperforming, which can make a big difference for the success of the show. This is why it’s so important for producers to invest in relationships with trusted crew members who will go the extra mile. If you have good relationships with crew members, they’re more likely to pick your show over another company’s.


Event production teams should figure out their preferred crew and make sure to work with their clients early on in the process to set expectations. Make sure there is a large enough budget to fly in your A-team, because it will make a difference.

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Last Minute Changes to Your Event Production Schedule

Last minute changes are caused by a host of reasons and really test the organization of the production team. Unforeseen technical problems, last minute changes from the client, and issues with the venue can all cause chaos. While being prepared for the unexpected is a must, successful event production companies also need to be flexible and quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

When changes are happening every 20 minutes, and the presenter wants to change their slides or the client wants to change the order of elements during the event, it can be difficult to keep up. This may mean making multiple versions of production cue sheets and iterating on them whenever a change occurs. However, many event production companies still use Excel and pen and paper. In order to keep the entire crew and client aligned, new versions of the rundown need to be constantly emailed and printed out. Otherwise, the crew will miss their cues, making for awkward pauses during the event and confusion amongst the crew and event attendees.


The other alternative is cloud-based event production software like Shoflo that updates cue sheets in real-time. That way, when changes are happening by the minute, they are instantly seen by the entire crew.

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08

Post Event: Assessing Your Event Success

The focus of any production team is creating a memorable experience for all event attendees, but the work doesn’t stop there. For event production companies, it is necessary to show their clients the value of production services.


Return on Investment and Return on Objectives

The bottom line is important to all companies. How well was the event production company able to maximize budgets? Were they able to appropriately allocate resources to ensure event success? These are all questions clients may be wondering. If you are an event production company looking to retain and grow your client base, make sure you’re thinking about those questions too.


However, it isn’t always possible to tie production services directly to ROI. Another way you can think about this is looking at the return on objectives, or ROO. Collecting and analyzing this data provides vital feedback for clients, advising them on how they can improve upon their events in the future.

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How Does Event Reporting Help Production Teams

Post event reporting is beneficial for the event production team themselves because it allows the team to see any inefficiencies that occur in their workflow. Recognizing these inefficiencies allows the team to continue to improve their processes and produce the best event possible for their clients.

In order for an event production team to be able to report on and assess their own inefficiencies, they need to be able to track all event data, from start to finish. With so many different players working on multiple elements of the event, this is almost impossible to track manually. However, an event production software like Shoflo makes this easy by compiling the entire event script, communication, and notes in one place. With auto-timestamping capabilities, teams can also track sponsorship elements during events and export timestamp reports to Excel. This makes it easy for event production teams to track performance and share this information with clients.

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09

Conclusion


Shoflo: The Future of Event Production Software

Event attendees rarely know a production company’s role in creating a memorable event experience, but combining so many technical and creative elements together is hard work. Event production has even been touted as one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Shoflo is working to change this with event production software built uniquely for live event production. Automation, real-time updates, and centralized project management allow for efficient production processes and easy collaboration within the production team and with clients. Request a trial of Shoflo and see how this software can take your events to the next level.

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