As a freelance Technical Director/Production Manager, I’ve specialised in managing full service corporate event work for more than 25 years.
I usually work directly with corporate clients and there is good money in the work. However, it is the area of the industry where the client has no idea what you do, unless it is not working!
In that context, we are selling nothing more than confidence and trust. They place their trust in us to ensure that they look and sound great, and their message is delivered with maximum impact with the minimum amount of fuss. We in turn give them confidence that their trust is not misplaced.
As a supplier for corporate events, it is critical to understand a few things.
An event is just a small part of their day job. That means that they are out of their comfort zone when putting an event together. They are looking for people to help them through the challenges of getting it right.
Corporate staff seem to live in a constant state of paranoia. They worry about what their bosses think, and how their management of the event will affect their career.
They don’t know, what they don’t know. This is a time when they are at unease. A good TD will step up and assist them in dealing with issues that are hard for them to understand.
They can have unrealistic aspirations. I once had a client ask me “Did you see Eurovision last night? Can we have something like that?” My client did not have even 1% of a Eurovision production budget so it was up to me to let her down gently.
Stuff will get missed by the client. Try to plan and help your client through those challenges and don’t make a big deal if the crew meals don’t materialise at the right time!
A crisis of some sort is common. Don’t be surprised and be ready to take a leading role in solving the problem.
Corporate clients have zero interest in the equipment and technology you use to deliver their event. They couldn’t care less what brand of speakers you use. What they really care about is can they be heard and does it sound and look good (in that order).
The goal for a good TD is to position yourself as person who makes your client, and their bosses look good. Corporate clients become faithful once you have demonstrated that you can be trusted because the risk is high to them if they change and let’s face it, if you have done a good job, they have no reason to change.
The Corporate Event Process.
Most of the work is done in the planning stage
Get the brief from the client – Particularly dates, venues and times. The brief will not be complete and it will change. I have one particular client who trusts me so much that all they give me is a list of dates and venues. This constitutes the entire brief for a major Australia/New Zealand Roadshow! It is the nature of the beast.
A site survey is the next step and it is crucial.
• Measure everything – If a floorpan has been provided, verify the dimensions as they are sometimes incorrect.
• Photograph everything – Include things like the access, rigging points, the walls, lighting controls, power outlets, even the carpet.
• Verify rigging options in terms of safe working load and location.
• Establish how much power is available.
• 360Panorama the room. 360Panorama is a phone app where you can make a full 360 degree panorama which can be viewed on the phone, or can be uploaded to their server. Because they capture pretty much every detail in the room, they are useful when planning the event and especially when talking to subcontractors.
• Establish rapport with venue staff – You are going to achieve much more if the venue staff feel that they can work with you easily. Your client has probably already signed a contract with the venue so until you demonstrate otherwise, you’ll be seen by the venue staff as an interloper.
Once all the information has been gathered, the event needs to be planned carefully. Planning is by far the most important step in the process. A good TD will always do scale plans and leave nothing to work out on the day. This includes the guest seating. On dinners, as well as plans for the production, it is good practice to produce a version for the client with their logo and table numbers for them to use when planning their guest seating.
Next is to get the plans and concepts signed off by the client. Only then should the detail design of the systems and send a written brief to your suppliers so they can do costings.
If the client is likely to be hit with Technician on Duty (TOD) charges, ensure that they are aware of these. (Check out The TOD Scam article in the June 2016 Edition of CX http://www.cxnetwork.com.au/cx-magazine/cx115-june-2016/). If you have established a rapport with the venue, you can sometimes get these reduced or even waived. Particularly if the house provider plays a part in the event.
If there is entertainment, the TD will be responsible for delivering the entertainer’s technical rider, but in a cost realistic way. How shall I say this, entertainment riders for corporate events can sometimes be, well, “ambitious”. Some performers will go for a much higher level of spec on a corporate event when compared to any other gig. Usually just because the client doesn’t know any better and they can get away with it. Once again, your client will have signed a contract with them and will not have realised what they agreed to in terms of production cost. It is up to the TD to strike the balance between what the performers want, and what the client can afford (despite what they agreed to in the contract) whilst ensuring a high quality result is still delivered.
It is important to do a quote. Recall that the client has little idea as to what they are buying and have no understanding of how pricing can change. Therefore it is critical that the client is kept up to date with costs. Once the client has the quote and are happy with things, it is important that a written confirmation is secured. It doesn’t need to be much, just an email will do. This is to protect you should something go pear shaped on their end.
Once the quote has been approved and the job confirmed in writing, get a deposit. Most corporates are slow payers but are used to paying a deposit to secure services. I do this to ensure that I can pay my suppliers. Sometimes I’ll pay my suppliers a deposit up front even if they don’t require it. It demonstrates good will and makes no difference to me.
Put together a written production schedule and set your expectations with the crew. The clients are responsible for the run order of the event itself, but it is important to do a schedule for everything else which includes load in, setup, breaks, rehearsals and load out times. I’ll give it to all the contractors, crew, the client and especially the venue. That way everyone has an understanding of how things are expected to pan out.
It is worthwhile reminding the crew of the standard of dress that is expected at a corporate event. That means dressing professionally, looking relaxed, yet neat and pulled together. Call times are the time that the crew is expected to be ready to work. Drinking alcohol on a corporate gig is definitely not on.
The key to a successful event is to leave nothing to chance. I once flew to Beijing, China for a 1.5 hour production meeting with the AV provider. It was worth it.
The gig itself should be just a matter of delivering the plan.
Run the gig to your plan but be ready to accommodate any last minute changes. The client is likely to be less organised than you or they would like. Just deal with it and go along for the ride.
By now your team and venue staff should have a full and complete understanding of what is expected. It is the TD’s role to monitor progress and ensure everything is going to plan. Where there are issues, it is up to you solve them quickly.
After the gig
After about a week has passed, get feedback from the client – Good or bad. On the night, unless something has gone wrong, they’ll tell you that it was fantastic and that in part, will be the alcohol talking. But after a week has passed, they have had time to think about the event properly and will have had feedback from their colleagues. This is the feedback that a good TD is interested in. The goal is to ensure that the client had a good experience but equally, you want to identify any areas where you could improve.
Keep good records of what was done. The client may phone in a year’s time and ask to do the same again.
Always, always pay labour within 7 days and pay other suppliers within agreed terms.- Techo’s and the crewing services cannot be expected to help fund your business. If you have an established track record of prompt payment in the industry, you become a valuable client. Also, if you find yourself in a temporary “cashflow challenge”, suppliers are much more likely to work with you.
Every event is an investment in your business. As an independent Technical Director, I am always looking to build long term relationships with clients and suppliers. This means I rarely sweat the small stuff because if I take a hit on one event, I am likely to be rewarded with a long term client and many more events to come.
“That was the best event ever!! Thank you so much”. I’m no better than any other experienced TD but I have heard that many, many times. I think it is because the client is relieved that we delivered on and in most cases, exceeded their expectations.
360 Panorama App
Vector works Spotlight – Industry Leading CAD software for event and entertainment.
I am a contributing writer to CX Magazine. CX Network is the voice of technicians in entertainment and audio visual across Australasia.
To read this article online (and ALL of their articles dating back to 1990 for free!), head over to the CX Network.
Lot’s of great stuff!