By Erin Kirchoff
If you’re in the business of events, chances are you will also need to put on some kind of show. (If your event isn’t already a show, that is!) Here are some easy-to-follow steps to delivering an engaging performance or ceremony.
Know the basics.
When planning a show, some preliminary questions to consider are: Who is your audience? What is your event? When will the event take place? Why are you incorporating a show? When will the show occur in relation to the rest of the event?
Set a budget.
Like all well-managed projects, knowing your budget is critical to the success of your show. Figure out how much you have to spend, then consider how much you can afford to spend on each of the next steps.
Determine your staging.
The range of possibilities for this step is vast and nearly limitless. Think about it; depending on what type of show you’re putting on, it could happen in a public park or amphitheater, in a huge stadium, or anywhere in between.
Most fundraising events happen in an open, outdoor space, and the event producers rent stages or platforms, truss, lighting and sound. A 5K race might utilize platforms on either side of a start line, with truss and a start/finish sign stretched across it. A longer-format event might include both an opening and closing ceremony and require a large stage with an intricate lighting set-up and barricades and/or folding chairs.
Other questions to consider: Do you need a podium? How many microphones, mic stands, or wireless headsets do you need? Who will run your lights and/or sound?
Figure out the sacred cows.
What are the elements of your show that your audience will expect to see? What are the elements you’re not willing to compromise on or eliminate? Once you know what’s sacred to your event and your show or ceremony, you can build around these ideas.
Identify your talent.
Talent could mean hired professionals or performers, but it doesn’t have to. Here are some ideas to consider:
- National spokesperson
- Executive or board member
- Celebrity endorser
- Professional speaker
- Singer or band
- Benefactor, donor or sponsor
- Beneficiary or grantee
Create an outline of your show.
The most effective shows are ones that have an ebb and flow that plays to the audience. Try to begin and end your show on high notes, and for the middle, switch between energetic, inspiring segments and those that are more informative, poignant, and/or serious in nature. Tug on the audience’s heartstrings, but don’t let them fall too far down a dark hole before you pull them back up with something inspiring.
Develop the scripts.
Once you have the show outline set, then you can create the more specific scripts. Some shows are heavily scripted, leaning on spokespeople, executives, or other employees to learn and deliver the majority of lines. But others are more improvisational in nature, like having local radio personalities emcee the start of a race. Or you could strike a balance; consider scripting certain segments of the show that require sharing specific statistics or information, but then providing bullet points or talking points to your talent for other segments that can be a little more loose.
Look at your show outline again and think about what emotions your audience will be feeling at each turn. Then think about what kind of music you could add to help enhance those emotions. If you’re looking to kick off the show with a bang, consider using a contemporary pop song as your talent is entering the stage. If you’re looking for a score to help convey the seriousness of statistics you’re sharing, consider an instrumental number.
You don’t need a music director on staff to make this happen, either. Spotify can be a great resource for searching out and listening to full-length songs. If you have a more current song that you really like, but don’t want the lyrics to compete with what is being said on stage, search for a karaoke version.
Just keep it legal! Be sure to obtain a blanket license from BMI and/or ASCAP, to allow you to play the songs during the live performance. And don’t post a recording of your show online―that’s not included in your public performance rights.
Think about additional props and signage.
What else could enhance your script and performances? For signage, consider things like backdrop banners and speaker scrims for the stage, start/finish banners for an overhead arch, and flags to provide some elevated movement and color to the performance. And would other props―like thunder sticks, hand-held flags or signs, rally towels, individual lights―help engage the audience?
So your show is all planned… good for you! Now you need to rehearse, to ensure that all parties (talent, event producers, stage hands, lighting and sound specialists, etc.) know what to do and when.
Break a leg!
Erin is a Senior Brand Manager at Event 360, focused on the brand management, event look & feel, and participant experience for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day® project. She has extensive experience with brand management and communications, having worked in both marketing and corporate communications for a FORTUNE 500® company prior to joining the Event 360 team 13 years ago. View her LinkedIn profile here.