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Burning down the house…

Backstage at BackstageJobs.com has been focusing on a hot topic recently…

Twenty-two years, multiple theatre fires: Fire 1

…so far in my career, I have been present at several theatre fires, and even extinguished one of them.  This series will discuss each fire, and what was done wrong, or right.

Staff were still waiting on the fire department when the show was scheduled to start.  No alarm was pulled when the fire was discovered.  A member of the staff went onstage to make an announcement, but at first only said that the show was holding due to technical difficulties.  However, at this moment, the sirens of the fire trucks could be heard as they pulled up.  The staff member then said that they did have a small fire in the bathroom, but the fire department was taking care of it.

Don’t depend on your patrons or ushers to know what to do during a fire alarm

The Dodge Theatre (now the Comerica Theatre) in Phoenix, AZ had its fire alarm activated in July of 2008. What should have resulted was a full evacuation of patrons from the building. Instead, few patrons exited, none were told to evacuate, and those that exited were asked to return, with the alarms still going off.

It doesn’t matter if you think it is a false alarm, and it doesn’t matter if it is a false alarm: get those people out the door (heck, use it as an opportunity to test your evacuation procedures). Don’t assume they will move on their own. As this video clearly shows (and I have personally witnessed on another occasion) a mass of people will hesitate and wait for specific instructions, especially if no threat is visible.  In this case, theatre staff failed to protect their audience.

I really like the idea of thinking of a false alarm as a chance to test evacuation procedures rather than just a inconvenient waste of time. If you’re not in your own home venue, make a point of knowing where everyone needs to go in case the alarm goes off. Especially if it’s likely that you’ll be at the mic or otherwise in a position to get people moving in the right direction.

Bookmarked: The fire alarm rings during your presentation — Jason Bay Jersey

The fire alarm rings during your presentation — Jason Bay Jersey – "About eight minutes into my breakfast presentation to the local chamber of commerce at a fancy restaurant the fire alarm rang. The alarm was annoyingly loud so naturally I stopped speaking and forced a smile."

The Weekly Might Have Missed List (11/23/08)

We have a ton of really great links this week. Enjoy!

a shel of my former self: Connecting to the Net in 1992 — Great story from the bad old days. “We found the AV tech and explained that we had requested a direct line. ‘Right,’ he said, ‘and that’s how you get a direct line.’ Patiently, Craig explained how a modem works. He unfolded the contract and pointed to the section that listed the requirement. Then he said (and I can still hear it today, 16 years later), ‘Over 100 people will arrive here in 45 minutes expecting to see an online demonstration that we can’t deliver without a direct line. And at Lexis-Nexis, we have two floors of lawyers with nothing much to do who would love to to make your life miserable over this.’

Dave Paradi’s PowerPoint Blog: Plan what happens before and after your presentation — “The projector wasn’t needed the whole time, just for this one part. And when that part was over, it would not be needed again. Unfortunately, the people running the meeting didn’t plan what to do before or after the projector was used. They left the edit view of PowerPoint on before the slides were used and returned to the edit view after they were done. What could they have done better?”

Danny Thorpe, Architect of Disruption: Mashup Camp, Day 1 — “To make matters worse, the presenter had to talk his way around a number of technical difficulties, including (but not limited to): [ed. note: go to post to see list of technical difficulties]. All of that in 25 minutes. It’s a reassuring to know that even Google can have “those” kinds of demo days.”

Life in the Corporate Theater: Customer Service — “Since the first day onsite my meeting planner friend has been telling me horror stories of the service the AV company is providing. The first one starts off with something simple…”

End Point Corporation: OpenSQL Camp 2008 — “My talk on MVCC was the first talk of the day, which of course means lots of technical difficulties.” What does that say about the current state of the industry?

Make Your Point with Pow’R: The basics are the basics for a reason — “I have given presentations in the past with this laptop and projector, so what could have changed? Puzzled at first I soon realized that I replaced my laptop a few weeks ago. The new one looks the same as my old one and I forgot that I had not tested this combination yet. Thank goodness for rehearsals.”

James.Random(): Behind the scenes at PDC: The Keynote Timelapse — Has nothing to do with the actual presentations, just very cool to watch. Notice how early in the process they begin to test/calibrate the projection system. And how often they recalibrate. “I’ve just uploaded this cool video which I got hold of internally that shows how the PDC08 keynote room was assembled, used and broken down in under 6 minutes.  It’s quite impressive how it all comes together, just for a few hours of presentations!”

BizBash Los Angeles: Emergency Preparedness Panelists Stress Early, Detailed Security Measures — “Last week—just ahead of the destructive fires that burned a swath through the region—BizBash gathered Los Angeles planners for a panel on  emergency preparedness at events. … Here are some of their top tips for being ready for anything.”

Executive Speech Coach: Fire Alarm During Your Presentation — “I’ve witnessed this happen to two other speakers and this week it was my turn. It’s a lot easier to think logically after it is over. It might never happen to you – but perhaps you should be prepared for the fire alarm to ring during your presentation. About eight minutes into my breakfast presentation to the local chamber of commerce at a fancy restaurant the fire alarm rang.”

HotelChatter: Fires Cause Evacuation of Four Seasons Manele Bay: Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking things like this can’t disrupt your presentation, meeting or event. “Brushfires on Lanai — which burned about 300 acres today — caused the evacuation of all guests and staff at Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay. The fire was about a mile from the hotel when the Maui County Fire Department order the hotel to evacuate everyone to Manele Bay Harbor and onto boats.”

Rules of Thumb: Giving a Speech — “When giving a public science lecture to a general audience, there will always be one weirdo who asks questions that have nothing to do with your lecture. There will also be one smart-aleck who asks questions to show how smart he is. The faster you silence both of them, the happier your audience will be.”

Execupundit.com: Ambushed By Minor Items — “What surprises me is how often otherwise savvy individuals get to a certain point in planning and then suspend all scrutiny, relying instead upon a combination of hope, fate, and pixie dust. Things do not magically come together, but they don’t just trust on that convergence, they rely upon it.”

iGroupNews: Top 10 Services and Facilities A Meeting Planner Should Identify — “When I travel to a destination for a site inspection or to assist with a client conference, I always make it a point to arrive a day early.  An early arrival allows me time to “walk” the city and gather information that a client or attendee may require outside of the confines of the hotel.”

Next Generation Event: Resources for Running Effective Meetings — “If you’re an event planner, you know how to plan events. When you’re planning an event, you leave no detail undefined. When you execute the event, you follow clearly-defined schedules and guidelines. But do you sometimes neglect those standards when running small meetings within the office? “