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Rick Pillars: Rehearsal, Rehearsal, Rehearsal

“Rick Pillars, an 18-year AV pro and owner of It’s a Rap Productions sent me the following vignette in response to an earlier BML post:

©iStockphoto.com/abzee

©iStockphoto.com/abzee

This is actually a pretty typical scenario. We just spent two or more days setting up for the General Session. On Day 3 we come in and from 7am-8am we run the equipment and troubleshoot any and all issues. We tape down cables and get it all cleaned up. We were also scheduled to have rehearsals from 8am-11am. At 10:30am we are told to stand-by for Rehearsals. Woohoo. Thanks for waiting until the last 30 minutes of the scheduled rehearsal time.

The show begins at 3pm so we have time to knock out rehearsal and go to lunch and be ready and fresh for the main speakers. 11 and then 11:30 comes an goes. Finally at 1pm the second of three presenters comes in. Then it begins.

Slide 1 is good to go. Slide 2, can we change what that says. No, not like that…yeah, like that. Slide 3 gets changed. And so on and so forth. Our rehearsal is more of a PowerPoint editing session. After that, the TelePrompTer gets edited to fit the new content. We have two more presenters to go including the Main or first speaker.

And the entire crew is sitting there talking about food. Wondering if we are going to get a chance to eat. Wondering why no one seems to ever think about the fact that actual human beings sit behind that equipment and they have needs too. We can’t cut anyone to go and get food. Everyone has a vital function to fulfill. We can’t order in because most delivery drivers have no concept of where to bring such a delivery inside of a hotel. We are stuck. And hungry. And we need to go to the bathroom. Gripe, gripe, gripe.

We finish up rehearsal (such as it was) about 10 minutes before doors. In that time we have to go to the bathroom, get something to drink if we can, and the smokers have to go fulfill their need. Yes, we do make some big bucks to do what we do, but we sure wouldn’t mind if it were remembered that we need sustenance also.

A couple things grab my attention in this story:

  • If you are in a leadership role guiding a team through the presentation preparation process, first make sure everyone has a clear understanding of the differences between a slide review and a rehearsal, then don’t let time that should be devoted to rehearsal become a slide review. A real rehearsal this late in the process has the potential to actually make the presentation better. Doing a last-minute slide review and tweaking session might make the slides better,  but it’s not likely to do the presentation any good. (See Principle 9)
  • For God’s sake, take care of your people. And yes, even if they are contractors, the AV crew is “your people”. You depend on them to perform at the absolute best of their ability. They can’t do that if they are  hungry, thirsty and/or exhausted. It’s perfectly acceptable to expect them to go to heroic lengths in an emergency situation but it’s best to avoid operating in hero mode unless absolutely necessary.