Make sure your presenters are comfortable with the stage — and you — before the show
I remember during a soundcheck 21 years ago, when I was mixing monitors on the side of the stage, my mentor, Robin Gately, who was mixing Front of House,
Even tech-savvy pros like Bill Gates need to feel everything will work fine when they are on stage. came up to the stage and said to me, “Go out and ask Branford (Marsalis) how his monitor is and if he needs anything.”
While I was sitting back, afraid to interrupt or disturb the musicians during soundcheck, I learned it was my job to communicate with the band and let them know I was there to serve them. After I asked Branford about his monitor, and before I could escape from “the spotlight” down stage center, Branford extended his right hand and asked my name. He then immediately introduced me personally one by one to his band and invited them to speak to me if they needed anything.
This realization inspired the new start to our live audio classes and customer service philosophy here at Michael Andrews Audio Visual Services. Our sound reinforcement classes now had a new beginning in a class we call “Artist Accommodation.” In addition to asking musicians or, in the staging would, presenters, if they needed anything, we concluded that we own the stage — it is our responsibility, and we need to be aware of everything that changes or occurs on the stage. The presenters are guests in our house, and they should be treated as such.
Accommodation is really about making clients, presenters, venue staff, etc. feel comfortable. When it comes to the presenters or musicians, it is important to realize that the “star” on stage is really like the quarterback on a football team. They may get all the glory, but they are severely handicapped without a great front line. Helping them is as much of what you don’t do or say as what you do. I always welcome them to the stage and give them a tour, just as I would if someone was visiting my home. I point out the confidence monitor and make sure the presenter knows that his or her comfort is my top priority.
I’ll never forget introducing myself to Bill Gates, and, after putting the wireless lavalier mic on him, I showed him the backup wired handheld mic with 50 feet of cable at the bottom of the lectern. I explained that should his wireless mic go out, he could grab this backup and continue on with his presentation. He remained calm and thanked me — after all, he is used to technology failing. But if revealing that his or her mic might malfunction causes your presenter to get worried, smile and ask them if they have ever gotten a flat tire on their car. After all, the show must go on. A good host is prepared for their guests and focused on their comfort, preferences, and needs.
It is also important to make sure that everyone feels you know your equipment and are competent with it. It is even more important to go out of your way to make sure the talent or presenters feel comfortable on stage so they can relax and put on the best show possible. People like to be surrounded by bright, cheerful people, not grumps or shy people. Even if your projectors crashed to the ground and burned like Rome, people want to feel that everything’s just fine and it’s going to be a great show.
If you want to have fun and be successful in this business, realize that the audiovisual staff (and this includes the salespeople, too) are there to help the talent reach their audience. In almost every case, performers appreciated being given a tour of the stage and being asked if they needed anything, maybe in their audio or confidence monitors or maybe simply something to drink. Performers appreciate the fact you are trying to help when you ask what you can do to improve their presentation. This also allows you to meet some fantastic people. It is a great feeling to be out in public and have a U.S. Senator, Fortune 100 CEO, or recording artist recognize you, smile, and call you by name when saying hello.
Bill Magod currently works as a rental and staging salesperson at Michael Andrews Audio Visual Services in NYC.He is an InfoComm adjunct faculty member, A1, downhill skier, and perhaps the only MBA with a CDL license to drive tractor-trailers.He can be reached at BMagod@maavs.com.