One phrase you rarely hear from young children is "I want to be a show technician when I grow up." The future technicians of the world are in high school or college right now and dreaming of becoming a producer, director, musician, or even some unrelated profession, such as a doctor or lawyer. Yet, choosing to take a position as a technician is not that dissimilar to these aforementioned professions. It's more than just choosing a career or job, it's a lifestyle. The event staging industry provides opportunities that may seem glorified to some people, but the life of a technician is not without challenges.
First, most show technicians travel, which makes it difficult to have the traditional "normal" life. Extensive travel equals personal sacrifice, and can take a toll on everything from spending quality time with family to something as simple as getting your car repaired or making a doctor's appointment. Burn-out is common for technicians if not planning the appropriate downtime to reenergize.
Second, the working environment of the show technician is never a constant. The conditions can range from a non-air-conditioned convention center to a freezing hotel ballroom, and not always five star resorts. In addition to this, the housing conditions constantly change, and the accommodations can be less than desirable at times, and in some cases technicians can be asked to double up on rooms. The technician rarely has time to adjust to one place before moving onto the next city, venue, and hotel room.
The rules and regulations from one venue, city or event can vary greatly from another, and technicians need to be well versed in the dos and don'ts of the particular location. This is not a short list of items, and can include dress code, union labor laws, fire laws, parking rules, border regulations, city/state laws, as well as any social customs that may apply to working in a foreign country.
Then there is the equipment factor - technicians by definition run technology. Equipment is never predictable - it may not arrive on time, it may not work correctly, pieces and parts can be missing - and technicians need to be prepared for any scenario. Plus, technology is constantly in flux, there is always something more innovative on the market, faster methods of working, and a new-fangled fix to common problems, and maintaining a level of current knowledge and expertise is critical to the success of a technician. Also, technology in the event staging industry isn't lightweight, and taking appropriate safety measures is vital, including proper lifting techniques, wearing protective equipment, awareness of the requirements of the venue, OSHA laws, as well as any outside conditions that may affect the safety of the crew. Injuries can be common, and unfortunately even fatalities are not unheard of within our industry.
Aside from equipment, there is also the people factor. Personalities, skill sets and level of experience are different from show to show, and technicians need to adapt quickly to be able to work successfully with different crews. Technicians tend to lean towards having either a creative focus or a technical focus, and it's important to find the correct balance for cohesiveness on show site. This balance can be somewhat easier to achieve by making the investment in full-time show technicians as permanent staff, which gives the advantage of getting to know your crew, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
Indeed, there are many challenges, but there are also benefits to this lifestyle. Technicians gain a sense of completion that most employees in their current roles do not often receive - they see their work come to life from beginning to end. From the time the truck pulls up to the venue, to the reveal and audience reaction, they experience the entire process coming to fruition, which provides a huge sense of accomplishment.
In addition, technicians do not frequently experience boredom. In order to be a successful technician, it takes a certain type of person - the type of person that is passionate for the business and the challenges that come along with it. There are a million issues that can occur on any given show, but that factor also provides a level of intensity, and overcoming these obstacles can be a very gratifying experience.
There are also many avenues and opportunities that open up for technicians to explore in their role. Whether expanding their technical expertise to other areas within their discipline, going down a creative path, or moving into a sales or management position, the possibilities for growth are abundant. The challenges that technicians face on a daily basis foster the development of leadership skills, which provides opportunity for career advancement.
Finally, there is definitely a glamorous side to being a technician. Show technicians gain behind-the-scenes access to coveted events, concerts, and speaking engagements, and can work with high profile celebrities, musicians, and politicians. Not only do they have the opportunity to see these events unfold before the general public, but they get to be a part of making them happen.
Technicians are true road warriors. They are on the frontlines of the event industry, and it is important to recognize the level of effort and sacrifice they put in to supporting our events. The gear could be the best on the market, the show concept could be extremely innovative, but the ultimate success lies in the hands of the technicians. By having a better understanding of their world, we can help, as event staging companies, by making balanced decisions that will support their development and create a happier, yet stronger, technical team. And in the end, a smiling crew will result in successful shows.