Perfection versus Excellence

Perfection versus Excellence

“So, how did it go?” It’s a simple question, but how you answer tells me which path you’d take at the fork in the road. Are you walking towards perfection or excellence?

Working in the live events sector of the audiovisual industry, we manage the technical elements of a production. But we are also in the business of managing expectations. More often than not, our clients expect flawless execution.

I know that my team delivers near-perfect shows most of the time. But a standard of perfection? That is paralyzing.

Chasing perfection steals joy during the process. In my job, there is nothing I love more than being on headset calling cues for my team of technicians. The energy is exhilarating. I’m also aware of the fact that any number of things can, and may, go wrong during a live production. But if that’s where I focused my energy during an event, I would be a nervous wreck! It would rob me of the laughter, fun, and dedication that I experience with my team every time we are on a job site together.

Perfection limits possibilities. If my primary goal was to deliver perfection, why would I ever try something new? “This is the way we’ve always done it, so we will keep doing it that way,” would be something I said on a daily basis. But where’s the growth opportunity in that?

Rather than seeking perfection, I strive for excellence. I work diligently to give my clients the best experience and the best of me.

How do I handle myself in times of imperfection? If I were to get stressed, allow negativity to take over, or begin to shut down in order to cope with whatever is going wrong, that would undoubtedly transfer to my clients as well.

In moments of “imperfection,” I intentionally speak positivity into the situation. I reassure my clients—and my team—that whatever is happening is fixable. We work quickly to resolve the issue and find a solution, and we do it with respect. We don’t let it deter us from having a great rest of the show. Because that’s the thing with live events, the show must go on.

I put my people and the big picture before this nebulous idea of perfection. I know that, in order to move forward, I need to act the way I want to feel. But I also know that my clients, and my team, take their cues from me. If I’m negative or frustrated, how can I expect them to act any differently? But if I’m able to keep going, there is a chance they may be able to shake it off and do the same. That is choosing excellence over perfection.

The first time I noticed that I was moving away from the confines of perfection, I was sitting in a large exhibit hall with four projectors showing content on screens in a room filled with 2,000 people. Suddenly, one of those projectors failed, and I sent my best technicians to troubleshoot the issue. At the same time, I continued to call the show and ease my client’s concerns.

Now, I knew the other three projectors were more than enough for the attendees to view the program, but I needed to reassure my client of that as well. I was able to come off my headset, get an update from my technician, and tell my client that, unfortunately, there was nothing we could do to get the projector back up and running before the conclusion of her event. I also told her that it was necessary to pause any further discussion because I needed to get back on the headset to ensure a successful remainder of the show.

I always want my clients to have confidence in me and my team, and a great way to continue to show your trustworthiness is to roll with the punches and deliver a product you can be proud of.

I used to feel that if I couldn’t do something perfectly, I didn’t want to do it at all. That is a fast track to a life of disappointment and missed opportunity—I was robbing myself of the joy of new experiences.

If I’m too scared to serve in the role of “show caller” because every cue may not be perfect, I’m robbing myself of the joy of the live events experience. I would also be robbing my clients and team members of what it’s like to be around me when I’m at my best. I’m an enthusiastic person who loves to celebrate and encourage others. But if all I did in my job was sit behind my computer, I am robbing those around me of that experience.

I’ve changed my vocabulary. I don’t strive for perfection; I strive for excellence. Excellence allows for mistakes, learning, and even failure—that’s another word that should be eliminated from the dictionary. But, I’m pacing myself—taking on one word at a time.

Elizabeth Newton
Elizabeth Newton is a live events account manager at Cory's Audio Visual. Newton was a member of the 2018 class of SCN's The Nine.