4 Steps to Planning Your Next Event

In this series, we’re going to deeper into the 4 steps of planning your next big event. What would qualify as a big event? A big event is what I would consider to be larger than your normal shows.

What you plan for on a daily basis you most likely already have a good system in place. But what about those larger performances and special events? That’s where we will be focusing on in this series.

I’ve worked in the lighting industry for a long time and I can definitely tell you that there is a big difference in a well planned out event versus an event that wasn’t planned out very well. With the proper preparation, planning, and setting expectation ahead of time can really make you big event go smoothly.

Step 1: Planning

The first and what may seem the most obvious step would be planning. Depending on the scale and the type of event you want to connect with who is in charge. Before getting started, connect with that person on what the envision the event to be, what does the atmosphere look like, what are they hoping to get out of the event?

This is what some would call the dream phase. During this phase, it’s suggested to not get in so far with the details or crossing off options while in this phase. Once you have a better idea of what is wanted out of the event you can go from the dream phase to the practical planning phase.

In the practical planning phase, you can then start considering the gear, the time, and the people that will be involved. You want to think about important questions such as the power supply, the data approach, and the stage layout.

Once you have the details and the plan laid out, you then need to create a list of the items that you will need to make this event happen. It’s very important to gather the equipment and list out everything that you need ahead of time.

Step 2: Prep

The next step in planning your next big event is prepping. I’ve learned with past experiences that taking the time and extra steps to prepare for your event will save you time, money, and headaches in the long run.

Once you have completed the planning of your next big event, you then want to start prepping for the event. Once you have your fixtures and equipment set out you first want to start pairing and labeling your cables ahead of time.

You’ll either know or you can find out how much cable you will need and where things will be set up. Labeling can be as simple as just using a marker to mark your cables or just using a labeler. Regardless of how you decide to label your cables this will help keep everything organized and easy to set up.

The next step would be pre-patching your console ahead of time for the event. Intermediate and professional consoles allow you to clone your shows. It’s very important to pre-patch your show, print out a copy of the patch, and if you can preset the DMX address to your lights and then label the fixture.

Taking the time to pre-patch and set up the fixtures ahead of time will really help reduce the stress, scrambling, and the time involved during the setup of the event.

The last step in prepping is making sure you have all of the equipment and cables that you will need and then some extra. Having extra cables, lights, a PC, and if possible even a console. I am a big fan of making sure I don’t have a one point of failure.

Having a backup plan for anything that could go out or not work during the event is one of the best ways to be prepared and ready for your next big event.

Step 3: Execution

Now that you have planned and prepared for your big event, it’s the day of and everything is going to go exactly as you planned… Not quite! In every event, no matter how much you plan and prepare ahead of time, something is going to go wrong.

I will say that properly planning an preparing ahead of time will help you clear your mind on the day of and have the ability to think quickly on your feet when a situation comes up.

I often refer to this as the troubleshooting mode because it’s almost guaranteed that you will have to move something, add, or remove something you originally planned.

There are two different troubleshooting approaches to consider. The first and most obvious is the technical troubleshooting. You may have issues with getting control of your lights and you would need to double check the DMX addresses, if the light actually works, and so on.

The other troubleshooting approach to consider is the creative or logistics troubleshooting. No matter how well you plan or prepare ahead of time you will have something come up where you will need to change the lighting positions.

When this does happen, my best suggestion is to go back to your original planning phase. What is the outcome you are looking for and what is the best and most efficient way to get there? Where can you move your fixtures to make it work?

Once your past the setup now it’s time for the actual event. The next step is to pay attention to what is going on the stage. Whether there is a script or run script always be ready for the unexpected. Have a couple of cues ready that you may have to jump to unexpectedly.

Be ready and be capable to make any unexpected events look like it was expected and the audience won’t even notice.

Step 4: The Aftermath

You planned, you’ve prepped, and the event has taken place. The last step is the aftermath, you’re tearing down, and headed home. Now what?

Setting up and tearing down is a large part of putting together an event but now is the time to debrief the event. There are a lot of people who in production who don’t want to do the debrief of the event but it’s very important.

During the event, be sure to make notes of pieces that you didn’t expect. Make notes of the venue and seriously consider what you would have done differently for the event. This will really help you grow and make the next event even better than the last.

When you find yourself thinking “Oh I would have done this different or I should have set this up here instead” definitely make note of that. If it’s possible, connect with the client a week or two afterwards and get their take on the event. Would they have done things differently? What did they like and dislike?

Consider what pieces worked well and what didn’t work well? Criticism does not have to be a negative experience. You can be very open and learn a lot from the those that helped with the event. There may even be parts of the event that you didn’t notice was frustrating to those that helped during the event.

At the end of the day, you want to grow as an individual as well as improving your skills. So, always be willing to listen and learn. Events that are done well can be and are a lot of fun. Not only for the audience but for all of those that were involved with putting together the event.

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