Everybody say show flow! Okay, can you tell we’re excited? Because it’s been a while since we brought you a brand new Whiteboard Wednesday. And today we’re going to fix that, with a topic that is more than just a little relevant. This week, our awesome host Will Curran is ready to take you on a journey. It’s all about how to build a show flow! Because let’s be honest, when you’re busy putting together an event or a larger production, things can get a little messy.
There’s always so much going on during an event, that the need to have some sort of guide becomes paramount. And that’s exactly where a show flow comes in. This little tool can be extremely helpful in letting you know what’s going to happen and when. So if you’ve been wondering what’s the best way to make a show flow happen, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to walk you through all of its elements, and what’s the best strategy to put it in place. So, without further ado, let’s talk show flows, AKA cue sheets.
Show Flow: The Basics
The Show Caller
First, Will explains what a show flow is. “It says: ‘at this certain moment, here’s what’s supposed to happen’. It’s usually run by a show caller.”
“A show caller is the one on all the headsets talking to the entire team, the producer. They’re the ones talking to the AV team: the video, lighting, and sound staff, saying, ‘Hey, here’s what’s about to happen’.”
Step By Step
The second thing is it helps you think about the flow of the show, and where’s everything going to go, and I definitely didn’t mean to rhyme that. Basically, it helps you understand, “Okay, well, if we’re about to go from that to that, well, what about this? Okay, so if the CEO is walking on stage and he needs to grab a mic, oh my gosh, we have to make sure that there’s a handheld mic ready for him.” Where’s that going to go? All these things like that and all get written into the show flow.
These can be extremely complex but they can also be very, very simple. Ultimately, you get to decide. I think I’ve kind of sold you into what a show flow is, and why you should have one and why it’s going to make your life easier. So, let’s talk about how do you build it out and what are the different critical elements that you have.
Show Flow: The Building Process
The Old Fashion Way
When it comes to building out show flow, there’s a couple of different ways that you can do it. You can do it the old-fashioned way where you write it all out. One of the ways that’s a lot of people will first build up their first show flow is just a simple word doc script essentially that says, “Hey, this is what gets said. Then this happens, then this happens, and this happens.” It’s very, very similar to like a movie script as you’re reading it.
However, as you start to do bigger productions, you’re going to realize that maybe that you should add a little bit more simplicity to it, make it a little bit easier to read because the last thing you want to do is show up with a big paper script and being throwing out each page as everything’s going along.
Queue The Spreadsheet
That’s where a helpful tool that we all love as planners comes in known as Excel, or if you’re in the more 21st century, you’re probably using Google Sheets now at this point as well. A spreadsheet can be really helpful for building this out, and personally, I recommend that you use a spreadsheet for doing this. You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, you just said, ‘Hey, it’s kind of like a script.’ Why would I use an Excel document for a script?”
The thing to keep in mind is that the script is separate from a slow flow, and the fact that the show flow tends to have more data and information about what else is going on. Not just what’s being said by the talent and not just being what’s read in the videos and things like that. It’s all about everything else that’s going on. What going to happen with the lights, the video, all that sort of stuff.
I recommend that you build out your cue sheet or your show flow in a couple of different columns. And again, this is all personal preference every single show caller, technical director, producer, has their own slight way of doing this differently. So feel free to customize it on how you see fit.
But here are some critical elements that come in. First thing you have is the number of cues and you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, Excel already has all those line items already on the left-hand side, why would I add a cue number over here on the left-hand column over here.” Well, that’s super helpful because whenever you’re on-site and you want to reference something, for example, “Hey, in cue number three, what am I supposed to do with the lights? There’s nothing about lighting.”
It makes it a lot easier than saying, “Hey, third row from the bottom, what goes here?” It allows you to really quickly reference the cue numbers on here as well. Also, it helps with organization. For example, a lot of things that I like to do as I grab a microphone, or grab a marker I should say, is that I like to add decimals to them as well. For example, if I already have like a 0 cue on here, I might make this 0 … Oop, that marker is all out. Let’s grab another one.
This might be 0.1, for example. What’s great about this is that you can organize it with the 0.1 that, “Oh, hey, this is part of a larger cue that is 0,” but it’s a subset, or maybe like for example, this one is 0.1 and this one is 0.2. You kind of get the idea. You can organize it really, really quickly. I love numbering my cues that way to make it really easy to say, “Hey, this is one big cue but they have little smaller cues inside of them as well.”
The next column that you’re going to have is a start time, and you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, events never seem to start on time anyways. Why would I put the start time?” Well, this is helpful for you to know if you are going to stay on time. I find that events that have these start times on here give you a couple of different things.
First thing, it allows you to know when you need to start, when is the drop dead start time? When do we have to get rock and rolling? So then that way, if you start to run behind, you know what the goal is to get back on track for you to get on time. We all know that, for example, the general session might start at 7:00 a.m. but then you get about halfway through for CEO’s talk, the first keynote and then you’re back to go into awards and you’re like, “Well, where are we supposed to be on pace to get done in time for that 8:30 ending time?”
This really allows you to see the little pieces of where you need to be to break it down. So put your start times in here, when should this cue technically start. Pro-tip, also don’t live and die by these because obviously, we know events never happened on time. I once had a client who lived by this, and they told all of the celebrity guests that they were having to come right at the exact time that we had listed in the cue sheet. And the problem was those celebrities based it on their schedule for that as well.
You want to make sure that you have plenty of buffer time and that that’s okay.
This is super-duper helpful because again, we run a lot of shows off the timers. We’ve all done it before where we put a timer at the edge of the stage and we want to know, “Hey, when should we be starting this cue? How much time should we have left on this cue?” This allows you to put that on there so the show caller or the video guys can put the exact amount of time that you have left on the timer.
What’s also great about this as well is you can do a really simple calculation. If this one starts at 8:15 and it’s supposed to last 45 minutes, quick math, the next cue should start at 9:00 a.m. Pretty easy, right? It allows you to really keep track simply where you are in the schedule and how much time should you have.
It really allows you to build out how long you think everything is going to take, not just a simple “Yeah, it’s going to take three hours.” It really allows you to get hardcore into the details.
Next thing that you have on here is a little bit self-explanatory. You have the description, activity. You can feel free to put whatever you want in here. Basically, what is the name of this cue that’s going to happen in your show flow? For example 8:15, that’s doors open. And the thing that’s supposed to happen when the doors open, we play the watch out video. Pretty simple enough, right?
It basically allows you to have a really quick glance to know at that specific time for cue number one what is happening. I also recommend sometimes you give the cue a name and maybe add another column called description that gives a sentence description as far as what is going on onstage or something like that, that can work really well.
What’s The Hapz?
The next is everything that’s going to happen. And these columns are completely customized well based on show and what’s going on in your show, what kind of staff that you have. But I’m going to give you a ton of ideas and lay them all out for all these different columns you have.
And so the idea is that at 8:15 for this doors open, what all is happening at that exact moment? And this is where an Excel spreadsheet helps versus doing it on a script, on a word document because you’re able to say multiple things happening simultaneously. For example, at 8:15, doors open. The side doors open at 8:30 because I would actually probably even make that a separate cue and make that at 8:30 right here and then make that the side doors open cue and then what else is happening.
Here’s all the categories I recommend that you put in your columns. We have a couple of good ones here, for example, staging. What’s happening with the staging? One thing I love to put on here too is maybe instead of just calling it stagings, we can do one called talent as well, where’s the talent, what’s going on with the talent? Does the CEO have to be standing by? Is he on stage? Are we getting the next keynote on backstage at this point?
Next category we have in here is lighting, so obviously all the lighting in the room, what’s going on. You can describe the colors that you want, the movement that you want. Do you want the lights off, for example? For example, let’s say there’s a cue number four down here and it’s playing another video and you want all the lights to turn off. Well, you can write in here when that video plays, make all the lights off, pretty easy right?
You also have things like audio on here. Inside of audio, that can be things like the microphone numbers so then that way the audio engineer knows, “Hey, mic one needs to be on.” It can be as simple as saying, “Hey, there’s going to be two people on stage, so we need two lavalier microphones.” Or it could be saying something like, “Hey, we’re going into Q&A, so make sure the Q&A microphone is ready,” anything related to audio.
And then this last column that we have in here before I get into some more additional column ideas, is always have a notes column in here. This is great because whenever someone exports their version of the show flow and they want to make edits, chances are they’re going to have their own personal notes they’re going to put into this show flow. That’s really helpful because then it allows them to say get a little bit more technical in it. Put reminders for themselves, all that sort of stuff in here.
Wait, There’s More
Other things I love as well is camera and maybe if you have multiple cameras, you can make in a column for each camera so then that way the camera operators can look at this before the show and have an idea of how much, where they should be looking at, what sort of shots are you looking to get, all that sort of stuff.
What other stuff had I seen work really, really well? I’ve also seen talent wranglers so you could have talent … You can note one about just the talent and you get one just about talent wrangler. I’ve had ones about like when they’ve done giveaways, the giveaway team that’s all going to be there, should be doing this during this time. You can basically for any role that you want, you can make this a column.
One that’s actually missing on here that I think is really extremely helpful as well is creating a script column. That basically is one single column. It relates the script. This is really helpful especially when you need, for example, the lights to change when someone says something or, “Hey, when the script does this, we want to make sure that the volume gets really loud,” or “When he says, ‘Go,’ we play that sound effect,” or whatever it may be.
Putting a script column and writing the script out allows your team to follow along with that script and to be able to know what’s going on versus, “Okay, we just know to settle the lights when it sounds like he’s about to finish,” for example. Scripting is really helpful and then what’s great about that script is you can plug that in straight into a teleprompter, boom. But we’re going to talk about teleprompting I’m sure another day.
Spread The Info
I highly recommend that the producer of the show, the technical director or the show caller builds out the initial version of this based on what the vision is, based on some initial scripts.
Give It To The Team
But eventually, you want to get this in the hands of all the people who have their own column as soon as possible. The reason why is that they could go in here and build this out the way they want to build out. For example, if they want to have their labels for the specific microphones, they might put that in there. Or let’s say for example, I put walk-in look for lighting but the lighting engineer says, “No, no way. I don’t to just say walk-in look.” I want to say, “Lights are green and they’re doing a belly and I want them to be doing this and I want the gobo to be shining this way.” They might put more detail into here as well.
Build out your initial show flow and then get it in the hands of your team so then that way, they can build this all out a lot more on their own as well. One last bonus tip that I have for you is make sure that you are utilizing a software like Google Sheets. I recommend for this. The reason why is that version control on these can be a nightmare. There’s just so many little changes we know. Events are literally changing up until the second that someone walks on stage. I highly recommend using something like Google Sheets.
There’s also a really great software called Show Flow that is fantastic for this. But I believe down below we’re going to include a template as well for you guys to be able to start building this all on your own, so make sure that you check that out as well and I’m sure that will be extremely helpful.
Show Flow: Conclusion
If you enjoy this video, make sure that you smash that like button. Also, if you really love our videos, hit that subscribe button as well. We’d love to see you on future Whiteboard Wednesdays. And while you’re at it, if you want to leave a comment down below, let me know what is your favorite thing that you love to put on your show flows or how do you see yourself utilizing this to making your events run smoother? Let us know in the comments down below and we’d love to hear from you.
That’s going to do it for this week’s Whiteboard Wednesday. I’m Will Curran. You know how to build the show flow. Now, go out there, build your shows and we’ll catch you next week on Whiteboard Wednesday.