We’re willing to bet you’ve asked yourself what to do when your AV company slacks off at least once. Because AV companies and teams aren’t flawless. And sometimes, they can let certain things slide because they’re not paying attention. But why does this happen? Is there anything you can do to prevent it? And when it does happen, what are the best steps you can take to deal with the situation? These are exactly the questions we’ll be answering today.
Our lovely hosts Will Curran and Brandt Krueger have quite a few stories to share. They’ve been in the industry for years, right? So who better to tell you what to do when your AV company slacks off? If this is something that’s crossed your mind a few times, you’ve come to the right place. Press play right now, and join us for a new edition of the Event Tech Podcast!
One of the first situations Brandt tackles is when someone on the AV team falls asleep. “The presenter was speaking and you saw the camera dip”, he recalls. “And we were doing the thing where the camera was on a separate channel. And so I just told the switcher, “You need to tell that person one, they need to lock it down.” Which for anybody that doesn’t know, you can literally just lock down the camera thing so it’s not moving”.
“And two, this is not okay”, he adds. “Using harsher language than that. And if I see them dozing over it again, they’re not going to get paid, is basically what it boiled down to”. On this matter, Will adds that “I think at some point, if you’re not getting quality labor, you should definitely say that specific person. I don’t want to pay for it. And especially say it onsite as it’s happening too. Because I hate when it’s like, “We were really unhappy with the quality.” And it’s a week after the event and I was like, wait, I didn’t see in this stuff. Obviously you should have let me know. I would have taken care of this. So I think that’s also important from a management standpoint as well”.
Why Does This Happen?
“So let’s start with the first one, which might be that let’s say, for example, you had rehearsals until midnight. And your call time is 5:00 AM”, Will explains. “That means they have an hour to get home, an hour to get back to on show site. Maybe 30 minutes to get back because there’s no traffic at 5:00 AM. So they only got three hours of sleep. They’re just running on fumes”.
“I think that’s occasionally, probably at least once a year something like that ends up happening”, he continues. “And that’s where also hopefully your production manager, whoever your lead is on the show, works with that or recognizes that’s going to happen. That person’s going to be really tired and maybe they get another person. So that way he gets as much sleep as possible. From an empathetic standpoint, it’s usually because they didn’t get enough sleep”.
“100% and I frequently will look for opportunities to split shifts”, says Brandt. “Rather than having the same crew running the award ceremony that night, look for opportunities to say, “Hey, we’re not going to rehearse that until three o’clock that afternoon anyway.” Have a second crew come in at three as opposed to five o’clock in the morning or six o’clock in the morning. Run that on the same gear and rehearse that with that crew”.
“Because it’s a totally different thing. So you don’t need to have the same crew. You can look for opportunities like that to split shift things. And then the general session crew gets to leave at 6:00 PM as opposed to 11 o’clock at night after having been there stupid o’clock in the morning. So taking a look at your schedules, taking a look at opportunities to split shift, taking a look at opportunities to break people, to just go away and take a nap in a chair somewhere, goes a long way”.
Human Beings Are…Human
“It’s the same answer that I give when people say, “Where’d all these union rules come from? Why does it have to be a 10 hour day?” Well, because the human body can’t do 15, 16, 17, 18 hour days, day in and day out”, says Brandt. “It’s why we have labor laws. It’s because people used to have to do that in a factory, working 18-hour shifts and then come home and have two hours of sleep and then go work a second job”.
“So these laws are there for a reason”, he continues. “Try to be respectful of it, understand that this might be your super bowl, but it’s our Tuesday. So just be aware of that when you’re planning your schedule. Be aware of that when you want to run through it one more time. Learning how to say no is an important part of that conversation. Being able to say, you know what, we’re good. We don’t need to run it one more time. There’s a point of diminishing returns where tomorrow you’re more likely to screw things up because you didn’t get enough sleep. Because you stayed one more time and ran it through one more time. So be aware of those diminishing returns”.
“There are some people I know, some technicians I know that are just sleepy people”, says Will. “If you do not keep them active in doing something, they just start to doze off for some reason. And I’m not saying necessarily these people are bad technicians. I’ve seen them do incredible work and solve problems on the fly. They can be halfway into falling asleep and then an issue happens and they solve it faster than I could have when I was fully alert. But one of the things I think is that be aware that, as a manager, make sure they’re in the right role that isn’t going to keep them dozing off”.
“Or make it so then that way you don’t give them that opportunity. Just to be like, okay, I’m going to put you backstage and you’re going to be with your feet up and you pressed one cue and you’re good to go”, he continues. “Tell them to stand up. To get their blood going. Go up and take a walk. And sometimes that fixes the problem right away”.
“Sometimes I’ll start a conversation quite intentionally because it looks like people are starting to doze a little bit”, adds Brandt. “And that, while it’s boring now, it’s going to be crazy in an hour with the big finale and the wrap-up and the videos and all that kind of stuff. So I think frequently then you just look for those opportunities to talk about what’s coming up. Just to kind of wake people up a little bit”.
Aside from falling asleep, there’s another common way AV teams slack off. “getting on their phones, having their tablet out, maybe put Netflix and putting ear pod in as well”, says Will. “So I think a reason why this is potentially happening is overstaffing”.
“That’s definitely a contributing factor sometimes”, says Brandt. “And sometimes it’s out of an abundance of caution. I’ve often said that most of the time companies aren’t trying to hose you. They’re usually throwing on extra gear because they want to make sure they’re covered. So anytime that the bid has been overbid, it’s not usually out of a dark place. It’s out of an overabundance of caution. And I think the same goes for labor”.
Making A Successful Event
“We’re not feeling comfortable that you’re comfortable knowing what your show is going to be”, continues Brandt. “I think it’s where that comes from. So this idea of we’re going to make sure we’re good and well covered. So we’re going to have an A one, an A two, a lighting person, someone on the switcher, someone on graphics, someone on video, someone on shading, making sure the cameras look good”.
“All of those individually staffed. And especially I think on a new show, a new production that you’ve never worked with that client before. I think you’re going to frequently have that, again, out of an overabundance of caution”, he adds. “And then you realize, you know what, graphics was just sitting there most of the time. They didn’t have a lot of changes. The PowerPoints were relatively simple. There were only two video rolls. That next time could be a combined role where you’ve got slightly fewer people. And then sometimes it’s just the nature of the beast. You need that lighting person there for the opening 15 minutes and the closing 15 minutes and a couple of lighting rolls in between. But most of the time they’re just sitting there with nothing to do, but you still need that person”.
What To Do When Your AV Company Slacks Off: Boundaries!
When it comes to someone in the AV team being caught using tech or browsing social media, Will says that “one of my big things is always making sure don’t do it around the client. If you aren’t aware enough to know when the client’s right behind you, you aren’t aware enough to know what’s going on in the show”.
“My hope is that any technicians who are listening to this, is that you take that feedback with gracious, open arms. And say, “Cool, thanks, man. I appreciate you letting me know. No problem at all.” I think it’s the worst is when it gets bottled up”, adds Will. “And we talked about this. Note about it in the middle of the show. So the feedback can improve and get better. Otherwise, if you don’t change behavior on the spot in which it happens, the behavior never changes. And I think that’s one of the best things that you can do is just note it right then and there and try to change the behavior”.
Cutting The Right Amount Of Slack
“Give them some truly good advice, give them some actual tactical things. And then try to help improve that as well”, says Will. “Get the chat going, make sure they’re the right competency, getting them to stand up, things like that. I think just far too often we want to complain about it afterward and then there’s nothing that can be changed”.
“Yeah, give a little slack too”, adds Brandt. “So again, understand that that can be a tool to keep your people frosty. If I look over and see that, I’ll kind of let it go. But if I feel like it’s becoming a distraction is when I’ll say something. Approach it with empathy, be forthright. I struggle with it as anybody does. So I had back to back shows where one, the tech table was open behind me to an entire trade show floor. So I didn’t feel comfortable being able to check my email and stuff like that because anybody walking by would see that that’s what I was doing. Be aware of your surroundings”.
One Show During…Another Show?
Will raises the issue of pre-producing one show while working on another show. “So you’re getting ready and prepping another show while the other show’s having its downtime or whatever it may be. And you’re building out the designs, getting the crew ready, sending off emails”, he says.
“It’s part of life I think”, says Brandt. “It’s a part of you’ve got to be working on the next one while you’re on the current one, as long as it’s not interfering with the running of the current show. And sometimes I have to tell upcoming clients, “I’m sorry, this show is way more than I thought it was going to be. I have to give my full attention and focus to the show that I’m on, just like I will do for yours.”
“Definitely. I think it’s such a taboo thing”, adds Will. “But as long as it’s not distracting you from the current show and what’s actually happening. I would almost rather have you do that rather than catching up on Netflix or falling asleep or something like that. Because at least this is productive work time. And let’s be honest, sometimes you just run out of time or the client makes a change one week before the show. You’re already on a show, so you’ve got to make up for it and figure out what you’re going to do on there as well”.
Handling The Slak Offs
“One, document it”, says Brandt. “Say something. Don’t be afraid to say something, but maybe say something to the production manager or to the show caller or somebody like that, so that you’re not the one that’s being the disciplinarian. There are other people whose job that is. Really be honest with yourself of how bad it is. I’ve absolutely been in the position where we’ve had to fire someone mid-show. I’m sure you probably have as well. And just really being clear why that needs to be done or how it needs to be done and not doing it lightly”.
“That’s probably the number one tip I would give is just say something as it’s happening”, adds Will. “I mean this comes with anything. If you’re not happy with the video screen quality, you’re not happy with the lighting, whatever it is. AV companies crave feedback and the biggest pet peeve I think I sometimes have, as an AV provider, is when we do the whole show thinking it was rocking and rolling and we get blindsided in the debriefing. And especially for first-time clients too, because you’re still trying to figure out what your level of standards are on there as well”.
“So we need to keep that in mind when we hear that feedback coming from the client, regarding how things look or how they feel about somebody on the staff”, says Brandt. “We need to bear in mind that this is their baby too. And they’ve got as much or more, probably more, right to bring something up and to say something”.
And that’s a wrap on this week’s episode of the Event Tech Podcast about what do to when your AV company slacks off! Hopefully, we offered you some tactical tips to make situations like this easier. Before you leave, make sure you check out our new sponsor, Event Leadership Insitute.
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