The presenter gets to the line in their presentation where the video’s meant to be shown then ............ silence. We’ve all been at conferences where there are these horrible, awkward moments whilst we wait for the AV team to dim the lights, switch from the cameras to the laptop and start the video. Those seconds can seem like minutes for delegates, presenters and conference organisers alike.
We’ve all attended conferences where the presenter introduces a video and then a completely different video starts.
This is distracting for the delegates, off-putting for the presenter and can really ruin a conference organisers day.
It’s all down to planning.
Or is it? Conference organisers spend months, even years, planning their conference from picking venues and presenters to writing the schedule and even getting involved in the scripts. So with all of that careful planning, why do so many conferences still not go to plan on the day?
It’s down to communication.
The conference organiser has a vision. The audio visual technicians have been given a bunch of slides, videos and a script to follow. Hopefully the AV company has tested all of the slides and videos and checked them against the script. But what happens when the presenter goes off-script or there’s a last minute change. What happens if someone's off sick and there's a last minute change of technician. Who is there to hold it all together whilst the conference organiser is figuring out why the canapés are still frozen and there’s a flood in the lobby?
That’s the role of the show caller. The show caller spends time with the conference organiser in advance of the conference. The show caller understands the content of the conference, the things that are likely to go wrong, the presenters that are most difficult to work with and then works with the AV company to carefully test all of the slides and videos to ensure they fit the script and schedule perfectly.
On the day of the event, most of the AV technicians (especially on larger conferences) will never have seen the script before or if they have it will have been during the one or two days running up to the conference and during the rehearsals. They rely on the show caller to tell them when to go to the next slide, when to turn up the lights, when to switch to the live camera feed and even which presenter is coming onto stage next. And the show caller makes ensures that things that should happen at the same split second happen at the same split second.
"The show caller makes sure things that should happen at the same split second happen at the same split second."
For example, a presenter is about to be introduced. As soon as the presenter’s name has been said there are a number of things that must happen instantaneously to create this boxing ring entrance-style moment:
1. The presenter’s walk up sting needs to be played by the sound engineer
2. The PowerPoint operator needs to put the presenter’s name on the central screen
3. The camera director needs to ask her camera operators to film the presenter as they walk up onto stage
4. The lighting operator needs to make the moving lights move and flash to build excitement
5. The follow spot operator needs to light the presenter as he walks through the audience to the stage
It’s the show caller that holds this together in the same way that the stage manager or deputy stage manager does in a theatre production or musical. A minute or so before the presenter is introduced, the show caller gives a cue to each of the audio visual departments:
“Standby sound, sting 27"
“Standby slide, slide 38"
“Standby cameras for entrance from stage left"
“Standby lx sting and lights up on lectern once presenter in place"
“Standby spot to pick up presenter stage left"
A few seconds before the presenter is introduced
“sound, slide, cameras, lx, spot”
Presenters name is said
And every technician executes their cue perfectly.
How do I find a corporate show caller?
Your conference production company or audio visual supplier should be able to provide you with an experienced, professional show caller for your conference or event. Corporate Show Callers . com is also a great resource for finding freelance corporate showcallers. If you’re stuck, get in touch and we’ll connect you with someone who can help with your next event.
Listen in on a show caller
In this video you can listen in on the stage manager’s comms during a musical production of Hairspray to get a feel for the detail involved.