Keeping an audience’s attention does not come automatically just because people showed up; nor does it have to be expensive —
Maybe your event needs a boost – a little caffeine pick-me-up – in order to best communicate your message, inspire guests, or celebrate success. It’s time to deliver a show that is swelling with energy, tightly choreographed, features a handcrafted soundtrack, and portrays how serious you are about the outcome.
I will share a few secrets that I hope you can employ at your next live event:
Least Common Denominator – This is a factor I’ve promoted since our very first BIG show in 2002. Imagine the person who has the least interest and reason to be in attendance. Maybe ze is the most cynical or the most unlikely person to impress. I focus my efforts on impressing this person through the spoken word and immersive production experience. If you can reach this person, you may find that you have reached the other hundreds or thousands in attendance.
Timing is Everything – Everybody’s lives are jam-packed and there are few things worse than feeling like your time is being wasted. Absolutely, in speech, insert the pregnant pause or the dramatic question to the audience to further your message. Otherwise, keep the show moving! Do’s and Don’ts: Do start your event on time. Don’t allow it to go longer than it needs. Do have presenters queued and waiting for their intro. Don’t ever leave an empty stage. Do monitor the time during the show (I take on this job during Cybis shows) and do adjust the program; shorten parts; etc. if you’re at risk of going long. Do end earlier than published times; never later. And Do have the production team with their fingers on the trigger for every song, lighting cue, and graphic roll, because that synchronization is felt/embraced by the audience; 1 second late is late.
Rehearse – I would like to make this the first, second, and third item on the list because live one-off events are seldom effectively rehearsed; and it makes the difference between silver and gold. First, ensure your organization has the appropriate dedicated stage director or at least a presenter-liaison to host special guests. Insist that every presenter attend a rehearsal prior to the doors opening. And my rule of thumb – rehearse, in real-time, every single action/cue/transition that will happen during the show. A fumbled music/lights/video sequence takes away from so many of the efforts that go into planning for your big event. Whether you’re an event manager, producer or show director, I commend anyone who says “that was close to perfect, but let’s do it 2 more times to be sure we’ve all got it!”
Crave the Special Moments – We acknowledge that many shows contain long biographical spiels, acceptance speeches, and historical testimonies. But don’t let that bring you down. Look for every appropriate instance in the program to crescendo the music, utilize special effect lighting, and provide motion graphics on screens that parallel what your guests are used to seeing on prime time television. When we identify and execute a dozen of these extra special moments in a program, I’m happy and I think the audience is satisfied, too! The energy and action in your show should peak and valley. Be conscious of the order of presentations in your agenda in order to best keep the audience on the edge of their seat and wanting more.
Lights, Camera, Soundtrack – I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to just mention the power of programmable moving light fixtures, well-choreographed camera movements, and delivering the right music for the mood. These are not all easy to convey in one article so I’ll focus on soundtrack. My best advice is to stay trendy. We frequently mix instrumental beds of the newest popular songs in order to capture a special part of our audience’s senses. Staying current with music and crafting an aural soundtrack for your live event helps to promote the relevance and timeliness of your message.
The key to all of this is planning. Recognize the beginning of a show as an opportunity to start getting the audience excited even if no one is on stage. Know who is speaking, when they will be speaking, and what they are speaking about. Ask about important points that might be enhanced with audio, lighting, or camera shots. Know where the person will be presenting and plan to have cameras/lights focused on those points. Consider having multiple cameras for different angles and cutaway shots. Make sure anyone on stage knows where to enter and exit; professional choreography will highlight excellent preparation!
Creativity in audience engagement is an art form that takes practice, but the right team with the right equipment and leadership will be able to execute a captivating experience. If you have a live event coming up, and you’d like to enlist Team Cybis to help keep YOUR audience engaged, please contact me right away so we can start the conversation. I want to help deliver the absolute best production possible and help you make the right decisions for your audience, space, and budget!