Tips & Tricks: Production Values

If you’ve ever seen your campus’s Concert Committee, or Performing Arts Center production staff, preparing for a big show, then you know they pay a great deal of attention to “production values.” 

They’re doing everything they can to enhance the audience’s show-going experience by offering the best possible sound, lights, seating, et cetera. They aim to create an ambiance for their audience that they will experience from the moment they enter the performance space.

So why do lecture committees often put too little emphasis on production values? How many times has the following scenario happened to you?
You’re going to hear a controversial environmentalist speak about global warming. You enter the brightly-lit auditorium. There are 800 seats, and the hundred or so attendees who have already arrived are all sitting in the back. The only sound is the low rumble of conversation. You grab a seat, wishing you knew a little more about this speaker. The Lecture Committee chair approaches the microphone, mumbles a few words and says, “OK, Here’s John Smith” and shuffles away.
The sound is too low, and it’s hard to hear him. He’s got a PowerPoint slide show, but the room’s so bright that you can barely make out the images. When he finishes his lecture and asks for questions, you’ve got a good one…but when he points to your raised hand, you find yourself shouting your question, and have to repeat it before he can answer. Naturally, most of the audience missed what you were asking, so he has to repeat it.
The questions fizzle out. The speaker, a little bewildered, picks up his notes, thanks the audience, and leaves the stage. There’s a smattering of applause, and the room begins to empty. You hear the woman in front of you ask her friend, “who put this lecture on, anyway?”
Instead, why not take heed some of our advice to help create a great lecture. 
  1. AMBIANCE: You need to create a welcoming atmosphere. Dim the houselights (and be prepared to dim them further when the speaker takes the stage). Play some music over the house PA system; if you can pick songs that tie in with the speaker, so much the better! Also, check the room temperature a few hours in advance! It’s hard to quickly heat or cool a large auditorium!
  1. INFORMATION: Prepare your audience for the speaker. A simple one-page program with the speaker’s bio, some information about why he’s so controversial, et cetera, is easy to prepare, print and distribute. In fact, you can get some information back if you have a committee member hand these out at the door and asking attendees how they heard about your lecture! Wouldn’t you like to know that 80% of them saw it on your Facebook page, and none of them noticed the (paid) ad in your school paper?
  1. PRESENTATION: The person who will introduce the speaker should have a prepared introduction, preferably with some information that’s not in the program! If possible, you should use this opportunity to tell your audience about your next program. 
  1. PACE: You want to keep things moving. Wait until you’re audience is settled, and then lower the houselights (as a signal that the program’s about to start). As the audience ‘rumble’ fades, stride to the podium with confidence. Tell them who you are, what committee you represent (and any other group that helped sponsor the speaker), who your next speaker will be, and then introduce the speaker. Wait by the podium for her/him to approach, offer a hearty handshake, and depart! When the speaker’s formal remarks end, be ready to walk out onto the stage (applauding, of course), and tell the audience that the speaker will entertain a few questions… and make sure that someone in the front row has a question ready to go and will jump up with her/his hand raised! That ‘icebreaker’ question is often the difference between a lively Q+A, and an uncomfortable silence. When the final question’s answered, be ready to move your speaker onto whatever’s waiting; the reception, the book signing, etc… and thank your audience for coming!
If you have any questions or would like more fantastic tips, don’t hesitate to reach out to Jodi Solomon Speakers Bureau! Contact us here