Monday, May 9, 2011

Controlling Your Environment

As a performer who received much of my initial training in a theatrical setting, I have always placed a high importance on creating a mood. It’s one of my goals to create a mood from the moment someone walks into a theatre to see one of my shows until they leave. I think that proper pre-show music as well as proper lighting can build anticipation and get your audience excited about what is to come.

Some of my favorite moments when I attend shows are when you file into the theatre and feel the ambience. I believe that getting an audience into the right mindset to enjoy the upcoming show is just tremendously important.

I recently performed for a very high end corporate function and was immediately reminded why it is so important to control all elements of a production, especially the environment.

This specific event was lavish. It was in a beautiful hall that had been exquisitely decorated with the finest linens, flowers, stage settings, etc. Everything had been thought of and prepared perfectly.

I had been engaged to create an original, themed five minute sequence of magic that would add to the atmosphere. It really wasn’t a situation where I had very much control. I was a guest in someone else’s home, so to speak. I was supposed to come in, do my act, and that was that. Unfortunately I didn’t get to call the shots.

So, I arrived, set everything up, and waited until I was on. When I got my cue to take the stage, I took my place and executed my act. Everything went flawlessly. Unfortunately, nobody cared. Only a tiny portion of the five hundred guests paid any attention to what I was doing. It was painful.

Please understand this; I’m a very dynamic performer who commands the stage. I also have worked numerous events. I have had great success entertaining groups exactly like this one. This was an anomaly. But it’s the type of thing that drives me crazy and I just have to figure out what happened so it doesn’t happen again.

I’ve thought a lot about what happened and I have a few ideas on why it went so poorly. There were two major issues here. The first one was that I took the stage at the exact same time that the food was served. That one is really my fault. I shouldn’t have agreed to start the show when there was such a massive distraction. Honestly, I know better. I’ve known not to do that forever. Why I let it happen this one time, I’ll never know. Well, actually I do know, but I’m not going to lay the blame on other people. I’ll take the blame here. Chalk one more up to experience and things that I won’t let happen again.

However, in my opinion, the main problem here was that the environment was not controlled. If the environment had been properly focused on what was going on, this performance could have been a major hit. I really believe that it was as simple as dimming the lights. That’s it. If the lights in the main hall had been dimmed down to about 25% and the lights on the stage had been brought up to full intensity it would have been obvious that the program was beginning and everyone would have quieted down and started watching the program while they ate. You know, this one simple thing would have helped me, but it also would have helped the program chairs who went on immediately after me and were somewhat ignored for the first few minutes of their speech as well.

I really believe that it is as simple as that. If you work in corporate settings, please take a lesson from this. If you want to focus people’s attention on a show or a speaker, you must control the environment and give your program or speaker every chance to succeed.

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