Arrive 30-75 minutes ahead for an evening event or one-day ahead for a multi-day event, depending on your experience and comfort with the event planning. Meet first with the event planner or stage director (the one to whom you will report during the event). They will be glad to see you! No matter how calm they look, affirm for them that the event will be successful and you are there to help them any way you can.
Let them know what you will in the time before the event starts.
Inspect the Facilities
Walk through the facility to see what participants will see. Walk backstage. Walk in the audience area. Are there any areas of the audience where the stage is hidden from view?
Meet with the audio/visual people. You may have to signal or direct them on-the-fly during the event if something happens and the director is not instantly there.
Practice with the microphone. Get a feel for how you will hand off to each speaker. Are you at a lecturn on a wired mic and they are on wireless?
Reserve a seat near the lectern or the stairs to the stage.
Know the equipment and how to operate it.
Review the Agenda
Review the agenda with the event planner and stage director. Ensure complete understanding among all parties. Be wary of anyone trying to gloss over an issue with words such as, “Oh, everything will be just fine. We’ll work it out as we go along.” If you cannot work it out now, you risk not working it out as you go along. If you are working with amateurs who refuse to discuss something that you want to discuss, ask them if they are willing to risk failure in the program. If they are, tell them you are not. You are a professional.
Brief the Speakers
Meet with all the speakers to confirm your understanding of the key elements:
- their introductions
- special requirements and cues
- timing procedures and signals
Ensure the director tells the speakers about audio/visual support and gives the speakers a chance to practice with the mic and with any remote controls.
Be prepared for the speaker who hands you their introduction at the last minute. I have received introductions on napkins so bring some blank paper with you. If their notes are unreadable, transcribe them to your own printing. Read it in front of them, settle any issues, and go with it. If the event planner or speaker was willing to risk their introduction, it isn’t your responsibility to save them. Just do your best.
Review the Opening Remarks
Review your opening remarks. Does it still make sense? Does it still fit with what you see going on around you?
Imagine yourself on stage launching the event. Hear your voice. See your body. See your face. Hear the words.
Memorize your first one or two sentences so that you will be able to connect with the audience. You are personally responsible for the tone and energy of the entire event in your first 2 minutes on stage.