Backstage Best Practices

Whether it be presenters, event crew, show callers, or clients, here are a few backstage best practices to keep your show running smoothly

The backstage area of a live event can be an incredibly calm place – dark and quiet, with event professionals working effectively and efficiently to create an incredible experience for clients and attendees.

Alternatively, backstage can feel hectic – with crew members running around, people talking loudly over comms and in person, crowded walkways, and a stressed out production team.

Achieve the former and avoid the latter by following a few simple backstage best practices …

Know Where You Go

Those who should be backstage during an event include the back of house production crew, stage managers, talent, and talent handlers. Those who should not be backstage during an event include attendees, venue staff, food and beverage crews, and unscheduled security personnel.

Having additional people backstage nearly always results in more noise and more distractions for the show crew, not to mention added safety concerns. When there are unexpected people backstage, it is impossible for security to keep track of who should be there – and who shouldn’t, and as backstage areas become more crowded, the risk of tripping over cables and equipment as well as crowding fire exits significantly increases.

Pro tip: when designing backstage areas, designate areas for each department, as well as client access. This will keep the backstage area organized and make it easier to identify each person’s role – and whether or not they should be backstage.

If You’re Early, You’re on Time; If You’re on Time… You’re Late!

The call time listed on an event schedule does not refer to what time crew members should be entering the building, grabbing a cup of coffee, or waiting for an elevator. If the listed call time is 7:30am, by 7:29, the crew should be in their seats and mentally prepared to start the day so that they are ready to begin powering up their equipment and booting up computers right on time.

That being said, nobody should be expected to work for free. Reasonable allowances for powering on equipment, preparing for show sessions, and booting up computers should be built into the crew’s schedule. 

This will allow the day to remain and schedule and ensure that everybody is ready to go at the same time.

Pro-Tip: many agencies will build an extra 30-60-minutes into their schedules to make sure any challenges are resolved before rehearsals are scheduled to begin.

Be Respectful of Other People’s Time

This starts during pre-production, but applies throughout the entire event. Make sure deadlines are being reached on time, especially, if they affect other deliverables, and communicate clearly and effectively about any concerns or delays.

Once you’re onsite, it’s equally important to be respectful of everyone’s time backstage. Work efficiently, but thoroughly, asking questions when needed to avoid confusion down the road.

Additionally, feel free to take some communications off comms! If there is a change to a presentation or a cue that needs to be ironed out and only includes two or three people, take the conversation offline, allowing the rest of the crew to continue rehearsals or address other event needs.

Remember – You’re Always Representing the Client

Anytime you are onsite, you are representing the client. Because of this, it’s important that all crew members dress and behave professionally at all times.

When it comes to attire, this means jeans, collared shirts, and appropriate shoes or safety equipment during set up and strike, and show blacks (business professional attire in black or dark colors) for all sessions and rehearsals. Afterhours (yes, this matters, too!) dress in business casual or professional clothing. You never know who you may run into when out to dinner – so make sure your clothing is clean, inoffensive, and represents your client well.

Just as it’s important to look professional, it’s important to behave professionally. Always assume you can be seen and heard. Avoid drinking in hotel bars where clients and attendees may be spending time, and never speak badly about the event.

Keep Your Personal Devices to Yourself

Nobody wants to go backstage to find a sea of crew members staring at their phones. Even worse – nobody wants to hear a phone ringing from backstage in the middle of an important keynote address!

Keep your phone on silent and out of sight whenever you are backstage. Unless you are clearly using it for event purposes, your phone and other personal devices should be out of sight and out of mind. 

Of course, sometimes emergencies pop up or a call cannot be avoided. Always excuse yourself from the event area to handle any personal matters.

Be Mindful of Social Media Posts

It doesn’t matter if a social media account is set to private – it is safe to assume anything you post can and will be seen! 

Never say anything rude, unprofessional, or unkind about the client, presenters, attendees, or any aspect of the event. Don’t call attention to any mistakes or challenges that took place during the event.

Most importantly, respect the privacy of the client. Many events are intended for internal audiences or may contain sensitive information. Be careful not to share any images with identifying information, slogans, or logos to your accounts.

Keep the Volume Down and the Walkways Clear

It’s easy to underestimate volume from backstage – and even if the audience can’t hear chatter going on behind the LED screens, other crew members can! Try to keep comms lines clear for show related cues and questions, and speak quietly backstage to ensure that nobody is distracted or unable to hear something important.

Additionally, walkways should always be kept clear. Don’t block entrances or exits to the backstage area or the stage itself. Keep all equipment organized and contained so that nobody trips if they need to get somewhere in a hurry.

While many of the backstage best practices may seem like common sense, they are incredibly important to create a calm, professional, and efficient backstage experience for crew members, clients, and presenters alike!

At Encompass, we have unique backgrounds that situate us perfectly to produce high end and complex offerings. We’ve worked in broadcast television, touring entertainment, live sporting events, and countless convention facilities across the country.

We have technical design experience and a disciplined process in place that allows us to easily scale events and shift from in-person to virtual without angst. There isn’t much that’s beyond our scope and we love the intensity of putting on events!

If you’re a planner working to create an event, seeking help with virtual event technology, or simply want to learn more … we can help! Sign up below to receive our updates (we promise to keep your contact information secure and won’t “overshare”).

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