Service of Behind the Scenes

November 28th, 2016

Categories: Be Prepared, Behind the scenes, Television

Meteorologist Vanessa Murdock

Meteorologist Vanessa Murdock

Years ago I represented a company that provided home care and I read a lot of material about nursing. One study about hospital staffing in the day found that during an emergency, nurses in an overstaffed institution couldn’t rise to the occasion because the sluggish pace they were used to worked against them; if too bare bones they couldn’t stretch anymore to confront a crisis effectively but staffed to perform at a brisk pace, they could step up seamlessly.

I often think of this when I attend a successful event or watch a live TV news program both of which have many parts. Here are two examples of perfect staffing and behind the scenes planning and timing.

My clients Joanna and Richard Rothbard, American Art Marketing, juggle relentless periods of monthly craft fairs–September through December–involving hundreds of individual exhibitors each with special requests and requirements for space, lighting and help with moving in and out of a venue for starters. [And this is only one of their several businesses.]

Prima donnas are universal. They cause distractions that need attending to as do electricBehind scenes papers with prices glitches and arguments between exhibitor neighbors. I was at a reception desk at the recent craft show at Brooklyn Museum on the second morning when an exhibitor arrived with a hand truck stacked with boxes filled with product. She was barking orders at the air in our general direction demanding help to carry them to her booth without a please or thank you or regard for the fact that each person there had other assignments. A staffer emerged and took over the chore with a smile. The exhibitor never came back to return the hand truck to where she borrowed it from museum personnel and yet the eyesore disappeared.

I wonder, in the second example, if anyone thinks of all that goes on behind the scenes to deliver a flawless newscast? The process is like a well orchestrated dance. And although split-second timing is crucial, the crew and anchors at CBS 2 News Saturday Morning recently appeared composed in spite of the hour–6 a.m.–and the fact that their jobs are never the same two days in a row.

Andrea Grymes, left, Cindy Hsu right and Richard Rothbard far rightNevertheless the calm in the studio the morning we were there for a show and tell of what visitors to the craft show would see later that day was palpable. Andrea Grymes [left, in red] and Cindy Hsu [right] took time to introduce themselves to us before settling in. Before they’d arrived on the set, the crew had already helped the Rothbards [photo below, right] set up the jewelry, fashion accessories, decorative items and sculpture they’d chosen to give the audience a taste of what was for sale that weekend in the Museum’s handsome Beaux-Arts Court. I had made slips of paper with an image of each item, the name of the artisan and price which we pinned to the tablecloth. Richard didn’t need this crutch, but my philosophy is to anticipate any contingency I’d appreciate–such as finding a blank when fishing for a name or fact when under pressure.

Pulling the strings was the producer, Kizzie Pegues, who began prepping American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn Museum co-producers Joanna and Richard Rothbardfor the special segments in the show long before the day. She’d woven in video to bring additional visual impact to the American Fine Craft Show Brooklyn Museum segment. She was so much behind the scenes that we didn’t see her on the set. The set director called countdowns like mini rocket takeoffs to ensure picture perfect transitions between taped and live segments and the camera operator manipulated a giant piece of equipment with the ease of a child’s toy and the precision of a brain surgeon.

I’ve directed events for clients and the associations I belong to so I appreciate the work of these experts. On a far smaller scale, I like being a guest at my own dinner parties which also takes advance work. Have you been a witness or part of projects where what goes on behind the scenes is crucial to the outcome? Are there exceptions where what happens behind the scenes is irrelevant?Dinner table Thanksgiving turned

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10 Responses to “Service of Behind the Scenes”

  1. EAM Said:

    I think the Matrix Awards offers a great example. Every volunteer has a responsibility and there’s a clear lineage of where to go if something goes awry. I remember helping out with prepping the National scholarship winners and Matrix honorees with hair and makeup. There was no electricity in the room and we had to act quickly so they would be camera ready when taking the stage. With any good event or production, it should look like it moves seamlessly when the time comes and all the moving parts behind the scenes align so that it just looks perfect. People don’t realize all the work that goes into logistics so it can be pulled off.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    EAM,

    SO TRUE. New York Women in Communications’ annual Matrix Award luncheon has many professional hands doing excellent work.

    I ran a press event at which the client was thrilled. The lack of support from the venue was so horrendous that after the event, I wrote the owner listing all the glitches and he offered either to give my client his money back [$thousands] or house another event for free! The manager was furious. [When my client got the check he was floored as he didn’t know all the problems we’d had and thought the event went off without a hitch, which as far as the media and client were concerned, it did.]

    We were able to overcome hurdles that this well known NYC landmark’s staff created for us about which they should have been ashamed.

    Just one example: We confirmed the night before that our contact would be there at 6 a.m. to unlock the storage room that had all our materials, posters etc. so that we could set up. She didn’t arrive until after 8 a.m. and nobody else had the key. And that was the good news.

  3. hb Said:

    It’s interesting. You make a good point about staffing.

    When I first went to work for real in the army, I noticed that the more men there were, the less work, particularly good work, per capita, got done. That was also true everywhere else I went, and in my next job as the administrative officer of a consulate, I reduced its bloated staff from 50 to 30. My Consul General was amazed and especially delighted when I managed not to replace his grouchy, grossly underemployed American secretary when she rotated home for reassignment. I could have lopped off another 10 employees, but I was already in enough trouble with the bureaucrats in Washington who thought I was either crazy or a security risk. I didn’t dare.

    After than, I made sure to have at least 10% less staff than planned. Everybody worked harder and at times it was scary, but we got things done.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    hb,

    Because many feel their importance is in direct proportion to the number of people who report to them, I can imagine that your practical solution to pragmatic observations was resented by many.

    I’ve never had the so-called luxury of working for an overstaffed place but I know enough about myself that if I don’t have a few things to juggle, I freak, so I wouldn’t do well in such a place. On the other hand, I’ve been set up to fail in places that sell PR by the yard, and don’t care if or how the work is done. They only care if the client pays the fee. The stress in such a place, if you care about the quality of the service you provide, is gut-wrenching.

  5. David Reich Said:

    Yes, most people don’t realize how much goes on behind the scenes for an event like a crafts show or an everyday occurrence — the daily local news on TV. Having been involved in planning and publicizing many events, and having seen the behind-the=-scenes at a local TV newscast, I appreciate all that goes into them.

    Planning is key, but keeping a cool head is also crucial since things don’t always go as planned.

    Congrats on the great piece for your client on Channel 2.

  6. Lucrezia Said:

    Just about every field of endeavor requires preparation. Translation: doing ones homework. The world chess champion, Norway’s Magnus Carlsen and his challenger, Russia’s Sergey Karjakin, have done theirs so well that they been at it for 11 games without coming to a resolution. A win today clarifies matters, but if another stand-off results, the contest goes into tie breaking mode.

    The same diligence in gaining expertise in all fields of endeavor apply.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    Planning is crucial as you note so that at least some part of a project is turnkey while you handle the crisis. When dealing with guests, whether a speaker at an event or at a radio or TV show, the producer, MC, newscasters –all involved–must be prepared to punt if the person doesn’t show at the appointed hour. I’m sure they all have stories of how they filled the time slots. I heard one personality hit the ceiling on-air and rightly so because she’d gone to the trouble to read the guest-author’s book and neither the person nor his PR rep called to cancel or explain being MIA–ever.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Right: Prep, i.e. homework, with the bonus of experience, is as foolproof a behind the scenes technique for a project’s success that there is.

    The exception that proves the rule: That Donald Trump was catapulted into the White House with so little of it and such disrespect for it.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Don’t let The Donald fool you. For better or worse, he knows exactly what he’s doing!

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    He doesn’t fool me.

    The problem is he’s fooled millions.

    When he writes a tweet that disgruntles, nine times out of 10 it’s to distract from yet another scandal, such as the $25 million settlement he made for the fraud lawsuits against his so-called university. The media pivots to his latest rant and forgets the important news. I wonder how long this technique will work for him.

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