Twice in my career as a communicator, I have thrown a hissy fit in front of a sponsor.
The first time, about a thousand young people had shown up to see me speak on a stage in a gymnasium. Before the show’s start, I stood in front of the stage and asked the sponsor a question: “Where are the lights?”
“These are the lights,” he said.
He pointed at the halogen fluorescents that hung from the ceiling throughout the gym. The lights that illuminated the gymnasium left the stage in darkness.
That meant that anybody seated beyond the fourth row wouldn’t be able to see my face while I spoke. Kind of a tough set up for comedy or inspiration.
“I cannot and will not attempt to do this program until you put some light on the stage,” I said.
“You,” he said, “are a prima donna.”
He didn’t know yet (but would later learn): An audience will not listen to a speaker they cannot see.
Frustrated with me, he hunted for a solution. The solution came in the form of a Super 8 camera’s halogen bulb. He put the camera on a tripod and pointed it’s harsh light toward the stage. It wasn’t good lighting, but it was lighting, so I stood in the glare of the halogen and started the show.
About 15 minutes into the program someone tripped over the camera’s cord ripping the plug from the wall. I immediately lost the audience’s attention – they stopped listening when they couldn’t see me. They actually began conversations with each other.
The sponsor scrambled to find the problem and finally plugged the cord back in the wall. Instantly the audience turned it’s attention to the stage and I was able to finish the show. Later that night the sponsor apologized for being unprepared and for failing to understand the importance of lighting. He certainly learned why good lighting is important and he even apologized for comparing me to a ballerina diva!!
I also learned how to take three important steps to avoid this problem again.
The first step: Know the importance of good lighting.
Good lighting lets the audience see your face. Great lighting lets the audience see your eyes. Event hosts need to know what you require for lighting. It is crucial that they understand that people won’t listen to you if they can’t see you. When they can see you, they can connect with you. That’s what communication is all about.
The second step: Express the need for good lighting during the booking of your program.
It is imperative to ask ahead of time what kind of lighting exists at the venue. This information provides you with an opportunity to request more should the existing setup prove inadequate. The advance notice of exactly what you require alerts the sponsor to your expectations and gives them the time to accommodate your needs.
Pre-event requests trump last minute demands every time.
The third step: Emphasize to your host why you want the lighting.
At the gymnasium event I didn’t ask for lights because I’m a prima donna. I asked for lights because an event host can’t get what they pay for without them. “Where there is no vision the people perish.” And… communication dies a slow and painful death.
Taking these three vital steps will bring light and life to your performances.
Oh yeah! You may be wondering what caused me to throw a hissy fit the second time. That is a very SOUND question. We will deal with it in another blog post… Stay tuned!