As we settle into the new normal of Zoom calls, remote meetings, and virtual events, it can feel like everything is changing about how we meet, gather, and celebrate.
But no matter what platform, medium, or formatting we use moving forward, one element will stay the same, no matter what.
You need a Run of Show.
Used by directors, conferences creators, event venues, planners, and more, a Run of Show (ROS) is a tool used at any and every event. It breaks down the timing, programming, and content for every minute of an event. At a professional basketball game, the ROS lets the DJ, light operator, and MC know exactly when to do the player introductions during pre-game. The ROS lets the couple know the order their bridal party should process down the aisle. The ROS lets the chef know what time dessert is being served.
The Run of Show acts as a the map for most event professionals and can be changing and adjusting up until the minute the event starts.
Even as our events require more space between people, fewer attendees, or attending from the comfort of our living rooms and pajamas, the need for a ROS remains.
In the first few weeks of quarantine, I attended a variety of online events, from one person presentations and panel discussions to virtual summits and networking events. As an attendee, it was very easy to tell when an online event was operating without a complete ROS, as there were awkward transitions, rambling, and a lack of structure. As the working from home period has extended across the US, I’ve also found myself getting tired of attending online events and I’m more selective in what I RSVP “yes” to.
Let’s break down key elements of an effective Run of Show and how you can apply it to your next online (or in-person) event.
Set Your Event/Meeting Intention
I call this my “North Star” when it comes to event planning. Planning an event can be overwhelming as you get into the details and it’s easy to get lost from the reason that you started the whole process. Common signs that you’re lost include going way over your intended budget and investing in elements that seem to be disconnected, usually something you won’t notice as the organizer but will hear from attendees and sponsors.
When planning a virtual event, your meeting intention is even more important because you don’t have the incentive of in-person events, like a fun venue or the opportunity of bumping into a new business contact. Instead, you need to think even harder about your “why”:
- Why should attendees attend your event?
- What do you want them to get out of the event?
- What do you hope to get out of the event?
Your answer shouldn’t be that you’re hosting a virtual event just to host an event. Maybe you’re hoping to bring joy and entertainment to your attendee or inform them about a topic. These answers will help you start to build your run of show because without a why, your ideas and schedule can quickly get out of hand and disorganized.
Your North Star can save you money, energy, and time if you stick to it. Even as we gather virtually, use your “Why” to drive which platform you use, what time of day you host your event, and how you want your attendees to feel afterward.
Make a plan
Now you need to write down an actual Run of Show. It can start off as simple as writing out the start and end time of your event. I like to format my rundown as follows:
Once you have your start and end times, you can map out the different elements of your event. This could include a welcome address, keynote speech or talk and then questions and answers.
Once you’ve mapped out the big elements, you need to break them down into smaller pieces. How will you introduce your welcome address speaker? How about your keynote speaker? Will you use full-screen graphics or maybe a lower-third? Will you use music? Will your speakers be live at your virtual event or pre-recorded?
As you start to break down your larger elements, you’ll start to realize all the elements you need to produce your event. If you want graphics, you’ll have to see if you can do them on your computer alone or you might need to hire a technical producer who has a “switcher” to help make sure you have seamless transitions between your graphics and video elements.
As you dive into the look, feel, and flow of your event, you’ll be adding more elements to your run of show. It should not only include the timing, but also what is happening on the screen, if you have any graphics, music, or interactive elements.
The more detail you give the ROS, the better. This will act as your guiding plan for producing your virtual event.
Don’t Just Rely on Speech
As your ROS comes together, think back to your meeting intention and see if there are ways to integrate elements outside of the traditional speaker talking to camera into your virtual event. I had a great virtual event experience at the espnW Summit NYC and broke down what made their event so successful. Learn more about what elements you can apply to your next virtual event.
No matter your format, think about ways you can engage with your audience and changing up the format is an easy way to do that. This is especially important if you’re hosting a virtual event with multiple sessions or longer than an hour.
Our attention spans are short and even shorter at home when we’re surrounded with the distractions of daily life. Think about how you can grab your audiences attention from the beginning and keep them engaged for the duration of your virtual event.
Surprise and delight
This is my favorite part of planning events — in-person and virtually. You always want to be adding in elements of fun to surprise and delight your attendees.
In the virtual event world, we’re all still rather green and so are attendees. Since it is so shiny and new, feel free to try something new, take a chance on an outside the box idea and you might be surprised how well it’s received.
I’ve seen virtual events featuring virtual tastings where guests receive a variety of wines or gelato to their houses ahead of time and instead of the traditional happy hour, they’re lead through a virtual tasting by the owner of the winery or gelato shop. This is a fun interactive but virtual event and these events used the proceeds to support the winery or gelato shop, an additional call to action to attendees on why they should attend.
You can also engage with your guests and encourage them to play with their surroundings. One benefit of the new working from home conditions has been that people are more comfortable showing their home life than ever before. You can encourage guests to decorate their background or maybe send them a fun virtual background to add to their video during your meeting.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating fun and engaging virtual events. As you work through your event plan, keep coming back to your run of show. It will serve as your map for your event and help you deliver value to your attendees. And even if things fall behind schedule or technology glitches on you, you have your plan for a reason: to guide you but also to adapt with you. Don’t be afraid to roll with punches and if you have to cut elements or adjust, that’s ok.
With your Run of Show by your side, you’re setting yourself up for a successful virtual event. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or don’t know where to start when it comes to creating a Run of Show, I’m happy to help. Book a free 30-minute consultation with me or several hours and we’ll work together to create a plan for your next virtual event.
Logan is a freelance event manager and to-do list maker with over six years of event experience. She loves reading and listening to podcasts, which she credits for her interest in writing and telling stories. After five years in China, she relocated to Seattle, WA where she continues to drink too many cups of coffee, explore becoming a bobsled driver, and search for the best local food (in Shanghai, it’s jianbing — a Chinese breakfast pancake — yum). Connect with Logan on Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.