Depending on who's sitting in the front row at your meetings, the potential for last-minute interference or the need for you to justify long-established program elements is great. Unfortunately, rehearsals are often the first time executives really focus on an event. Whether they are diplomatic or derisive, justified or not, you can readily comfort them because, like any good planner, you've anticipated their every need and concern. Right?

We've all heard one or more of the following in the eleventh hour: You spent how much? Do we really need that? Why can't I just change it? How did I not know that? (My new favorite.)

Here's how to field such well-founded (or not) questions.

Know Your Customer: Is he or she motivated by cost, quality, detail, convenience, options? If certain items are nice-to-haves (vs. must-haves), know why you've included them or, conversely, left them out, relative to the exec's priorities.

Review Everything in Advance: Make sure the agenda, outside speakers, video rolls, internal presentations — in short, everything taking place on stage — is clear to your executives; a pre-show conference call or detailed e-mail will neutralize many questions.

When You Don't Know the Answer: For execs who can't or won't pay attention prior to going on site, have your notes and budgets at the ready so you can show them why a certain choice was made. If you're at a loss, do what any smart planner would do: Punt. In other words, ask your producer, who should know the reason for things creative, technical, and related to production in general.

Seeing Is Believing: Take executives backstage to see all the equipment, staffing, cables, platforms, and so on required to make the event happen. If possible, show them the ballroom as it's being set up. This goes a long way to answering the “what are we paying for” questions.

Gimme a Break

Coffee breaks taking longer than you want?

Who's doing the loitering?

Executives: Discuss it with them beforehand. They set the tone and will understand.

Top Producers: They can't be pushed. Make your meetings interesting!

Clients: Use kid gloves.

Employees/Internal: Be more aggressive.

Try these techniques:

  • Use chimes (always bring your own).

  • Dim the ballroom lights and roll video.

  • Blink the foyer lights.

  • Get someone speaking on stage early.

  • Close the ballroom doors.

  • Use an entertainer (be careful with this one).

  • Resume when you said you would. (Start without the stragglers.)

There's no substitute for compelling programs that consistently start on time.

Cruise to Lower Costs

Choosing a cruise can save money on production. Hotels don't offer free AV because their in-house equipment is owned and operated by outside companies; this “partnership” creates higher prices and precludes comped gear. Cruise lines budget sound, lighting, and some video equipment into the cost of the cruise because entertainment is a big part of the experience. Therefore, many cruise line showrooms have acceptable-quality gear that doesn't cost extra. However, be sure to get a full list of equipment and staffing to determine what and who you'll need to bring on board.

Ken Kirsh, CMP, is president of Kirsh Productions Inc. in New York City. Contact him at (212) 262-4388 or