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How to stage the perfect production

By Michelle Zeitlin, CEO of More Zap Productions

Are you planning a company event? Did someone "volunteer" you to a committee and you're overwhelmed? How can you find the time and energy and ideas to pull off the perfect production? Here are some helpful hints. So you can learn more about "KISS"--"Keep it simple, stupid" for planning corporate events with panache, flair and imagination!

Ron Rubin, of Ron Rubin Events says, "The most important factor in planning an event is understanding the client's needs and fulfilling those dreams with innovative, exciting and memorable moments."

To select the ideal location for your event, consider "The Four A's:"
  • Allure
  • Attraction
  • Access
  • Ambience

Make sure you've got these critical four factors covered and you'll be well on your way to putting on a classy and flashy show.

In planning for your perfect event, don't forget that you need the perfect location! It's not enough for the location to simply "blend into the background" and not detract from the performance. Rather, you'll want to strategically choose a location which enhances and adds to your production.

The location for the event must work well with your must be accessible for your audience in terms of seating, parking, and convenience. The venue should have a 'feel' to it, that speaks to your audience/guests and ties in with your event's theme.

If the production requires staging, lighting, seating, etc., make sure your venue has good production values, an excellent on site engineering/tech crew, (if not, hire one!), and make sure all electric, water, and other power sources are in order. Also, check to see if there are certain fire codes, union rules, etc. and know the capacity for your crowd. Taking care of these minor, but necessary details will ensure that all runs smoothly when it's show time.

If you're trying to create a mood, make sure the venue fits it! Don't expect an intimate, romantic feeling to come across in a huge, barren studio lot or convention center, unless you're prepared to do a lot of designing, decorating and art direction. By the same token, don't expect a little Hollywood night spot to be the right venue for a big corporate affair, unless your crowd is hip and into trends.

  • Who are your guests?
  • What is their point of view?
  • Financial and social status?
  • Does this crowd talk sports?
  • Politics?
  • Cooking?
  • Kids?
  • How old is the average guest?
  • What is their political, religious and cultural background?
  • Are you putting on a fund-raiser for a serious cause?
  • Or is this an "industry" party with trendy and cutting edge people?
  • What is the dress code?
  • Will there be audience interaction and schmoozing?
  • Or will your crowd be seated and quiet?
  • Are you encouraging networking over drinks, or is this a one-way presentation?

Do you see where we're going with this? The key is to know the common denominator of your audience and then zero in on it with laser-beam focus and TAILOR your event for your audience/guests!

The more you know about your crowd/audience/guests, the more you can plan appropriately. Then you can decide on appropriate MUSIC, FOOD, DECOR, and other elements which are integral to a successful production.

Now that you know your audience, you can put together your presentation team. If you are planning a wedding, there are certain key personnel involved. You'll have a particular taste, and want excellent entertainment (not too showy to upstage the Bride and Groom), wonderful food and lovely decor. Consider using the services of a party planner and/or florist.

So what's the key word here?


If you're planning a huge party for 10,000, hire an entire coordinated TEAM to put your event together. You'll need a stage manager or entertainment coordinator. Here's some of the key elements for which you'll want to hire key personnel:

  • Lighting
  • Music
  • A parking service
  • Ticketing
  • Publicity
  • Entertainment vendors
But most importantly, you'll need a top notch overall LEADER. Whether you call this person a DIRECTOR, CHOREOGRAPHER or PRODUCER, you need one person who can pull all the people together into one cohesive unit. Someone with excellent leadership and communication skills. Someone who instills enthusiasm and excitement into every phase of the production. Someone who loves to create, and can delegate!

Remember, a team is the best way to execute your event, but you need a conductor, or ringleader to make sure there is a semblance of organization and ritual. There are many resources for creative staffing and crews. Depending on the nature of your production, you can hire party planners, destination managers, production companies, or all three!

If you have a very large affair, with international travel and many different aspects, you might consider hiring an entertainment company that specializes in these kinds of events. There are many ways to find such companies, including the Internet, by referral, local papers, magazines, and through your Better Business Bureau. Another alternative would be to hire a publicity company, and they'll hire out the rest of your team.

The crucial thing here is ORGANIZATION, SCHEDULING and COHESIVENESS. To avoid unnecessary conflict and confusion, make sure you hire people who work well together. You don't want to deal with many different egos and "heroes." Hire people that know one another and have worked together before. Don't let your important production be an experiment. Trust your party planner or coordinator to hire ELEMENTS that compliment each other. And trust the person with VISION, who also has the capacity to GET IT DONE!

Don't forget to have a great budget outline. NO SURPRISES! Know exactly how much money you have to work with, who your vendors are, and know your time line. The more prepared you are, the more seamless your event. Also, you'll feel much better about your successful event, if you've stayed within your budget! Have someone on your team who is good with numbers, and make every possible effort to stay within your estimated costs. The best way to lose a client is to overspend their money...So don't do it!

There is a saying in Hollywood: "There's no business like show business!" Putting on a show of any kind, requires a sense of humor and a good attitude. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Expect the unexpected. You've heard the cliches and they are all true. This is part of the magic of entertainment: It's spontaneous and ALIVE! But it can also be a disaster, if you don't plan for mistakes and surprises.

Have a back up plan for every technical aspect. If you have microphones, always have an extra one or two! If you require lighting, have a back up spotlight or extra bulbs.

If the food is the attraction, have EXTRA! If your flowers wilt on the way to the wedding, have lovely silk flowers as back up. If your DJ doesn't show up because his car got a flat tire, have some CD's of your own and a decent boombox.

For huge events, hire an excellent electrical/tech crew who knows how to cover technical glitches without missing the beat!

Remember...the most wonderful productions:

  1. Entertain
  2. Educate
  3. Elevate!

Think about how we feel when we are the audience. We want to come away with something special and unique. Whether we leave the theatre singing a memorable tune, or "steal" all the table settings because they're one of a kind... We want to have fun, laugh and be taken somewhere into their imaginations. We want to learn something new or made to think. And we want to be where we feel culturally and spiritually uplifted!

Don't throw an "average" event! Make it the most exciting and fun you can imagine. Prepare, plan and research. Read magazines for ideas on fashionable attire and decor. Go to museums to get ideas on concept design and colors. Talk to people about their likes and dislikes. Organize a party planning committee who can brainstorm! Interview your vendors and always get personal recommendations and referrals from people you know and trust. If you're hiring an entertainment company, meet with them and ask for video and publicity materials, and see if you can attend one of their events.

NOW YOU KNOW THE WHAT, WHERE, WHO...We can show you the HOW TO!
Michelle Zeitlin is CEO of More Zap Productions. More Zap Productions has produced entertainment for Corporations, Private Parties, Theme Parks, Music Videos and Theatrical Shows around the world. More Zap also produces Bar Mitzvahs, Weddings and Holiday Parties. For more planning topics and information, visit

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