A 'production manager' at your event... Of course! But what is his role really? Why should you need a production manager if you could do it yourself? I ask these questions to Geert Stockmans of PRG EML, one of the largest technical facilitators for events in the world.
21-01-2013 - by Kevin Van der Straeten
A 'production manager' at your event... Of course! but what is his role really?
Why should you need a production manager if you could do it yourself?
I asked these questions to Geert Stockmans of PRG EML, one of the largest technical facilitators for events in the world.
Hi Geert, welcome to our studio. A production manager, when do you need one?
As a matter of fact, that's a difficult question because it depends on a lot of things, some events need a production manager, some events don't need a production manager and the most important reason is the scale of the event. When we have a large scale event with a lot of suppliers, a lot of parties involved, a production manager is needed. Small scale events, more or less you don't need a production manager.
And small or big scale is defined just by the number of suppliers on the event or all...?
The number of suppliers is something to consider, but small or big scale has also to do with complexity of the event and if it's an event which occurs many times, for instance when you do an event in a venue where do events in, like theatre, you don't need a production manager.
And what exactly is the role of a production manager, for example your company PRG EML?
The production manager, as a matter of fact is the person who is going to be the communicator between the client and our internal organisation in the company. The production manager is going to be the technical contact of the client, when a deal is closed, when commercially a deal is closed. All communication on a technical level, even on a commercial level is going through the production manager. He is actually playing a little bit the communicator between the two parties.
And I read about it as being in all different phases of the event that it is through, that will be the person in between.
Can you explain the different phases?
An event has generally four phases. You have the phase where the event is conceived and when all the offers are made by all the parties, then the deal is closed, the commercial deal is closed.
And why is this important that a production manager is already in place at that moment?
It's important that he is in place from the beginning because he is going to play the role as advisor to the account manager. From day one he will give the account manager all the technical information needed to come to a correct and cost effective offer. And, when you don't have a production manager, the account manager tends to go a little bit wider on the offers, which will be less cost efficient.
So, hiring a production manager is a cost save?
Overall, on the event, yes. You don't see it immediately in a quote, because in a quote you see the line production manager and when you have a quote without a production manager you think it’s a cost saving. Event agencies tend to think they can do it without. But overall, the production manager will add on efficiency, overall efficiency in the event and bottom line it will be a cost reduction.
And also make sure you only get the equipment you really need for the event, I can imagine.
You only get the equipment you really need, he will advise both the event agency and our own account manager on possible cost reductions, possible efficiency gains that can be made in the process of the event.
Can he also the creative part of the…
Absolutely. There are numerous examples that a production manager becomes really a part of the production team, of the event team and where in the process of the pre-production phase, the second phase of the event, he helps the event team with come up with creative solutions for problems which arise and that's not that weird because we as a technical supplier, we are active in different market segments, not only the events, public or corporate, but also music, concerts, festivals, fashion shows, television shows, even your occasional motion picture, so our production managers have experiences in lots of different fields and that experience can add in the production team.
So he works together with the event agency to work on getting the project done.
Yes, because its everybody's interest to come up with the best event for the (not clear) customer.
So it's not real competition for an event agency, but rather an added value for the end results.
It's an added technical value. Consider it as a technical consultant.
Ok. And during the event of course, I think it's logical that that will be the person who guides it all into the right place and to get things done.
An assistance to the real production responsible in the event agency… yes because as a technical as a technical supplier most of the time we are working in the principle of we are the first and last out, like we say.
What do you mean exactly by that?
We as technical supplier in the venue, we come firsthand. We start at regular events, an example event, we start with (not clear) points and we take the (not clear) points also as last out. That means that our technical responsible which is the production manager will be in the venue the first man on the floor and the last man who leaves the building. And it's in that perspective that our production manager is the best placed person to consult with the general event planning. A lot of event agencies tend to put a lot of energy in conceiving and planning, building the event and running the event, but once the event is finished they close the door. When everybody goes home, they don't care.
At that point you see a lot of venders coming in, taking their equipment out as fast as possible and then accidents happen of course.
Absolutely, accidents happen, damage to equipment, financial after claims so it's also a cost reduction to work together with the production manager for months in that phase.
We talked about the offer, the pre-production and the production, but there were four phases, so what's the fourth one?
I call it personally, the aftercare phase. The aftercare phase is made internal in our organization, but is also important for the client. It's in the aftercare that the production manager in the organization does a little bit, the exercise if everything went well, if the internal organization performed according to what was promised to the client and if we gained any profit on the contract, if we didn’t make stupid mistakes on that one. But it's also in the aftercare that you can create a recurrent link with the same client and like that we're working always again, the same client with the same production manager, the next event will even be more successful.
You think learning from the previous event into the new one…
Do you have some concrete examples where you can illustrate the importance of production manager at an event?
I have several examples. The example which is for me the most clear is that a lot of the times we are confronted with event agencies which don't take a production manager and demand a quote, we do the quote, I do the complete pre-production phase of themselves and a week before they come up with a complicated concept which is actually not conceivable, it's not possible because for example they don't take into account weight limits for a venues rigging points and that kind of stuff. In the end doing all the work which has been done in the pre-production phase in the event agency again, because there is serious restriction on weight limits, which can result in serious redesign of the concept, doing that all again is a serious cost and getting the production manager in place in the early phase helps to prevent that.
Getting it right from the first time makes that you save money.
Before we started recording the show you mentioned that it's hard even for audiovisual company, that it's hard to keep up with all technical evolutions that are taking place. How hard is it?
It's really hard. I started 21 years ago in this business and the first year active just as a road technician and I would say that those first years I called myself "all wrong technician" and you were never and you were never to cope with almost everything. And now I was a production manager, I need the assistance of specialists in every field. It's even for our technicians, difficult to cope with all the technical developments.
So that's really why you really should need a production manager, to make sure all the knowledge is shared within the production team to make sure everything works out?
Absolutely. Because the production manger's link to the specialist within our organization and I don't see that knowledge available within an event agency.
You made it very clear for me why I should need a production manager. Thank you very much for coming to our studio.
And thank you for watching our show see you next week.