Let’s face it, among the current generation of millennials entering the workforce, probably few dream of becoming an audiovisual technician. Working in dark ballrooms, unloading trucks, and pushing cases does not attract the younger generation to the live events business, as opposed to other more mainstream industries. Within a growing industry that depends on a large pool of talented technical people to drive the success of each event, it is critical to attract and invest in a new generation of human capital that will take the world of live events into the future.
The current and next generation of talent entering the workforce is already a step ahead in comparison to people starting out in the live events business twenty or thirty years ago. They grew up in a digital world, surrounded by gadgets, and are already wired to adapt quickly to changing technology. Most millennials aren’t afraid to jump in and tackle new and unfamiliar technology. This mindset fits well with the talent needs of the live events industry where it is critical to stay ahead of the curve.
The live events industry as a whole needs to work on attracting new talent, and selling the appeal of working within the field. We work in a very sexy and exciting industry, and to be a part of it is comparable to an exclusive club that gets backstage access to a world most of the general public will never see. Live events are always different, and each event brings new experiences and challenges for people that crave variety, and are less suitable for an office environment. The nature of our industry can be very appealing, and it is important to get the message out to the younger generation entering the workforce.
Equipment staging companies do indeed encounter challenges with the dwindling pool of technical staff available to meet the demands of growing business. To acquire the highest quality technical labor, companies are faced with either paying a premium for experienced technicians, or committing to developing qualified talent over the long term. Choosing the latter can be a slow and expensive process, especially in an industry that is fast-paced and ever-changing. But the return from identifying people that have a passion for live events and allowing them to learn and gain experience over time is an invaluable investment in the future.
Clients want to work with a team of people that are not only technically savvy, but also customer service-driven and invested in the outcome of their shows. The key to developing this type of talent pool is to find people that care. The live events industry is not for everyone – and technicians on the frontlines of the show don’t just work for a living, they work hard. They have to deal with constant travel, long hours, tight schedules, and working weekends and holidays. And they endure a great deal of personal sacrifice for their careers. And the work itself isn’t all glamorous–with all those dark ballrooms, unloading and reloading of trucks, usually without air conditioning in hot convention centers. While the life of a technician can be very rewarding, they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t care. When attracting new talent to a future career in live events it is important to identify people that not only have a real passion for the industry but are also the right fit for this unique lifestyle.
Once you find the right fit, it takes time for technicians to gain knowledge and experience. Equipment staging companies that employ staff technicians need to commit to mentoring and providing real life learning experiences to develop the necessary skills to grow. Experience not only comes from staying current through reading, coaching, and formal training, but from the experience out in the field operating the equipment on show site. Similar to learning to operate an aircraft, eventually you have to fly solo.
A good technician isn’t just there to run a console, or push buttons. There are so many factors that come into play on show site to be successful, such as knowing how to handle technical problems, damaged or late equipment, theft, safety concerns, dealing with crew issues or sickness, and remaining calm under pressure. Technicians need to master the people component, understand client confidentiality issues, and know what to say or what not to say in moments when tensions can run high. By allowing technicians to build experience in the field, it provides unparalleled exposure to the rules and regulations of show site, and provides a training ground for learning how to build the trust of your clients.
The live event industry is so driven by human capital, and we sometimes don’t recognize the value of the people who are at the heart of what we do on a daily basis. The most innovative production designs using the best equipment in the world cannot be brought to fruition without the people behind the scenes. Equipment either works or it doesn’t–so it’s the people that make the magic. The industry as a whole depends on people with a passion for technology and live events, and we have an obligation to keep moving forward and fueling the fire by coaching and mentoring the next generation of technicians. A commitment to developing new talent takes an investment of time and money, but attracting good people with passion and a willingness to learn and work hard provides the highest value, beyond comparison. The result? Great people create great shows.
Les Goldberg founded LMG, LLC, a national provider of video, audio, lighting and LED support in 1984 with a small loan from a relative. He also acts as CEO of Entertainment Technology Partners, LLC, the parent company of a collection of exceptional brands within the live event and entertainment technology services industry. For more information, visit www.lmg.net and www.lesgoldberg.com