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Les Goldberg on Crossing the Lines

Once upon a time in the world of live events, production companies developed creative ideas that were transmitted into a plan to deliver the message of a show. Then, there was an audiovisual staging company that provided equipment and staffing to execute on that plan and bring the vision of the production team to life. Through the synergy of this relationship, creativity flowed, technology advanced, attendees were amazed, and live events flourished. In the evolution of our industry, many companies are choosing to blur the lines between production and technical services, opting to offer both in a one-stop-shop business model. While this may be advantageous in some situations for certain types of end clients, in a general sense, it’s a damaging approach on many levels within the industry for the key players

This new ‘all things to all people’ trend can be seen today with some production companies starting to buy an inventory of equipment and take on the role of audiovisual provider. In addition, we also see the staging company now offering a range of in-house creative and planning services to produce meeting and events. For the most part, each of these is a lose-lose scenario. Production companies and staging companies have their own areas of expertise, and it’s impossible to be working at the highest possible level of both creative and technical services if you’re attempting to wear too many hats by offering an intertwined end-to-end event solution.

The core focus of the production company is to deliver the client’s message and create ideas and plans for the best show imaginable. It takes a creative mindset, and one that should not be limited to developing ideas based off the specific set of gear they may own. In this case, the production company is not able to necessarily provide the end client with what they really need, but instead they are giving them what they have. Once creative production companies own equipment, it can warp their sense of direction, and they can have hidden agendas in how they execute on a show using what they have in their own inventory. It not only limits what the production company can offer creatively, but unless the company is constantly updating with new products, their clients only have access to the same limited set of gear for their shows.

Now let’s take look at the audiovisual staging company that thinks it can suddenly take on the role of the production company. It just doesn’t work. Would you trust the construction team to also create the design of your new house? Audiovisual staging companies can do amazing things with technology, but a team of AV people whose main focus is equipment, simply will not be able to provide the same level of creative content and strategic planning as a production company. Production teams and staging companies just have different ways of thinking. A great staging company is focused on how to execute a show in the most cohesive and efficient way possible, and the content production and development of a strategy to communicate the message are not in their DNA.

In addition, a company that goes down this road of offering both production and audiovisual staging services is taking on a very isolationist strategy. A staging company that offers in-house production services is now putting themselves in competition with other production companies. Why would a company want to alienate themselves from potential clients? As a result, many companies try to mask production services, by not outwardly advertising these offerings in order to maintain relationships with production clients. A good question for a production company to ask when looking for a staging partner for an event would be, “Do you produce meeting and events?” It would be beneficial to know if you are working alongside a potential competitor, or a company that may end up bidding on the same show the following year.

Focus is important, and in general, sticking with your strengths is a big key to success. A company can be good at many different things, but can it be GREAT at all of them? This new trend is creating companies that are becoming jacks of all trades and experts at none. There are no winners in this scenario. When you try to become one size fits all, it can compromise on creativity, quality, and approach, as well as alienate your company within the industry. The success of the live events industry has been built on relationships, and this new business model creates disharmony, and in turn, you might be sacrificing the quality of your show.

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