After almost two decades of designing, producing and show directing live events, I'm regularly asked: What is the secret to event success? Regardless of size or scope, without hesitation I always say: rehearsals.

Of course, I learnt this lesson the hard way, like the time when the Master of Ceremonies (MC) announces: “Turn your attention to the screen and look at the slide” and said slide does not appear. This is quickly followed by “… And now let me introduce Terrence”, but you have a slide for a bloke called Chris. Or the extended awkward moment when the MC tries to exit the stage from a point where there are no stairs—and takes an embarrassingly heroic jump off stage.

At another event, the MC says: “OK sound guy, give us a drum roll…” and silence follows. Cue crickets. Perhaps the MC thought the mixing console had a sample in it ready to drop sound effects on a whim. They don't. Extended awkward moment.

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So how does one avoid professional presentation awkwardness? Simple—make the time to rehearse and prioritise it as mission critical.

Rehearsals enable you to check, test, seek synergy, block run of show. All of this translates into comfortable perfection and, in turn, a considerably more professional presentation experience for all involved.

Rehearsals allow for the presenter to check and test the presentation—check that fonts match, ensure video codecs work, the colour scheme and slide orientation sizing works on the big screen.

This the time to get familiar with the microphones and how presentation audio sounds, determine what the lighting conditions on stage will be, the music accompanying walk-on and off, and what stage entrance and exits should be used.

Rehearsals help familiarise presenters and crew with audio, visuals and lighting

In essence, making sure the presentation you've laboured over in your office translates effectively to the live event space.

But it’s not just about the content and the confidence of the presenter (although either weakness here can be dire). Presenting is a theatrical performance. It's business theatre in action. And not unlike performances in the West End or Times Square, it's a team effort.

For every person on stage, there are considerably more skilled technicians that form the show crew. They are there to help, support, and enhance you and your presentation. But they can’t possibly do that if they have no idea what your presentation looks like, your personal style, or dedicated time.

Prioritise rehearsals as a critical part of any event and ensure ample time is set aside to conduct this in a measured and constructive environment. Fail to do so, and extended awkwardness is assured. Not unlike a recent hurried event recently staged in Sydney…

Here a confident, no-rehearsal-needed presenter takes to the stage to deliver a TED-style presentation. With a fixed, single screen logo behind, the presenter walks and talks and mainly just walks, a lot. Unfortunately, the lighting hadn't been designed for this and the presenter kept disappearing into the shadows of the large stage.

Things dramatically escalated when the marketing handler thrust a memory stick in my face midway through the presentation. Much to our surprise—and the surprise of the presenter on stage—a new presentation was put to screen. The bewildered presenter valiantly worked to a deck that hadn’t been seen before. Honestly, it was like a scenario from the prank TV show Impractical Jokers, except this was for real.

The audience, presenter and show crew were all left mystified at the conclusion. But the presentation drama extended with a spectacular Gordan-Ramsay-isn't-happy exchange between the two behind the set, which was clearly audible to everyone in the room. Awkard.

All of this could have been adverted by rehearsing. Do it people.  

Darren Kerr is show director and executive producer at Hong Kong-based creative agency Factor168. An international award-winning business communication professional, Kerr’s recent projects include the Wall Street Journal CEO Summit Tokyo, Huawei product launches in Berlin, Nice and Barcelona, 65th Miss Universe After Party, and eight successive years producing the President’s Club incentive series for EMC throughout Asia.

Contact Darren on LinkedIn