The art of show calling

Blog Thought leadership
An orchestra conductor in a red tailcoat receiving applause at the end of a performance.
Q&A with Broadsword’s Production Director, Bruce Teggart on the secret art of show calling. 

We talked to Broadsword’s Production Director, Bruce Teggart about his approach to bringing the production together in the live and virtual environment. Bruce has worked behind the scenes for many years to coordinate the technical side of events.

Why do we need Show Callers?

We need Show Callers in the same way an orchestra needs a conductor. You need that one person in total control of a live event to ensure every element starts and stops at the same time. 

What does a Show Caller do?

The Show Caller runs the event. They decide when it starts, they make sure everyone knows where we are and what is coming up next. They need to know every element of the show. The running order, who has what content, what is going to screen and when. The show caller is like the mind of the team. Once a show starts the crew should listen only to the Show Caller. 

What sort of preparation does a Show Caller do before the event?

I go through all the content in the show order and make notes about cue points for audio, video and lighting and any other departments involved. 

What information is useful to share with the Show Caller before the event?

It’s important that I have all the content in show order with the running order for the event and a list of all speakers along with what content they have. Photos of the speakers are also very helpful and any specific unique requirements there are for the event. 

Why are rehearsals so crucial?

Normally we only get one stab at live events. You get it wrong once, you don’t have another performance to get it right. The scale and number of rehearsals should be part of the event planning and treated like a session of the event to make sure it happens.

What sort of person makes a good Show Caller? What are the essential skills?

You should be methodical and organised and a person people trust – clients have handed you their event, after months of hard work. You need to be on your toes all the time, across all the departments, preparing them for what is happening next. You need to be able to make difficult decisions very quickly. The ability to adapt and change your plans mid show if things change is also crucial. 

What makes a great Show Caller? 

All of the above but also the ability to walk into an event room with no notes, no preparation and no rehearsals and take charge, pick up the running order and deliver an event with a team you may have never worked with before. It needs leadership from you and trust in you from everyone else. 

Why do you enjoy taking on this role at events?

It’s never the same. Some shows can be really complex but so well-rehearsed that you are commanding a well-oiled machine. Some are not quite so slick. There are many reasons for this – you may not yet have all the content for the show. Some of the presenters may be running late so you may have to change the running order last minute. 

What is important is to be constantly thinking and communicating with your team. They will be looking at you to give them the information they need when they need it, to make sure no one makes a mistake. There is nothing like getting to the end of one of these shows. You and the team know you have just pulled off something remarkable but not one member of the audience would have any idea as all they saw was a slick and professional event.

Looking to hold a virtual event?

Broadsword’s event team bring confidence and expertise to combine speakers, presentations, audio and video playback into a professional broadcast, which will be live streamed to your platform of choice. Do get in touch if you’d like to find out more.