Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Staying Flexible

While I wish I could contort myself into that position, I am pretty sure it’s not possible for me. However, I have learned that staying flexible is one of the most important thing a TD can do. The renovation project I am managing right now has been a perfect reminder of this truth. When dealing with multiple trades, you simply must be flexible with your plans. 

For example, I planned on building stages and tech booths on Monday. However, the painters needed the room cleared to paint the ceilings, and the electricians weren’t done wiring the ceilings yet. Nor was the HVAC guy. So all that lumber I loaded into those rooms had to move out, and it would be 5 days before I could actually build. 

Not building for 5 days meant my install schedule was messed up. So that meant I had to be flexible to adjust. Instead of building, we cut. Thankfully, I had fully dimensioned working drawings for the stages and tech booths, so we spent a day cutting, labeling and stacking. Now, when we do get the room, we should be able to nail the stuff together quickly with minimal downtime. 

Weekend services are a prime time to stay flexible as well. You thought the guitar player was just bringing his acoustic, and 10 minutes before soundcheck, you discover he not only brought his electric but is singing as well. Stay flexible and make it work. You were expecting a half-stage full of musicians, and a whole stage full turned up. Which is great, except you have no light on half the stage. A perfect opportunity to be flexible. 

Of course, to be flexible, you have to have well thought out processes and plenty of backup plans. With my build, I was able to keep moving forward so we didn’t get too far behind schedule. To accommodate last minute band changes, make sure you have extra capacity built in to your system so it’s not a major headache to add a few channels. Hang some extra lights coving areas of the stage you don’t normally use, just in case you need them (or at least have some you can re-aim quickly). 

I often say that we plan as much as we can so we can take care of the stuff we didn’t know about. We spend a lot of time during the week making sure we’re as prepared as possible come Saturday, so if we do have last minute changes, they don’t send us into panic mode. 

These last few weeks, we’ve been talking about traits that make you successful as a TD, and I think this is another one of those. The best TDs I know don’t start with “No” and work their way to “Maybe.” They start with “Sure, we can do that!” and quickly follow it up with, “How are we going to do that?” But they figure out a way and make it happen. We have to be flexible and hold our plans loosely. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just learned that the painter burned through more than 3/4 of our ceiling paint on the first of three rooms, so I need to figure out how to keep that process moving in the morning…

How have you learned to stay flexible with your plans?

2 Comments

  1. chris@behindthemixer.com

    I find the key to staying flexible is being able to think outside the box. For example, if I was presented with a last minute need for a wireless microphone but had already accounted for all of them in some way (musicians, etc) then I'd look to see if any of the musician's wireless mic's could be swapped for a wired mic. For example, a stationary mic for the keyboardist doesn't need to be wireless…so there you go. Easy solution.

    We don't have unlimited resources so it's often a matter of re-arranging what we have.

    Maybe it's a financial issue like the ceiling paint. Let's say that a quick calculation means one room won't be able to be painted. Determine which rooms remain to be painted and see if you have a "fun room" like a youth room. If so, head to the paint store and look to their bargain aisle for the paint can mistakes. The youth room get's a wild ceiling color for half the cost and the color is something the kids would find cool.

  2. chris@behindthemixer.com

    I find the key to staying flexible is being able to think outside the box. For example, if I was presented with a last minute need for a wireless microphone but had already accounted for all of them in some way (musicians, etc) then I'd look to see if any of the musician's wireless mic's could be swapped for a wired mic. For example, a stationary mic for the keyboardist doesn't need to be wireless…so there you go. Easy solution.

    We don't have unlimited resources so it's often a matter of re-arranging what we have.

    Maybe it's a financial issue like the ceiling paint. Let's say that a quick calculation means one room won't be able to be painted. Determine which rooms remain to be painted and see if you have a "fun room" like a youth room. If so, head to the paint store and look to their bargain aisle for the paint can mistakes. The youth room get's a wild ceiling color for half the cost and the color is something the kids would find cool.

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