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Soundstage Studio: Event Staging

May 12, 2021 // Tools

Staging Events at the metroConnections In-House Soundstage Studios

It’s not difficult to see why virtual meetings and events became the standard last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to their safety benefits, fully virtual events can be held as a live broadcast and/or by pre-recording presenters.

However, for clients who are looking for high-definition video meetings, fully virtual events can have potential drawbacks. For example, if a client’s presentation includes pre-recorded video from a speaker who didn’t have access to high-definition recording equipment, the perceived gap in quality can make it challenging to incorporate that lower-definition video into a live stream that features higher production values. Many organizations don’t have high-quality recording equipment or space at their own facilities either.

That’s where metroConnections can bridge the gap. By hosting both live and pre-recorded meetings at metroConnections’ in-house soundstage studios, clients can ensure that their presentations feature seamless quality from start to finish. metroConnections staff Andrea Murphy, Vice President of Business Operations, and Rachel Portela, Vice President of Program Management, explain how this process works–and why it’s valuable.

Why use metroConnections’ soundstage studios?

“There are many reasons, but the main reason is to get that high-quality production,” said Portela. “Bringing production into our studios allows us to have a controlled environment where we can do so much.”

Whether one is presenting live or recording a presentation on a metroConnections soundstage – it requires far less planning on the client’s end. Instead of trying to manage all of the logistics needed for this type of event—internet quality, camera availability, green screen or other backdrops, adequate audio/visual equipment, etc.—working in metroConnections’ studios means that all those details are already in place and ready to go.

Another advantage for clients is that metroConnections’ studios are connected to their offices, meaning that clients have easy access to the company’s full suite of production services, should a last minute need arise. Did your presenter forget to print their cue-cards? Need additional lighting due to an added prop feature in your presentation? No problem–metroConnections has you covered.

The Life Time Studio Event

Recently, metroConnections developed a complex event for Minneapolis based health and fitness industry leader Life Time, utilizing our soundstage studio facilities.

“I think it was as close to the live event world that I’ve seen since the pandemic started,” said Murphy.
Life Time’s original concept for their event was proving costly and difficult to execute on-site at their corporate facilities due to a need to outsource high-quality audio/visual equipment. By moving their event to metroConnections’ soundstage studio, Life Time was able to save money and streamline their production workflow.

Part of the complexity in these virtual events lies in the technical aspects of translating strong event production practices to digital formats, such as pre-recording or live-streaming.

“How are we going to call the cues to presenters?” said Portela, of these potential challenges, “Does the client have engineers on-site? How do we speak to you without being with you? It’s a lot more challenging than being on-site and us saying, ‘Time to go out on stage.’ Multiple locations are tough!”

Life Time’s goals included making sure that all presenters were highlighted at their best, including during live Q&A sessions. Everything needed to look highly professional, as well as consistent. Life Time’s corporate structure is made up of multiple companies operating under the Life Time brand, including Life Time Spa and Life Time Hoops, as well as several other divisions. It was critical to the event’s success that none of these internal companies appeared to have been given any kind of preferential treatment in production values, such as providing one subsidiary with a high-definition broadcast while only providing another with lower-quality services such as Zoom.

In the end, several components were pre-recorded in metroConnections’ soundstage studio, while the Q&A portion was executed live.

metroConnections’ soundstage studios also provide robust capabilities for custom backdrops for presentations. At Life Time’s event, metroConnections rehearsed with a speaker to execute a presentation featuring 34 different green screen backdrops, creating a virtual presentation with an impressive level of visual flair.

Choosing Live vs Pre-Recorded Presenters

The key to deciding to whether a speaker should pre-record their presentation or deliver it live lies in understanding your personnel’s public speaking abilities. One example of a speaker who would be better-served by pre-recording would be a speaker that is naturally talkative, and would therefore be more likely to run beyond their allotted time. Another example would be a presenter who is nervous about public speaking, and might prefer to be pre-recorded so that they would have the opportunity to fix any errors. At Life Time’s event, speakers were selected for these respective formats based on their likelihood of staying on-schedule, which ensured that the entire day went precisely as planned.

COVID precautions

Using the metroConnections studios during a pandemic requires extra precautions to ensure the safety of the clients, as well as metroConnections’ own staff. Elaborate procedures were developed toward that goal, including estimating the time needed to sanitize studio facilities between use.

“I coached them a little bit. For example, there is a desk that we sometimes use as part of the stage set, however, for Life Time we had the speakers stand throughout the entire program,” said Portela. “That meant one less thing for metroConnections to clean in between sessions, and it saved about 30 seconds per speaker. We added more microphones to avoid overlapping microphone use, and we also used disposable earpieces for each presenter. We figured all of that out for them.”

Upon entering the building, all Life Time and metroConnections staff were required to sign a waiver and submit to a temperature check. Attendants were stationed at every room to make sure mask requirements were being followed, and that rooms were remaining as isolated as possible. Normally, in non-pandemic times, a soundstage could fit five people at a time, but for Life Time’s event, metroConnections reduced that number to three: two presenters stationed in front of the camera (properly spaced apart), and one technician behind. Presenters were allowed to remove their masks while on camera, if they chose.

In the event that large group presentations are required by the client, metroConnections will coordinate different time slots and create rehearsal and production schedules that will comply with CDC guidelines.

For the time being, metroConnections will keep its strict protocols in place for all studio events. Murphy noted that her company does get questions about work-arounds for those protocols, and said they will work with each client to find a way to safely make events work to specifications— with “safely” being the operative word.

Learn how metroConnections can help you produce your event in our studios.

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