Event planners invest months in meticulous planning. But on the day of the event, effectively communicating those plans becomes crucial. How can you relay essential details in a concise and clear manner?

Enter the show flow—an efficient alternative to lengthy event scripts. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of show flows and how they can optimize communication and streamline your event’s execution.

The show flow document is displayed on a computer screen in front of a tech. The tech is onsite at an event setup in a dark, blue-lit room.

Understanding Scripts vs. Show Flows

Scripts tend to be extensive, often spanning 20-25 pages, containing a wealth of information, such as opening remarks, cues for house lights, video playback, and speaker introductions. In contrast, show flows offer a simplified, one-page overview of the event. Despite their brevity, show flows can effectively convey most of the event plan, ensuring smooth operations. Creating a concise and clear event show flow template is essential for seamless event execution. 

(Example from 2/4/2020)

Adapting Detail Levels for Different Teams

While your venue staff needs to know when a session starts to replenish refreshments, they don’t require every word of the script. Detailed scripts are valuable for on-stage presenters, but distributing such information to every event team member can be overwhelming. Show flows strike the right balance, providing essential information without overwhelming non-essential team members.

Accommodating Changes with Ease

Every seasoned event planner knows that adaptability is key. Unexpected changes are inevitable. For instance, a presenter may request an additional 5 minutes during the opening session. If all event timing is embedded within a 20-25 page document, manually updating each timing cue can be time-consuming. However, with a one-page show flow built in a spreadsheet using formulas, adjusting one duration automatically updates all related times.

Similarly, presenter talking points often undergo revisions. If their remarks are part of the primary document, updating the entire script becomes a hassle with each tweak. To avoid this, separate presenter remarks into individual documents. Let’s say your show flow contains a 20-minute segment labeled, “Year in Review with Brett.” By separating the script from the actual show flow, Brett is free to revise his content at his leisure without disrupting the overall show flow.

Crafting Your Show Flow

Show flows can encompass multiple columns and rows, but don’t feel overwhelmed. This planning process offers clarity and doesn’t have to be time-consuming. By breaking it down column by column, starting with segment names, you can see how each component fits into the larger event picture. A basic show flow may include the following columns:


1. Line number
2. Time of day
3. Duration in minutes
4. Segment name
5. Presenter name
6. Support materials (stage/furniture preferences, visual aids)
7. Content
8. Production
9. Notes

Ensure that your show flow fits on a single page. If your event spans multiple sessions or days, create a separate one-page show flow for each. For example, if you have a Morning Opening Session lasting 2 hours, create a dedicated show flow for that session. Restrict each show flow to a maximum of 30 rows; anything longer may include unnecessary details.

A production manager and tech discuss event details in a bright blue-lit room. The show flow document sits in front of them on a computer screen.

Tips for Optimal Show Flow Management

1. Ownership: As the event planner, you should be the document’s owner. Take charge of writing and maintaining the show flow, serving as the steward of both the event and its execution.

2. Revisions: Regularly revise the show flow leading up to the event, creating PDFs with version numbers (e.g., “01 Morning Show Flow v4”). Use double digits for sorting chronologically, ensuring files are organized correctly. To allow seamless collaboration, we also recommend keeping a copy version of this on google sheets. This will allow anyone with a google account to suggest changes in real time.

Show Flow Segment Examples

Let’s consider two examples of event segments within a show flow:

Example One: Presenter Segment

11. 8:38 am. 10 mins. Year in Review. Brett

During our morning session, Brett takes the stage at precisely 8:38 am. Our show flow, built in a spreadsheet with handy formulas, ensures smooth transitions. If the preceding segment requires more or less time, adjusting its duration automatically updates Brett’s start time. This efficient system eliminates the need for tedious retyping in a text document.

Brett’s presentation focuses on reviewing last year’s performance and expressing gratitude to the product team for their commitment to quality. To enhance his talk, he will utilize props on stage, including slides and two silent videos. These videos, known as MOS, will play in the background, serving as visual aids while Brett speaks over them. We can maintain the house lights without dimming them, thanks to this setup. Additionally, considering Brett’s extended 10-minute duration on stage, we recommend providing him with a lavalier microphone, ensuring his comfort and ease of movement. Lastly, it’s crucial to inform Brett about his responsibility to smoothly transition to John, who follows his presentation. By sharing this information, we prevent any awkward moments on stage and guarantee a seamless handover.

Example Two: Energizing Sizzle Video

19. 9:59 am. 3 mins. Video will play; Highlight Sizzle.

The 19th line in our show flow is scheduled for 9:55 am. At this time, a captivating 3-minute video titled “Highlight Sizzle” will engage the audience. To set the stage, the podium used in the previous segment will be swiftly removed by the stage manager and crew, preparing for the next presenter. The video itself exudes high energy, so we have instructed the audio technician to ensure a strong audio output. To enhance the video’s impact, the lighting director will darken the stage while dipping the house lights, creating a more dramatic atmosphere.

Additionally, we’ve requested a switch in the DSMs (downstage monitors) to display this video instead of the regular slides, allowing Jane, the next presenter, to seamlessly transition onto the stage during the video. As Jane won’t have a clear view of the projector screens on stage, the video displaying on the DSMs will help her feel confident in timing her entrance perfectly.

A production manager discusses a room layout during setup for an event with a client. The room is brightly lit with blue, purple, and daylight lights.

Experience the Benefits of Show Flows

Show flows are powerful tools that effectively communicate essential details to the right people. By separating presenter remarks from this document, you empower presenters to take ownership of their content. This enables you to focus on the session as a whole, saving you valuable time by eliminating the need to repeatedly revise lengthy text documents.

Embrace the convenience of formulas, and give the new format a try when planning your company’s next significant event. You’ll discover that it promotes clearer thinking during the planning phase and translates into smoother transitions with your production crew. Moreover, your presenters will exude confidence, and the overall event plan will be easily accessible without the burden of sifting through lengthy script copies. Enjoy the difference it makes!

For years, planning timelines for annual events were 364 days long. As soon as this year’s event ended, the event planner could let everyone begin working on next year’s event.

Corporate event planning has changed. Timelines have been sliced by 1/3rd. Decision-makers make decisions later and later. How do you stay calm when you have 1/3rd of the time? What about 1/3 of the necessary budget with 3x the work in detail changes or additions?

By the end of this article, you will have a better idea of the details you need to execute and the distractions you need to avoid. Let’s discuss how you can get 3x the work done in 1/3rd the time.

Stuck With a Short Event Planning Timeline? Here’s What To Do

If you’re reading this in the heat of a compressed timeline, immediately begin fleshing out your checklist using the guidance below.

First things first…

The best way to tackle a giant problem is to take it one detail at a time, starting with the highest priority items. For events, here are the details to get figured out the right way:

  1. When and where is the event (get exact times and addresses)?
  2. What is your budget? (Your production provider should be able to explain how you can best utilize every budget dollar.)
  3. Who is available (on your team, production-tech partners, venues, caterers, etc.)?

Now that your biggest details are figured out let’s work our way down to the checklist. When it comes to events, the next most important details are:

  1. How many attendees will be there? (Not sure? Put a rough estimate.)
  2. Will the event be in-person, virtual, or hybrid?
  3. Will the venue be outdoor or indoor?

Now that the broad details are noted, it is time to assemble a team. Decisions can’t be made without decision-makers. When your planning timeline gets compressed, you need power in numbers. The most efficient task force will consist of:

  • Decision makers from your organization. When working on a short planning timeline, it saves time to have decision-makers directly involved.
  • A quality production provider. The technical details of your event (audio, video, and lighting) are the most complex and time intensive, so let the experts take care of this. Since events are their expertise, a quality production provider can help with much more than the nerdy stuff. This is one of the most valuable details to get right when planning.
  • Other event planners. Someone has dealt with your situation before, so let them walk you through it and give advice. This will cut back on dead ends and save time.

Now that your high-level details are decided and your task force is assembled, you probably feel a lot less stress., But we are not at the finish line yet. Now let’s take care of the fine details.

Don’t Forget About These Two Important Details.

  1. Get on people’s calendars. What’s the first thing you ask when someone inquires about you planning an event for them? “What’s the date?” The best professionals in the world can’t help you if they’re unavailable. Get on people’s calendars early and often. Don’t allow yourself to spiral out of control with every meeting becoming a fire drill. Set an early, middle, and late overall meeting during your three days, three weeks, or three months of planning. Get that on their calendars. Establish now that you need to place holds on presenter calendars for the day before dress rehearsal, the week before offline rehearsal, or the month before content reviews. Don’t be caught by surprise when you get declines the day before if you haven’t sent calendar invite planner requests further than the week before.
  2. Communicate to your audience ahead of time. How will they know if someone doesn’t tell them? Don’t make the mistake of doing all this work behind the scenes only to realize that attendees have been left in the dark. Make sure you are communicating with your internal leadership stakeholders and external vendors, but most importantly, with the audience you’re doing all of this work for in the first place. Do they know what to expect? Are you inspiring them by getting their wheels turning and thinking about the biggest day of the year?

Recognize Which Elements of Event Planning You Can Not Control

Plan B Versus “Let It Go”

Some variables are just out of your control. These things need to be listed, thought over, and then ultimately decided on whether to make a Plan B or just let go. Don’t be blindsided when these things pop up halfway through your tight timeline. Give them thought early on and either have alternatives or let them roll off your back. For example, what if a presenter gets sick? Audiences and vendors can get sick, but with presenters, the show must go on. So, decide early which presenters you need a Plan B substitute alternative for to still cover the content and which presenters can’t be replaced. So you know which ones you’d just have to let it go for.

Plan for Snowplows

What could snowplow your entire planning timeline? “Snowplow” means push, postpone, or delay, causing things to pile up.

For example, you may have your creative team draft an event logo and send it to your leader’s desk. If they don’t respond within 24hrs, every step downstream (RSVP design, print, on-screen graphics) begins to pile up. Your vendors who had 72hrs to turn around their iterations of that logo now have 48hrs. Plan for these snowplows and set expectations with the highest urgency only where needed, or risk being the boy who cried wolf. Build trust with your leadership that you need certain things quickly. Otherwise, the snowplow alternative comes into play.

Watch for Wrecking Balls

Snowplows you can plan for, wrecking balls you cannot. You can’t have a plan for everything, but you need to keep an eye out. If you’re planning an in-person event and some national news shifts travelers’ ability to come and go, that’s a wrecking ball. Moments like these are when Hybrid Events are the best. Being able to flip between 90% in-person and 10% online to vice versa is really helpful for wrecking ball situations. The same goes for date changes and postponing. It’s much simpler to adjust travel coordination for a small group of in-person live studio audience members than for the entire meeting’s attendance registration list to get rebooked on flights.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Speaking of letting go, you aren’t going to be able to hold onto everything. It’s not practical or healthy, and your people need you healthy for the big day. You might have to let go of some details, like the exact color of the balloons or the font of the invite. Otherwise, you risk taking your eye off the prize. Keep your eyes on the overall goal, a great event for attendees and/or vendors/sponsors.

You have to define and get alignment from leadership on what the prize is, and in some cases, that might mean exact colors or serifs. But in most cases, the main thing is keeping the main thing — the main thing.

Planning Ahead is the Key to Staying Calm

The event industry is full of incredible stories of crews overcoming the unfathomable in the name of “the show must go on.” In our industry, there is a universal appreciation for those who can stay calm under pressure. Hopefully, these concepts have inspired you to remain calm and use checklists to plan more efficiently. When time is ticking, nothing can be done to gain more of it, but strategizing and taking action on checklist items can help bring peace to your future self. Don’t wait until tomorrow to do what could be done today.

The unfortunate truth for most planners is that the most stressful day of the year is the actual day of their event. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are a few tools you can use again and again to organize your event. Whether your event is across the country or a mile down the road, these key components will leave you stress-free and feeling prepared for any event scenario.

Why the Right Production Team Matters for Your Big Event

Production is the largest piece of the event-planning puzzle. The attendees you’ve flown in, the VIPs you’ve booked, and the venue simply don’t matter if your production partner is lacking. An event is based on the premise of capturing attendees’ attention and conveying a message — if this audience cannot see your speakers or hear their message, the event is a failure.

The stakes are relative to each unique situation but are always high. While important, having the proper production gear in the room is not enough. The real key is having the right people control the gear. The key to a great event lies within the technical details and those who control them. Here are the 4 steps to successful event planning:

1: Recognize and Accept the Stakes

Success for an event is not a singular concept, it is measured differently by each vendor, presenter, client, venue, and attendee. From an AV standpoint, there are some obvious criteria: If a technical problem did arise during the show, was it handled well and solved quickly? Was everyone able to see and hear the message? Did the transitions flow or was it stop-and-go?

You should expect more from the basic criteria in the room though. It’s not just about the two-hour event, it’s also about the months of planning and hours of pre-production where the AV company should act as an extension of your team. No matter how compressed or extended the planning timeline may be, there is a unifying arc that you can, and should, plan on.

Recognizing the stakes is the first step in setting expectations internally and with third parties.

Man interacts a presenter on stage.

2: Set Expectations For Your Event

We all know that presentations will change, the program will be modified, and external factors will influence internal decisions. Plan on these inevitabilities, limit them with deadlines, and build a roadmap where everyone knows the timeline.

Planning is an ambiguous word that means different things to different people. The basic understanding is that arrangements will be made in advance for the desired outcome. The final outcome may not be what we had planned for, but the simple act of having a systematic approach to a goal helps ensure our success.

Set expectations early so that 3 months into planning, your AV partner, the venue, and the client are all in sync. In the absence of a proactive planner, each party will follow its own timeline which can lead to a build-up of potential problems with no solutions come event day.

Production manager talks with client prepping a space for an event.

3: Manage the Macro Agendas

By following the previous two steps, you’ve already set the expectations for your event and communicated them to vendors on the front end.

To give an example of a macro-level agenda: At avad3 we submit a rough overview of our ideal project schedule. This includes a timeline for future meetings, site visits, client calls, all-party calls, and revision due dates. We know that the floor plan will change a dozen or more times throughout the planning process. We also know that power, rigging, and other factors not only provide limitations to what that layout can be but also directly affect other involved parties.

Having a proactive, planned approach to address each party’s needs is a big step in guiding everyone to success. This allows your AV partner and other vendors to be aware of changes and how they may affect their approach. This process can take a lot of work depending on the vendors, venue, and client, but it is worth the effort.

4: Manage the Micro Agendas

The micro-level planning is where the real collaboration and big, key decisions get made. When you set meetings with clear expectations for each party, you net positive results. Providing a clear outline of what the agenda is for each meeting creates a different dynamic; one that pushes your AV partner, venue, or other vendors to come up with recommendations or make decisions that specifically move the project forward.

An agenda also creates tangible stakes for your vendors and allows them to play out negative outcomes if they choose not to participate. For instance, there could be program changes that affect production, seating layout, catering, decor, etc. The possibilities are endless. If all the characters know that these details are being decided in a particular meeting, then they’ll be more incentivized to take part and have their say. This increases efficiency for everyone and results in less wasted time.

When each party knows what is at stake by not participating, they bring their insight and expertise into play, addressing the items and answering questions. One meeting that nets positive results is worth more than 10 meetings where nothing gets decided.

The 4 Steps to Success

Getting all stakeholders on the same page for an event is not a simple task. The hours of setup where each party comes together after months of planning to execute a unified vision make all the preceding processes worth the effort. Follow these steps to help ensure your event’s success:

  1. Recognize all the hard work and preparation from each vendor.
  2. Set expectations from the very beginning.
  3. Set agendas at the macro and micro levels.
  4. Establish tangible, achievable goals that limit waste.

Two technicians in a dark room talk about an event.

These steps ensure all the checkboxes on your project have been accounted for on the day of your event. As you slowly fill up the event space with the physical set pieces, you are giving reality to a concept that has been stamped with approval by all parties.

Success is achievable if you’ve done the work. When expectations are set and your vendors are aligned, rest assured they are aligned because you led the way.

It’s 10 minutes until the start of your organization’s biggest event of the year. The pressure is on. You feel the rush of adrenaline knowing that months of planning and preparation have led up to this moment. Looking around, what is it that you want to see? You have planned and accounted for every detail — that’s what you want to see.. You want to feel confident in knowing your presenter(s) and show flow have been tested and that they are ready and prepared. The mics are working clearly, the lights are perfectly placed, the cameras are in their proper position and your AV team is primed, organized, and in equal anticipation of the event kick-off.

The opposite side of that scenario doesn’t sound quite as sweet. It only adds to your nervousness if you see the AV team running around in distress trying to make last-minute improvements or adjustments. The mics squeal consistently with feedback. The lights are super bright in some places, and completely dark in other spots. The cameras recording your show are shaky and just barely out of focus. These impressions matter. They matter to everyone involved.

How did you choose your AV team? In-House? Budget? Quality? Reputation? Referral? Or did you Google “production company near me”? What matters in the moment your show begins is that your vision and your message is portrayed with detail-oriented precision for a flawless experience for both you, your team, and your participants.

Your primary criteria when vetting a production company should never be about proximity to your event. The best, most experienced production partners you can find are used to traveling their teams to wherever they need to be — and staying within budget.

The Top 3 Reasons Why Your Production Company Partner’s Location Does Not Matter

  1. Production Companies who travel are often more experienced. Your event will be top-notch, every time.
  2. It’s one of your team’s most important days, don’t hold back on partnering with an A.V. team that best fits your needs.
  3. It takes roughly the same amount of time to set up, tear down, and complete your event. Hiring the right team will ensure this process is effortless and efficient.

There is an immense amount of detail that goes into making an event flawless. If even a small portion of those technicalities go wrong, it negatively affects the participant’s experience. To get these details right, you need a production company with a proven track record of excellence. A team that pays close attention to detail and has experience navigating and preparing for every scenario. For example, let’s say your show is in a local arena. You don’t need a production team that knows that specific arena your event is in, you need a production team that has deep experience with arenas. This also takes an immense amount of pressure off you and your team.

Your show took a lot of effort to make happen. No element should be spared in creating a flawless event experience for your audience. Similar to a photographer on your wedding day, you’re not just going to hire one who is close to the venue. It’s your big day! You’re going to hire one that matches your vibe, one you trust, and one that knows what they’re doing so you don’t have to worry about a thing when it comes to capturing the moments you want to remember. Hiring your production company with this same mindset can enhance your event and ensure it’s everything you’ve dreamed it could be.

You took our advice on the first two points (Nice job!). You hired a production team, regardless of location, with the highest standards of excellence in service and skill for your event. When you hire a production team with additional experience, setting up and tearing down events becomes effortless. Time is money. Teams who consistently produce events of similar scope are able to keep costs manageable even if they have to travel. Having an experienced production team that can optimize their time and effort is a great advantage and extra insurance for an impeccable show.

Your event is your biggest day of the year. Treat it as such. Don’t hold back on hiring a production team that fits your needs. Search nationwide for the right team instead of one who is close to your venue.

If cost is a worry for your event, rest assured that our team at avad3 has a system in place to keep traveling for events extremely cost-effective. Our team runs an analysis nationally to keep our costs extremely competitive.

I’ve met a lot of event planners over my career. If there’s one constant, regardless of the TYPE of event they plan (conferences, concerts, corporate gatherings) it’s that they are, well, planner people. They love to plan! Other industries may have more creative types, free-spirited folks drifting through the year from one interest to the next, but event planners love to make a plan, run the plan, and stick to the plan, with lists. 

What’s curious then is how there is such a lack of a standard when it comes to event planning project timelines. How soon is too soon? How late is too late? And when is it time to engage in which stage of planning? We’re not florists, caterers or interior designers, but we can definitely help establish a bit of a planning timeline when it comes to thinking about A/V and event production for your upcoming event. 

The Top 3 Considerations When Planning Your Event

  • It’s never too soon
    1. 30 days, 90 days, 11 months, 3 years, it’s never too soon to have an initial discussion with your A/V and event production vendor.
    2. Nothing is final until the day after the event. If you wait until you “have all your ducks in a row” to reach out to someone, you’re missing out on including them in the collaboration. 
  • Are you Planning an Annual Event or a One-Time Event?  
    1. Annual Events that happen on the “second Saturday in May” for instance need to be on the calendar of vendors a year in advance. If that date is a constant in your attendees’ eyes, it’s not something that can be flexible and moved if there’s a logistical conflict. Make sure your providers’ calendars are in-sync with yours. 
    2. Annual Events also can take less coordination than one-time events. For a recurring eventlike the Groundhog Day ceremony, everyone knows their role — the Parks and Recreation department likely runs the exact same playbook every year and is on auto-pilot. That makes your coordination simpler because it’s in a groove. One-time events take more coordination because for everyone involved, it is likely their first time working together. 
  • Budget Matters: Talk Money Early
    1. Make sure you have your big rocks in the jar. Budget items like event production can be a major percentage of the budget. These numbers should be set before incidental expenses pop-up in the days leading up-to your event. 
    2. Attendees’ perception of the event is often tied indirectly to production value. Knowing at the outset what you can spend on production sets the tone for the entire event experience budget. For instance, if you plan to bring in top-level presenters or A-level entertainment talent, there are unique production requirements that need to be supported by your provider. 

It’s Not Just Early Event Planning, It’s Smart Early Event Planning

Whether you’re 30 days out or 30 months out, we encourage you to engage your production provider as early as possible. Any hesitation around specifics, not being clear on needs, or waiting for a formal bid process are far outweighed by the value you gain by engaging professional expertise on day one. 

It’s far better to start with a Plan A, a v1 draft of a plan, and modify it with all parties involved than to hold your cards close to your chest and wait for a formal RFP process to engage others. The perceived cost savings can be tempting to pursue, but the greater indirect costs come from last-minute rushed planning and early decisions being made without regard for how it might affect production budgets. Event Production is expensive, we get it! We’re on a mission to make flawless production scalable, serving event planners on their biggest days of their year by managing production.