Attention to Detail:

The exit doors burst open. A roar of excited chatter is heard from hundreds of smiling faces pouring from the venue. Their eyes carry this gleam that can only be explained by an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. “That show was awesome!”

Exhilaration is the goal, the grand vision, the big picture. Maybe it’s joy or sadness that we want to convey to our audience or maybe we want them to buy our product, or join our… cult. In any case, our hope is to move our viewers to feel or do something.

“Productions are made up of thousands of seemingly small details that all have a surprising influence on the effectiveness of our shows.”

The big picture is driven by talent. Singers sing, actors act, comedians make people laugh, and CEO’s sell Apple products. Our ultimate production goal is to deliver those talents. How well our viewers absorb these talents depends largely on the quality of production we use to deliver. Productions are made up of thousands of seemingly small details that all have a surprising influence on the effectiveness of our shows. The sound, the lights, the backdrop, the cameras and the atmosphere are all complex components that shape a successful show.

It’s easy to think that most details will go unnoticed. Often, our viewers are so engrossed in a show that they don’t have time to focus on details. Furthermore, the average person is oblivious to activity behind the scenes; they wouldn’t even know what details to look for. Given the temporary nature of shows and events it can be tempting to cut corners and ignore blatant flaws. “What’s the difference? No one will EVER notice. It’ll be over soon anyway.”

At the very least, our audience is subconsciously aware of the small details that go into our productions. Multiple imperfections add up to an overall reduction in quality. Take a look at these few graphics.

This first set of airplanes is the ideal presentation. They’re impressive right? Nine magnificent, streamlined machines jetting, through the atmosphere.

In this second set, the middle row of airplanes is off by no more than 7 degrees each. Minor sloppiness that might escape some, but most will at least recognize ‘something is off’.

This third set is a disaster waiting to happen. One of the planes doesn’t even match! 

Comparing the perfect layout to the haphazard layout we can deduce that even though the overall content is the same (9 planes traveling right), the entire aesthetic is altered when details are ignored. Likewise, ignoring even just a few production details can have a profound effect on our ability to deliver quality talent.

And think about safety! Would you want to fly in anything but the first set of airplanes?

Our audience extends to more than just the people with tickets. We will perpetually find ourselves in the presence of the people who hire us and people who might hire us in the future. Our coworkers, including the talent on stage, also take cues from our attentiveness. Their attitude toward the show is altered by the atmosphere we create. Increasingly, our audience commonly includes event photographers, live bloggers and paparazzi whose lenses can capture and broadcast what we consider ‘backstage’ at any given moment.

Renowned detail advocate, Steve Jobs, would reject ugly designs for circuit boards in his computers. These parts would be tucked away in the darkness of the computer’s case never to be seen by Apple customers, yet still, they had to look good. Why? Because, we never know who might be in our extended audience. What if we get an unexpected guest peeking behind the curtain? It’s crucial to always be at our best.

Above all, our most important audience is ourselves. We can take pride knowing that we put effort into even the minute facets of a production. With confidence in our work comes the security of knowing we’ll never be out of a job.

Inevitably, the forces of budget and time often fight against our efforts. Rest assured that with each additional detail squared away, we can incrementally improve our productions. Consistent attention to detail forms a positive habit of progressive improvement. Producers, directors, managers and other production leaders should set high expectations for everyone to embrace this mentality. Our cooperative contribution to the smallest components of a show defines our ability to deliver the big picture, and thus its result of audience exhilaration.