What 'Hamilton' Taught Me About Event Planning

Richard Rodgers Theatre Hamilton
The Richard Rodgers Theatre opened in 1924 and, originally called the 46th Street Theatre, hosts the Hamilton Musical. Photo Credit: Rocky89 / Getty Images

How do you capture your audience's attention and deliver your corporate message? At a live event, you've got one chance to sell it. You've got a script and a supporting cast. Now, what does your show look like?

Last summer, I planted myself in the center of the audience for a matinee performance of "Hamilton" in New York City. I wanted to know what the fuss was all about -- the buzz, the advance purchase, the cost -- what drove all of that? Having spent most of my life in the creative and live event industries, I had an idea of what might be coming.
 
Beginning with the very first song it was obvious this was special on all levels. It was an emotional experience. The show captured me via all my senses, and it was hard to keep up because my mind wanted to go back and re-live moments that I absolutely loved, whether visual, narrative or song.
 
Through this Broadway experience, my outlook on my craft -- delivering exciting experiences for event organizers and stakeholders -- was enhanced. I was reminded that successful events envelop the senses and capture audience attention from introduction to curtain down.
 
The preparation that goes into creating successful Broadway shows correlates well to the events industry. How do you motivate, sell and create a vision that inspires all who attend your "show"? It's about a story script, the cast and, in many cases, the larger-than-life production component that pins your audience back in their seats -- just as I was for "Hamilton."
 
• The script revolves around the company's messaging, but that messaging needs to be a refined story. Make key themes within the story concise, drive home your points and deliver it in multiple ways -- sometimes without the audience even realizing message points are being visually reinforced.
 
• The cast consists of the presenters who tell the story and influence your audience. Is the cast well-rehearsed and living the story? How is the executive interacting with the script and the audience? With what emotion is the story being delivered?
 
• The production is all about the delivery. How do you deliver the message with the latest in presentation technology (LED, virtual reality, augmented reality, audience engagement, etc.), making the technology unnoticeable as appropriate and a visual part of the production when it needs to be? How does technology tie into the story to evoke a feeling, a response -- either mentally or physically?
 
Success never happens without proper preparation of all the players -- the story, the cast and the production design. All these should be positioned and approached like the development of a Broadway show, by refining the story/script, providing professional support for the executives/cast and leaving enough time to rehearse and polish the show.
 
Russell Sanders is senior vice president of creative and strategic marketing at PRG.