The 2008 presidential race is in full swing here in my home state of New Hampshire. As the majority of candidates spend a large portion of their time and event dollars campaigning, securing a candidate as a regular client is ideal. To do this, you need to learn the basics of providing production services for varying types of candidates.

FLEXIBILITY FIRST

Flexibility is a must. Campaigns often make major changes that affect vendors involved in an event. From the start, you must understand the nature of a political advance team. These are the individ-uals who deal with all the details surrounding a political event. City to city, the team travels to produce events. When one event ends, they're on an airplane headed to the next in as little as three days. Each location welcomes new tasks such as securing venues, sound, lighting, video, catering and staging, all to produce major events just days away.

What does this schedule necessitate? In a word: flexibility. Just when you think your truck is ready for an 8 a.m. load the next day, the campaign calls at 5 p.m. to tell you everything has changed. Change can truly happen in a second. What you thought was going to be a 6,000-person event with a flown audio and lighting system is now a small-town meeting held in an elementary school library for 200.

Availability is critical to build strong client relationships, which includes being on hand by cell phone any time of day. I have taken calls from advance teams at 2 a.m. to deal with changes for an event the following morning. It's key to put their minds at ease, letting them know they're taken care of. As requirements constantly change, your attitude needs to remain positive throughout the process.

SYSTEM OF CONTACTS

Clients want you to be everything for them. Each specific region you travel to requires a Rolodex of contacts — your source for the campaign's needs. As a production vendor with an inventory of sound and lighting equipment, I am often asked to provide video, risers, pipe and drape, confetti cannons and decor for political events — all things I do not have.

Being an ISES member has really opened the doors to countless professional relationships. I've formed contacts with diverse event vendors who have become a big part to providing one-stop shopping for my political clients. An expanding networking circle means one less vendor for the advance team to deal with, one less phone call it has to make and one less check it has to write.

SUFFICIENT STAFFING

For political events, staffing your event is a top priority. Image and perception are big factors to a campaign's overall success. Hiring local unions to assist the technical team setup, run and strike of an event is vital.

Earlier in my career I made the mistake of hiring nonunion labor to help my staff facilitate the production. With showtime only 12 hours to go, I had to make a major change in staffing and hire the local union. When every vote counts, including the votes of the thousands of dedicated men and women working for unions, this is a major issue of concern for the candidate. A union picketing an event would surely make the news — and tarnish the candidate's image.

As the campaign progresses and the candidates thin out, additional security comes to the forefront. The staff you chose to produce the event must be able to supply their birth dates and Social Security numbers. Any staff member convicted of a crime will not be allowed to take part in the event. Have this information readily available to pass along to the advance team for background checks.

At the campaign's close, team members often move on and join the next campaign. To secure a candidate's future call — no matter who he or she is — just remember, maintain a positive attitude and extreme flexibility, provide a one-stop shop and supply whatever the advance team needs to produce its event.

Name: Karen Hill

Company: Rainbow Production Services

Address: 268 Stage Road
Hampstead, NH 03841 USA

Phone: 603/329-6943

E-mail: k.karenhill@comcast.net