“One minute to air!… 30 seconds! 10 seconds to air…Standby!” There is nothing more adrenaline-pumping than working on live television. You have a limited time to coordinate, and only one chance to do your job right. This is a business that requires on three major qualities: detailed planning, an ability to make quick decisions, and great communication. I realized these qualities were necessary quickly as a young college graduate who began her career as a Stage Manager for a major television network, working on a news show that had millions of viewers every day.
Being a Stage Manager was the dream job for anyone with a big voice, however, I was a natural introvert. I was the quietest person in the studio and hated being the center of attention. Though wildly determined, I did my best to take control and communicate with everyone in the studio and the control room. This was until I received my first performance review from a director who stated, “when Dana comes to the control room, I don’t know that she’s even there.” I was mortified. What I thought was a significant leap out of my comfort zone was hardly noticed by others. Although my confidence was shot, I realized that I was going to have to push myself harder in that aspect and find a way to stand out.
Despite my struggle with speaking out, there was one thing I was great at, planning. I made sure that I had a Plan A and a backup plan for every segment, just in case. I eventually knew the studio inside and out and could make decisions and make them quickly. This eventually led to creating the first initiative that introduced Directors and Associate Directors to the studio environment. I promoted and launched sessions that introduced important network Studio Directors to studio locations, set options, studio monitor configurations, and concluded with a real-time set change demonstration. The program was met with positive feedback from participants. Many said that the sessions helped make them more efficient in pre-production directing, which would in turn make the live shows less stressful.
Through time, I became more comfortable and confident and stage managing allowed me to find my voice. Directors began to appreciate my attention to detail and noted how my communication had improved from my initial start. To my surprise, that first director noted my strong communication on a highly rated prime time special.
Eventually, I ended up changing roles to one that was a perfect fit for me: logistics and planning. Within a year, I became the lead scheduler for two editing groups. Though I will never be the loudest in the room, I am no longer afraid of my own voice.