Before any event goes live, it exists as a page full of line items called a run of show. If you’re planning an event, this one document covers your butt. But it’s not just an itinerary of talking points and production cues—although it is very much that—it’s a living document and what we like to call “the center of truth” for everyone involved. 

At Vimeo, our events team has put together hundreds of runs of shows for in-person and virtual events, for audiences and participants ranging from a handful of people to thousands of attendees. All these events begin with a run of show. 

What is a run of show?

A run of show is a minute-by-minute breakdown of an event, including outlining speakers and talking points. This document helps keep all production crew, speakers and other members involved aware of where they are and where they should be throughout the event. It keeps us all on the same page—literally!

Like a slowly developing Polaroid snapshot, it begins with an abstract outline of speakers and talking points, and over time, sharpens into a detailed picture of what the event is going to be, down to the minute. Because everyone involved is referencing this one document, it’s integral to making sure our events go off without a hitch.

On paper, this would look like a table with timestamps marking the start and end times of each speaker’s presentation as well as any audience breaks and Q&As, and a point-by-point discussion outline of what people will be talking about. 

4 important things to include in your run of show:

  • Information and contact information for each panelist
  • The time duration of each topic discussion
  • A loose script of talking points 
  • Links to any supporting documents or pre-recorded video

Remember: the larger the event, the more information to include on your run of show. If there are multiple types of segments, the sections might be color-coded for ease of access. 

Individual keynotes or panel discussions within a longer virtual conference or webinar might have their own run of show, further breaking down talking points. 

For events with more technical elements, your production team might have their own technical run of show, with detailed cues for individual camera and mic setups.

How to build a run of show

Don’t worry if it sounds complicated! At the end of the day it’s just a spreadsheet, built around your vision for the event. Here are four main things to focus on when building a run of show for virtual events.

1. Find a natural progression

A run of show is the on-paper version of the event, so it evolves with the event planning. Because content comes first and foremost for our virtual events—the first thing we do is brainstorm and sketch out the speakers and discussion outline.

We start the drafting process three to six months before the event itself, depending on the size of the event. 

During this stage, take the time to think about flow, segment each keynote, panel discussion, or workshop into chunks of time, including 30 minutes at the beginning to gather speakers.

From there, we drill down three important questions:

  1. Before starting, is there an intro-level topic to get people warmed up?
  2. How long will each topic take? 
  3. For a longer event, when does it make sense to schedule a meal break, break-out rooms or an audience Q&A?

💡 Pro tip: When it comes to composing the order of the discussion topics, think about what makes sense in the larger progression of the story you’re telling. 

2. Gather and share information

We try to lock down the speakers and panelists 2-3 months before the event or even 3-6 months before for bigger keynote speakers. After speakers and topics are confirmed, we share the run of show document with everyone. Speakers can then make their own notes on the discussion outline based on their experience and insights. 

We also like to share it with the production team to give them a sense of the flow of the event, and so they can start forming their own production run of show if needed. 

Remember when we said that a run of show is the center of truth? Because everyone is working off this one piece of paper, it’s important to include links to any relevant information, including speaker contact information as well as links to pre-recorded video that’s scheduled to be played during the event.

3. Color code everything

At Vimeo, some of our events involve different types of media, multiple speakers, and complex production set-ups, which means everyone is referencing this one document. That’s a lot of information on one page! 

That’s where color coding comes in. For example, in our run of show templates, we assign a different color for:

  • Intros and outros 
  • Panel discussions and other live content 
  • Pre-recorded videos 
  • Miscellaneous content, like audience Q&As or a product walkthrough

For larger events, we’ll also include a key to clarify what each color means, as well as definitions for some of the session titles. Color coding helps ensure that people can find exactly what they’re looking for when it’s time to go live. It’s also useful for planning hybrid events so we can clearly communicate which segments are live and in-person, and which are virtual.

4. Adjust as you go

The minute-by-minute breakdown on paper can look very strict, especially when you’ve allocated just a handful of minutes to a specific topic discussion. 

However, in real life scenarios, you might find that a speaker goes two or three minutes over time, or some other small hiccup occurs live. Don’t panic! It happens all the time. Just prepare to shave off a few minutes from the next segment, or cut time out of the Q&A, and make sure all the relevant people are updated. 

At the end of the day, the run of show is a guideline. Despite your best efforts to stick to the time in the outline, it may change, and you just have to be flexible. The important part is keeping small solutions in your back pocket when the need arises. 

How to use Vimeo Events to build a seamless run of show

Story board alongside your run of show

Within our Vimeo Events tool is a story boarding feature that lets you pre-plan scenes in your event, much like you would for a movie, show, or webinar presentation. When we have virtual events that incorporate a lot of pre-recorded content, we add scenes in the broadcaster to load up that pre-recorded content and arrange them in the right order well in advance of the event. It saves us a lot of pressure on the day of the event, because we’re not doing it all on the fly.

Gather your speakers backstage beforehand

Internally, the run of show start time isn’t the same as the one listed on the registration page for viewers. For example, if a panel discussion starts at 12pm, we like to make sure all of the panelists arrive at 11:30am. All speakers will know in advance because it’s clearly scheduled into the proceedings (usually as “BACKSTAGE TIME FOR PANELISTS”). 

This half hour is crucial. It’s a critical moment to make sure speakers are present, prepared, aware of their time, and confident to go live. It’s also helpful to do a last review of the run of show with any moderators, who should have a clear sense of how to pace out their questions and discussion topics, and how long everything should take. 

For our events, we use Vimeo Events’ backstage management feature to gather speakers before going live, test all technical elements, and go over the run of show to ensure a smooth, seamless event.

Maintain communication throughout the event

During the event, the run of show is locked, so we’ll use Vimeo Events’ internal speaker chat panel to communicate any real-time changes or updates individually to the moderators, panelists and production staff. This ensures that only the relevant people are caught up to speed, and everyone else can continue doing their own thing without unnecessary distractions. 

A run of show looks different for every event, depending on the scale of the event and the discussion topics. Once you’ve built one or two, you’ll have a clear template to go off of for all future events. It’s just a matter of building a repeatable process or template, filling in the fields, and changing the minute marks of your schedule for each unique event. 

By incorporating a run of show early into your event-planning process, you’re setting your team up for a fully aligned, seamless event.

Run your next event with Vimeo

Written by Julie Bergstein on December 10, 2021 and updated April 4, 2022.