What does a floor manager do?
The floor manager, on a studio production, is the eyes and ears of the director on the studio floor. They are there before rehearsals begin, making sure the studio is prepared and safe and greeting the programme’s presenters and contributors. If they are good, the floor manager will be ahead of the director, liaising with cameras, lighting and sound to make sure each sequence is ready to rehearse. On a big show, such as a live entertainment programme or major national event, they have floor assistants and floor runners to help them.
The term ‘floor’ derives from a studio floor, but even on an outside broadcast where the ‘floor’ might be a football stadium, a field or a cathedral, the term ‘floor manager’ is sometimes still used. More commonly, the role might be known as ‘stage manager’ or ‘outside broadcast stage manager’.
In a studio production, floor managers hold safety briefings before rehearsals start. If there’s an audience, they work with audience services to make sure everyone is seated in good time. This is important as studio time is precious and settling an audience often causes delays. Many shows don’t have a warm-up artist, so the floor manager communicates with the audience, explaining why it’s necessary to repeat a sequence, for example. Audiences can get bored very quickly if they don’t know what’s happening.
As well as managing the relationship with the audience, floor managers take care of everyone on the floor. Presenters can be nervous, contributors sometimes feel overwhelmed and a politician or celebrity might be making demands before the recording begins. The floor manager must handle all this, helping people to stay calm and remaining diplomatic and helpful.
Some floor managers go on to direct or produce programmes themselves, but many are very happy to run the studio floor, or the outside broadcast location, where they can be right at the heart of the programme.
What’s a floor manager good at?
- Communication: set the tone for the floor, keep everyone’s spirits up, explain what’s needed clearly to experienced presenters and people who have never been on TV before, talk to the audience in a way that informs and entertains
- Staying calm under pressure: think quickly in an often live, fast-paced and changing TV environment, be firm but always polite
- Multitasking: listen to the director at the same time as being alert to what’s happening on the floor and talking to presenters and guests
- Diplomacy: be tactful, pacify heightened moods, choose the right words at the right time
- Health and safety: be aware of the safety issues on a floor, know how to mitigate risk and take responsibility for the wellbeing of those involved