Which is Better: Video or Live Briefing?
When developers and operators contact Zone Laser Tag, every so often we are asked about which is better, a live briefing or video briefing? Helping to understand the differences can help you make your decision on what will work best for you and your facility.
The Good: There’s nothing quite like having a real person there explaining the rules of your arena and detailing how the equipment works. Done correctly, these briefings can be quite entertaining and motivational. A good briefer knows how to clearly define what is going on while being aware he/she is on a schedule. You'll definitely want to look out for the A-Personality types for great briefers.
The Challenge: Timing is a huge factor with live briefs, both good and bad. If a marshal goes on too long, your schedule is thrown off and if they are too fast, you may end up with an arena of half-informed players who will bog your marshals down with “Why isn’t my phaser working?”
Breifings should be about 3 minutes long, give or take depending on your game schedule. Any more than that and you risk making the rest of your games late for the rest of the day. When this happens multiple times per day, operators often make the decision to drop games to catch up to their schedule. That's a full game with zero revenue!
Burnout can be a big factor too. Even excellent game marshals get tired of repeating the same sentences every 12 minutes for 6+ hours a day. Keeping the player’s attention is critical to making sure your facility doesn’t lose its appeal and fun-factor. A burnt out employee won’t care if ‘Birthday Billy’s’ party is a fun one.
The Bad: I’ve secret shopped enough facilities to notice horrible examples of live briefing. Some mistakes I’ve seen are marshals who assume everyone has played before and don’t brief at all or forget to go over the safety rules. That will come back to bite you later when injuries occur and you get a call from the player’s lawyer.
Another common mistake is that the marshal bends to the player’s demands and create severely uneven teams, causing the rest of your players to have a horrible experience, thus killing your repeat business. I’ve even had one game marshal throw his shoe at a player while giving a brief! (Not cool by the way.)
One bad result from burnt out marshals can also result in your marshal yelling at players or being mean to simple questions. This is a bad sign and should be addressed immediately.
Some Solutions: Rotating out the marshal that briefs the game can help alleviate boredom and mindless repetition. It’s hard to find someone who is good at briefing more than a handful of times in a row. Rotation also gives you the opportunity to have marshals perform other tasks that need to be done.
Well performing game marshals often incorporate the brief to include participation from players. This is generally done with the birthday child/children and helps add that special touch to making a kid’s birthday memorable. If there are no birthday players, asking for volunteers can have the same effect.
To keep your game marshals on time, have a clock in every room. Every room. This will constantly remind your marshals that there is a schedule to stick to and expected to be observed. Repeated failure to adhere to your schedule (or throwing a shoe at a player) should result in removal from that position.
The Good: Video briefings are simple. Hit play and make sure everyone is paying attention. It doesn’t get any easier than that. The rules and equipment are clearly defined every time. Zone Laser Tag even provides our operators multiple video briefings that are included in our equipment packages.
If you’d like to see some great examples of briefing videos, there are also some great ones on YouTube.
The Challenge: There are a couple challenges to having a strictly video briefing. Videos can’t address people’s questions and aren’t often rewound when people missed the part about the two-hands-on-the-phaser-or-it-won’t-work rule. The video assumes everyone is paying attention. Is your game marshal doing the same?
Many videos don’t address the differences between simple things like your solo and team game types. If you aren’t doing bases in your solo games, then your video is wasting time explaining how to tag them. This will often lead to misinformed players who keep asking you why they can’t hit the bases or arena targets.
Videos can also become outdated. Do you really want to use the video with the players with mullets, beat boxes, afros, hi-tops, or 80’s hair band propaganda? Having something contemporary really helps the player feel like the game is meant for them. Laser tag is supposed to be the game of the future, not of the past.
The Bad: Lazy or burnt out employees will use the video, skip the questions, or not make sure everyone is paying attention, or even leave the briefing room while the brief is going on (major safety hazard by the way). I once had a marshal leave me in the briefing room alone with two small children once for almost 5 minutes, even after the video was done. This can quickly fall into the predator awareness category.
Some Solutions: The best incorporation of videos actually utilizes some form of live interaction to go with it. (I know this breaks the rules of keeping the two separate.) Having the video play while the marshal keeps the focus on the video and halting players from speaking over it is vital. Then having your marshal either give the rules or ask if anyone has questions about them will keep you covering your behind if something bad happens.
The Take-away: Remember, the video is the easy way to do briefs and making sure all your information is given clearly every time, but videos can’t give that personal touch that a live person can. Don’t underestimate how effective someone with a personality can brighten a birthday child’s day.
Rotating marshals for briefing can keep your briefings fresh and maintain the wow-factor your facility should be known for. Even if using a video, rotating employees who direct the players focus can help keep frustrations down between the staff members and your players who may have missed something.
Other possibilities: A really neat idea that was implemented by one of our operators in St. Charles, Missouri, was that they decided to completely re-invent their briefing and vesting areas, thus recreating the entire experience while players are waiting to play.
Using animatronics and video from a haunted house effects company called Pale Night Productions (www.palenight.com), Ray Filas wanted to reinvent their briefing experience. Redesigning the outside of their briefing room, the room itself, and the vesting room, they incorporated video, live brief, and animatronics to create a theatrical experience similar to popular theme parks. The video interacts with the effects and animatronics to give the feeling that there’s a story you’re entering into before playing.
In speaking with Kip Polley, President of Pale Night Productions, he stated that while his business has primarily been in the haunted house market, he was very interested in working with laser tag entrepreneurs to create unique experiences for their facilities. While this is an unusual concept for FEC’s or stand alone laser tag facilities, creating an experience like this could become a popular way to make facilities differentiate themselves from their competition.
The only major critique of this concept is that repeat players may get bored with the theatrics if they’ve seen it many times before. The only real work-around for this is to keep the briefing simple and not too long. The repeat players will have to hear the brief no matter how you choose to do it anyway. A full brief may not be required when you have a full group of repeat players (many times facilities will just go over the rules).
So whether you are for live briefing, video briefing, or creating a theatrical experience, each has its own challenges and solutions. There’s no absolute correct way to brief and getting creative can help create buzz for your facility. The best thing to do is to choose the option that best suits your facility and anticipate the challenges to avoid them.