It’s not the smoke you make, it’s the smoke people see…

It’s not the smoke you make, it’s the smoke people see… Huh? What smoke?

One of my favorite sayings is: It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. This saying simply means we have to consider our message from the listener’s perspective and not our own. It’s not enough to be correct, reasonable or even brilliant. Nope. It’s about what they, the people hear.

Has nothing to do with smoke? Well, it does. Just read on.

Last week I, as director, spoke with a lighting technician. We were discussing the design and layout of the stage at VBG Bethel for Christmas. The stage has to look a bit mysterious. Also this lighting technician wanted to use awesome light beams. Since a beam of light is only visible if part of the light is scattered by tiny particles, like smoke, he needs a smoke machine. Such machine essentially turns water in smoke. So far so good. But this guy told me the moment he starts to use a smoke machine, some people in the audience start to cough.

If ‘it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear’ is true, you could also say ‘it’s not what you do, it’s what people see’. Which is essentially the case with the smoke machine.

People generally associate (any) smoke with irritation of the lungs. Even though the smoke is water based (thus being harmless to your lungs), people have to cough. They see smoke so they have to cough. This results in the audience complaining about something that isn’t there.

The solution: This time he rents a haze machine. It generates the same light beam effect, but the smoke is invisible. There’s only one downside. This invisible smoke is oil based which sounds less healthy to me compared to water based smoke. But people won’t see smoke, so they don’t have to cough… It’s not the smoke you make, it’s the smoke people see


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