Headset "etiquette"


Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
Aug 21, 2007
Las Vegas, NV, USA
Using a ClearCom (or RTS, PI, or other) is a privilege, not a right, and certain rules apply. (I did a show once where the SM had a Master matrix station. Those who misbehaved were "banished" to their own channel where they could only talk and listen to the SM.)

The "Dirty Dozen."
1. Keep your mic off unless speaking.
2. Do not cough, sneeze, pass wind, yawn, choke, sniffle, or any perform other natural or unnatural bodily activities with the mic open.
3. Never discuss anything on headset you wouldn't discuss in person center stage in front of the audience. You never know who has picked up a headset or is listening to a biscuit. The phrase "COH" means "client on headset"--be on your best behavior.
4. ONE person, usually the SM for a play, or the LD for a concert, RULES the headset. Follow his/her lead. Once a "warning" or "standby" for a cue is given, ALL conversation stops, unless persons or equipment is in eminent bodily harm.
5. Do not move or take off your headset with the mic on. (LDs are notorious for this.)
6. Warn everyone on the channel before plugging or unplugging the headset or beltpack.
7. The volume knob on your beltpack only affects the level you hear. If someone is too loud or too soft, ask them nicely to re-orient their microphone to match everyone else.
8. If using a multi-channel system, be certain you know how to use it properly, so as not to call spot cues to the flymen, for example.
9. Keep the chatter to an absolute minimum.
10. If com goes out during a show, continue doing what you've been doing. (If you're a SpotOp who's been picking up every guitar solo, continue to pick up the guitar player when he steps forward. If you're on the star, stay on the star. Fade out between songs, then restore.)
11. Make the testing of your station a part of your pre-show checklist.
12. Know of where and what type the nearest fire extinguisher is, and how to use it.

In many venues, a more relaxed show (in high schools, an assembly rather than a musical) is taken to mean more relaxed com chatter. While this can be a good way to cut the boredom, it is important to remember that they are called production comms for a reason, and that the production takes precedence. If someone needs to talk, then shut up. (Some venues will use a signal like "Quiet on comm", others will just say what they need to say.) Never continue chatter after a standby is given until after the cue is called. It's hard enough for me on stage to hear the SM in the booth over the static and the music on stage, I don't want to have to filter through your conversation for an important fly cue. In addition, keep at least one eye on the stage/your console/whatever. If something stops working, it's your job to know it, even if you can't immediately fix it, and if there's an emergency on stage, you should probably be aware of that too.