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What goes into a debate on TV? Behind the scenes of the only 2022 gubernatorial debate hosted by News 3 Now

MADISON, Wis. — The panelists, moderators, and candidates Tony Evers and Tim Michels were all viewers saw when they tuned into the first and only gubernatorial debate of the year on News 3 Now Friday. But behind the hour-long debate were days of work by producers, operations staff, and more — right until the credits rolled.

News 3 Now’s news set transformed into a debate stage filled with camera operators, panelists, and candidates – and reigning them back on course, moderator Jill Geisler.

“(It will be) interesting to see, are they going to test me? Are they going to try to go over their time?” she said before the debate.

WATCH: Moderator previews Wisconsin gubernatorial debate between Evers, Michels

“People seem to really appreciate when we hold people to time, we don’t let them interrupt each other we don’t let them get into fights because what we really want is light instead of heat,” Geisler said.

But she’s not the only one watching the time.

“I directly communicate with the moderator but I’m able to communicate with everybody if I have to,” producer Chris Verhyen said. “My goal is not to have to do that.”

In the control room producers, directors and other personnel kept a close eye on graphics, cameras, microphone levels, and of course, the time.

“Basically, anyone who’s out there besides the candidates, I will be able to get into their ear and make adjustments, if they need to be,” Verhyen said.

He mainly produces News 3 Now’s 10 o’clock broadcast, which “are very set in how they are run; we stack a show from top to bottom.”

Normally for him, being quick and concise is everything – but not so much on debate night.

“This one is going to be more free-flowing and more, just not so much in a stacked rundown,” Verhyen said. “When it comes to ending the show on time, there’s obviously a lot more variables that go into it, which is part of the fun and challenge of a debate.”

It’s a production that required all hands on deck, and it was Verhyen’s first time on the ship.

“There’s only so many times you get to host a debate and then there’s so many producers here, so being picked for that job to produce this, it’s an honor,” he said.

READ MORE: Wisconsin Gov. Evers, Michels display differences in debate

For the WBA and Geisler, she’s reminded of the pivotal role it plays in informing voters before they head to the polls.

“The debates are one of the most important parts of an election cycle because they give the people the chance to have questions asked on their behalf,” she said, “not just ads that give messages that the candidates want to put out, but questions that we hope represent the people.”

Click here to watch a replay of the full debate.