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AV tips for avoiding embarrassment & tears at your next event

In a former life one of our key account managers organised business conferences for the institute she worked for at the time. This is a story she related once about one of her events:

“One year, we decided to use a new venue for our annual conference that was ideally suited for weddings, but that had not had much to do with running business conferences. On the morning of the conference, when the tech guy arrived, he came without a cable long enough to attach the projector, in the middle of the room, to the laptop on the podium. This meant our presenters would not be able to have the laptop on stage with them. To add to this, we had no way to run the laptop sound through the room speakers! And our tech guy came with no extra equipment to cater for our needs and was not prepared to go back to his office to retrieve what we needed. We ended up having to ask one of our delegates to buy a long enough cable on his way to the venue. Unfortunately one of the presentations suffered quite badly as we did not have sound and could not make a plan B at such short notice.
The whole situation was incredibly embarrassing and of course made us look like fools. After this, I fully educated myself on the myriad components needed for AV equipment and what each one did to make sure I was never left in this situation again. Luckily our relationship with both the speaker and delegate (who helped us out) was such that we could laugh about it afterwards. But the lesson was well learnt, believe me.”

Here are some AV tips to save you trouble & tears at your next event:

Check the venue contract Check whether your venue contract includes an AV professional; whether this is outsourced or in-house. It is easy to take things for granted. Some venues even place restrictions on a client wanting to use an outsourced AV specialist. Find out what the AV person assigned to you can and cannot do.

Know the basics

It’s in your best interests as an event planner to have a general idea of what certain AV systems do.

Having a general idea of what each system does will help you determine which type of system(s) your event will need.

Then, answer the following questions:

  • What system best suits the needs of my presenters and delegates?

  • Do any presentations need additional systems or equipment, like a wireless microphone for audience Q&A’s or breakout sessions?

  • What happens if something goes wrong with a system during my event? Will my speakers still be covered if a system fails?

Find out what your package includes Clearly state what you expect from your event in terms of AV equipment. Be sure that you know the anticipated costs before you begin. Will there be live streaming? Will the AV crew need to play various sound and video clips and upload presentations etc.? Be sure to also go over what equipment and assistance you will need (how many microphones, including soundboards, switchers, projectors etc.).

Walk through the venue beforehand

Just as important as scouting the venue is touring it with your AV provider if possible. Having an AV specialist walk through your venue will help you to cover all your bases and find out if there’s anything that wasn’t on your checklist that should have been. Your AV provider will also be able to check for structures that will allow for ease and efficiency of load-in, storage and security issues.

Brief the AV crew How many speakers will attend your event? What kind of content will they be disseminating and via what mediums? What are the preferences of the speakers in terms of software, hardware etc.? If speakers will be presenting off their own laptops, be sure to brief the AV crew on the make of laptop. What kinds of microphones and in what quantities will you need? Your AV specialist needs to know all of this information in order to set you up with the proper AV technology to make your event run seamlessly.

Ask questions often

As an event planner, you’re accustomed to being in charge of every detail of your event, but there’s no shame in knowing your limits, especially when it comes to something as crucial as AV production. If you don’t understand what your technician is saying, don’t pretend that you do. Ask your technician to explain what he/she means in layman’s terms, until your questions have been answered.

Once you have chosen an AV specialist, toured your venue with them, asked about their needs, and briefed them, you will have a better grasp on your AV providers’ ability to assist you.


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