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Event planners are the types of people who like to have their hands in several proverbial pots. To be a successful event planner, you also have to be a good marketer, negotiator, and leader.
In addition, event managers often have to make soirees into fields like design, catering and AV. The field of audiovisual technology especially, is a crucial part of any and every event, and is often a gap in the knowledgebase of aspiring and novice planners.
The first event I ever planned was a canned food drive to aid the disaster relief effort in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake. I was an AmeriCorps volunteer at the time, doing service at an inner city middle school in New York City, and I was just about as new to event planning as it is possible to be. A babe in the woods, I quickly got lost amidst a sea of logistical details, and buried beneath the monumental task of teaching a bunch of 6th graders about disaster relief, while simultaneously running an effective and engaging fundraiser.
One of the details that fell through the cracks at my canned food drive was AV. This was due primarily to my inexperience with the field. There were several questions I forgot, or didn’t even know to ask my AV provider:
Is There Anything Scary in My Venue Contract?
Check your contract (with an AV professional if possible) before signing. In order to better liaise with your venue, be sure you know what comes standard. It is easy to take things for granted (in my case, it was assuming our venue would be providing power). Some venues place restrictions or penalties on the client for using an AV specialist that is not in house. The best time to know this, is up front.
What Can I Get for the Money?
There is nothing wrong with having an honest conversation about budget at the outset. Clearly express what your budget is and what you expect from your event (do you need it to be sustainable? Will there be live streaming? etc.). Be sure to also go over what equipment you will need (how many mics and in what quantities, soundboards, switchers, projectors etc.).
Also, if you plan to do a run through - how much and how far in advance you will need to rehearse certainly affects AV and thus, price. Being honest about your budget will make it so that you do not waste time with a company that cannot accommodate your needs. Be sure that you have a real grasp of billing before you begin.
Can You Tour the Venue With Me?
Event planners all know the value of a good venue walkthrough. However, it can be just as important that you tour the venue with your AV provider whenever possible. Having an AV specialist walk through your venue with you can clue you in to elements that may not have made it onto your checklist like ceiling height & other architectural elements (which will determine equipment). Your AV provider will also be checking for structures that will allow for ease and efficiency of load in, storage & security issues, HVAC capabilities and more.
What Information Do You Need to Get Your Job Done?
Discuss the AV team’s need for bandwith, adequate power, and room access. Make sure you know how much time they will need for set up and teardown. How many presenters/speakers will you have? What kind of content will they be disseminating to your audience & via what mediums? What are the preferences of the speakers in terms of software, hardware etc. 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 audiovisual technology to make your event run seamlessly.
Who’s On the Team, & What Do They Do?
All audiovisual teams were not created equal. Knowing who is on your AV team, can clue you in to how extensive the company’s services are. In addition, having a clear idea of who is point person for various aspects of your event can make it so that tiny details like who operates the presentation (the presenter or someone from the sound desk?) and via what medium, don’t fall through the cracks.
Getting the most out of your AV specialist is a matter of asking the right questions. Novice planners and event veterans alike have a million and one tiny details on their plates. Never be afraid or unwilling to let your audiovisual provider take a few of those details off of your hands by keeping them in the loop from the very start.
Going over items like budget, and contract issues before you choose an AV provider will help to ensure that you don’t waste your time. Once you have chosen an AV specialist, toured your venue with them, asked about their needs, and enquired about the team, you will have a better grasp on your AV providers’ ability to accommodate you.
This is a guest post by Bethany Smith who specializes in using storytelling to create unique event experiences for her clients. In addition, she runs a blog called The Planner's Process which aims to help aspiring eventprofs amass the tools they need.