5 Essential Audio Visual Questions Event Planners Forget to Ask

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.

In Conclusion

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.


FB_IMG_1423024562904This 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.

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  • Some great pointers. I would emphasise rehearse, rehearse, walk through everything and try to keep it simple! Rehearsals have a tendency to throw up the little demons that need to be avoided to ensure a show runs smoothly. Having just returned from some seminars that I was invited to, I spotted two projectors at a venue that needed servicing. So if you are using a venue’s in-house AV equipment, make sure you see/hear it working. This has been an issue for years and a lot of AV companies prefer to bring in their own equipment. Some venues have great AV equipment and with others there will be room for improvement. Your AV specialist can advise you.

    • Joe Jaime

      Exactly, especially House sound, sometimes great, sometimes good, sometimes a total rag.

    • Absolutely amazing point, John! Walkthroughs and rehearsals are so important! And like I mentioned, doing a walkthrough WITH AV is huge. You are right about physically testing out the equipment also. It’s an easy way to avoid disaster.

  • A good AV meeting supplier should want to add value along with quality to the event management service because they want to increase yours and their business. Ask if they can negotiate hotel contracts and book travel for your event staff? You may be surprised what all they can do besides AV.

    • Really great point, Chris! It is really important to maintain open and fearless lines of communication. You’re so right- you will often be surprised what can be done for you if you just ask!

  • Brandon Kie

    I appreciate how much you emphasize the walk through process WITH AV. Often the hotel CSM doesn’t fully understand the venue capabilities. AV professionals speak this language daily and really help you ask the right questions related to power, rigging, load-in access, internet, and room dimensions. Most AV designers bring a laser measuring device with them to get true measurements to ceiling, soffit, and chandelier heights – all of which can impact your AV design and budget in a big way. Seasoned Planners are also very good at getting more AV for their budget when they (like you mentioned) JUST ASK!

    • Brandon,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! I really appreciate that. I think event profs, especially the newbies, try to take everything on themselves, and are unable to see how deferring to someone with NICHE experience can enhance their event (not to mention, take one thing off of their plate).

  • TOG

    If you are doing events in multiple cities, it would be well worth the effort to develop a preferred AV vendor. If they are worth their salt, they will begin to learn your event and be able to provide cost effective alternatives to accomplish the same results. You may also be able to even get the same technicians who will help things run smooth as well since they know the show. In addition, the repeat business could result in a long term relationship and potential discounted pricing.

    • I completely agree with you. Once you have established a rapport with any vendor, it makes continued event planning a much smoother ride. Planners and vendors- AV especially, should be building relationships based on value & exemplary work ethic.

      Thanks so much for your thought provoking reply!

  • Bruce Johnson

    Great article with bulletin board quality. I think inexperienced planners, in their attempts to not seem inexperienced, do not want to ask too many questions but as an AV vendor, a cache of questions is what I expect.
    At the same time I expect answers to my cache of questions. In this instance, the experienced planner will have detailed answers or know where to get the correct answer. An inexperienced planner will answer vaguely or discount the information as not important (ie. We can worry about that as we get closer to the show).
    The dissemination of information can mean the difference between a flawless show and a snake-bitten show.

    • Bruce,
      So many amazing points! I completely agree with you that new and inexperienced planners shy away from asking questions for fear of looking incompetent. You are so right to focus on clearly disseminating your needs to your AV supplier. This is even true for ALL vendors.

  • This is an excellent article to help event planners or managers of audiovisual support auditoriums or companies. Because a lot of them need to know what steps to follow to negotiate, coordinate and request what really need from audiovisual specialists. This will greatly help us to specialists because many times we have to gradually discover what the customer needs. I know this is part of our work, proper customer focus, but would greatly help that the client is prepared and know in advance how and what you want to achieve with the service.

    • Christian,
      First off, thanks for responding. I really believe that a part of every professional’s job is making sure that they leave enough space for other professionals to do good work. Knowing what you need FROM AV, will make it so much easier for AV to supply those needs.

Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

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