At O’Design Productions and Consulting we are not an AV company but a “Meeting Planner For AV”. We are meeting planners who are also AV professionals taking the AV work off our clients plates. After managing thousands of events with a critical eye for details, we have seen our fair share of “interesting tactics” and problems that can be easily avoided while saving you time and money. Below we compiled our “Top 10 AV Secrets” that every Meeting Planner should know:
- Power: never assume venue power is included to run your AV equipment. Also, remember that General Sessions equipment require more power than your breakout rooms. Before signing a contract, place in your contract that you will not be charged for power to run your AV equipment (whether or not you chose the in-house or out-of-house AV company). If you have already signed a contract, request a breakdown of power charges from the in-house AV company to determine your power needs. Once determined, provide your request showing the amount you need per room, per day and request a power quote. You will want to get your power charges established and singed before you select your AV company (sometimes an in-house AV company will charge you more if you do not use them as your AV provider). At O’Design we will always insist our clients are charged for the consumption of power, which is a lot less than general daily charges.
- In-house Liaison Fees: be very weary of “liaison fees” – they are simply uncalled for and bring no value to an event. We have these removed from any contract.
- Broadband over-charges: a now common, misleading practice: the in-house AV company will provide you reduced broadband rates if you select them as your AV company. If you do not use them, their rates go through the roof – thousands of dollars more expensive. Unfortunately they use their prices as a bargaining tool to select them as your AV provider. You will always want the freedom to choose the best AV company that best fits your event, goals and impact and never be “persuaded” to use one company over the other. When working with in-house AV companies we always request and establish broadband prices well before we agree to AV charges. This way the prices are fair for the broadband portion of an event. Have broadband questions? Let us know, we can take care of you. Also, make sure you read our Broadband Estimator write-up: http://odesignpc.com/must-have-bandwidth-estimator/ in our Toolbox page – this estimator is a must when requesting broadband for your event.
- “Approved AV vendor”: some in-house AV companies claim that, if you want to bring in an out-of-house AV company, that your AV company needs to be an “approved AV vendor” of that venue/in-house AV company to be allowed to work in their facility. If not, they will have to pay “penalties” to walk in the door. Another misleading expectation only put in place to harm you the client in hopes of pushing you to choose the in-house AV company. Again, we choose only the best AV company that best fits our clients event, goals and impact. You should never be put in a place to choose an AV company with scare tactics. Have this requirement removed from your venue contract.
- Event Schedule, Audience Size, Renderings and Timing: from the very start of managing an event, a well-thought-out and established schedule and event review is absolutely imperative. As we work on each of our events we are diligent in understanding every aspect of an event. This starts from the very beginning when building our clients RFPs. The following information is imperative:
- Room availability: we can determine accurate labor for load-in, set up, event and strike. We also look for possible cost savings in tech labor.
- Room set up and audience size: once we have this information, we can establish the best equipment and equipment placement for the biggest impact possible while allowing time to find solutions to possible challenges.
- Room changes/adjustments: any changes to a room once a room is set can be extremely taxing and expensive and should be avoided as much as possible. However, there are times where it is unavoidable. We study the changes in each room and then determine the best placement for all equipment, cables and wires – keeping the equipment out of the way. We also schedule additional techs to help if needed with tight turn-arounds.
- Room diagrams: we work directly with the venue to create room diagrams for each break out room to determine the best equipment for the audience experience while working around possible room restrictions. For General Sessions, we create very detailed room diagrams and renderings which include rigging points, truss design, light, screen and projector placement. We also provide 3D renderings to help give our clients a visual of the room set up for approval and to help avoid any possible problems.
- Speaker Ready Room: we will always recommend a Speaker Ready room be provided for any event that has concurrent break out rooms with multiple speakers. We also recommend the AV company providing the computers to be used in both breakout and general session rooms – these computers are all “connected” or networked to the speaker ready room. Though both are additional costs, the amount of frustrations avoided by both the client and the speaker are endless. Make sure you allow for room in your budget for both. We always ensure this is added for out events.
- Provide the correct amount of labor: especially when dealing with concurrent break out rooms with multiple speakers in each room throughout the day. Many speakers are not tech savvy and need a lot of help getting their equipment/computers set up. You need the right amount of techs on hand to handle this type of demand – and the right equipment and connections. Ensure the AV has thought through all possible scenarios.
- Contract “Musts”: when negotiating with your venue, always add verbiage to your contract that you will not be penalized for using an outside vendor including a broadband, webcast or, and especially, an audio visual vendor. Also, your contract should list that you will not be charged additional broadband fees if your group surpasses the allotted broadband established for your event.
- Establish Speaker Needs: We will always ask the following questions to avoid any presenter problems:
- “Will your presentation have video?” If so, is the video embedded in the presentation, or do you need internet access for the video? (If internet is needed, establish internet connection in that room).
- “Do you prefer your computer be placed at the podium or at the tech table in the back of the room?” If at the podium, we will need to install additional cables. If in the back of the room, we can provide a “Due Cue” or powerful presentation mouse. Note: all General Sessions should always have a due cue on the equipment list.
- “Do you need a wireless mouse or laser pointer?”. If so, one can be provided.
- “Do you need a confidence monitor to see your presentation?”. This will allow the speaker to see where they are in their presentation without turning their back on the audience. Note: all General Sessions should provide a confidence monitor.
- “What type of computer will you be using?”. If you do not provide a speaker ready room with provided computers (#6 above) then asking what computer they will be using is imperative. If a PC computer, ask what type of outputs their computer has (VGA, DVI, HDMI, other). If a MAC, ask what type of video output their computer provides (Apple has drastically changed the video output in the last 5 years). The selected AV vendor can then ensure the correct connectors are provided to the speaker in each room. Tablets can also be used. All great reasons to be asking what will be used well in advance.
- Note: always inform your speaker the screen format you will be using – whether it is 16:9 (“letterbox” like the LCD monitors sold today) or 4:3 (the old “box” or square tv’s). Better yet, provide your speaker with the events PowerPoint or Keynote template in the correct format. (We insist on our AV provider providing 16:9 screens for a better impact and view-ability).
- Union Labor: when holding and event at a Union facility, nine times out of 10 your labor costs will be nearly doubled. Also, union requirements vary from city to city and venue to venue and can become quite complicated. Believe it or not, Union is not always required at every venue in a “Union City.” Also, different types of union may be required for different type of work (unloading, drayage, set up, operations to name a few) and may change from city to city. These are all important to factor in when choosing a venue for your clients next event. We have an entire write-up on Union labor that we are glad to share with you, let us know!
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