Thursday, June 14, 2007

Top 10 Things Planners Should Know About A/V But Often Don't

Your boss is not going to be very happy if the audience can't hear that $20,000 keynote speaker or can't see the PowerPoint presentation of the new sales strategy. Yet A/V experts say many planners make basic mistakes over and over. According to Bob Cherney of Paradise Sound and Light in Orlando, and Bob Walker, vice president of creative services AVW-Telav in Dallas, lots of potential problems can be avoided if you understand these 10 things:

10. Give presenters more equipment than they asked for. These days, most presenters will use some or all of the following equipment, even if they didn't ask for it: flip chart, laser pointer, computer-to-audio interface, and wireless remote queuing for PowerPoint. Having these items ready if needed is not overly expensive and can avoid last-minute scrambling and potential embarrassment.

9. Know when you need an expert. Do not expect the person who spends his career pushing roll carts and carrying flip charts to mix monitors for your six-figure, big-name entertainer. Name entertainment requires specialists.

8. Don't try to put a screen in a room with a 10-foot ceiling. Let's say you want an intimate atmosphere for a 300-person dinner. Of course, a lower ceiling is one way to foster that. But if you also want to have a video presentation, you'd better rethink your options. The bottom of a screen must be four feet off the floor so people can see to the bottom. That means the screen can be no more than six feet tall, which in turn means you're going to need a lot of screens. A single six-by-eight-foot screen will not service 300 people. Three or four screens will be needed. Suddenly, the atmosphere isn't so intimate.

7. With projectors, brighter is better. Sounds obvious, right? But there's a catch. Every projector has an optimum "throw distance" to the screen at which brightness is maximized. Try not to diverge from that distance, because then, in order to still maximize brightness, you'll have to rent special lenses.

6. Beware of sheer-fabric drapes. Sheer drapes, particularly on windows facing east and west, give the room a nice glow -- and wash out the screen in the process. Make sure the venue you select has blackout curtains that can be dropped down behind the sheer fabric.

5. Know who is billing you for what. Rigging and power generally are not included in bids from AV companies. These charges typically will show up on your master account with the meeting venue. Be sure to take this into account when negotiating with the venue.

4. Give the A/V vendor complete, accurate and timely information. Planners often neglect to find out something as simple as what time and for how long they have access to a room. The A/V vendor needs to know that in order to budget the requisite labor. Also provide detailed floor plans and clear descriptions of all activities that will be taking place in the room. And make sure to find out from the venue complete information on where in the room things can be hung from ceilings.

3. A/V eats floor space. Many planners do not adequately gauge how much space A/V equipment consumes. Make that a priority when designing a floor plan. Remember that any space behind a screen is wasted.

2. Never put loud speakers behind the audience. Due to the speed of sound, in a large room you'll need to install "delay" speakers every 80 feet or so. These speakers digitally delay sound so that the audience hears the sounds from the stage and the speakers at the same time. The problem is, inexperienced planners often put speakers in the back corners of the room, trying to fill in the sound from behind. This is a terrible thing to do. The sound from the front and the rear will collide in the middle, and a good portion of the audience will hear nothing but mud. Speakers always must be pointed in the same direction.

1. Good A/V costs money. Cheap A/V is generally bad A/V. Unfortunately, some bad A/V is expensive.

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