Being a successful meeting & event planner requires a multifaceted skillset – from people and project management to contract negotiation and technology prowess. Competence with event technologies are crucial—but technologies are constantly changing and it’s something many end up having to learn on the fly.
We’ve put together a list of the ten AV/IT basics that every planner should know.
1. Load In / Load Out
The process by which the required equipment is loaded into and set up within the venue, and then removed again once the event is over. “The type of building, its layout and facilities has a major impact on the efficiency and size of an event’s load in or out,” explains Damon LuVisi, Convene’s Technology Manager. Class A buildings, for example, have the highest quality amenities and facilities, but may be limited in how much equipment you can load in and out overall.” Make sure your venue’s load in and out capacity is compatible with the amount of equipment required for your event.
To avoid any roadblocks come load in time, have your Certificate of Insurance (COI) up-to-date and ready. Essentially, a COI proves that you have an insurance policy and any damages are covered under the policy. A COI protects your business and eliminates any question regarding liability should your event have any issues. Typically the venue asks for this in advance of the event, but if they don’t, it’s always good to have it ready when you’re signing contracts and agreeing upon event details.
If you need to coordinate load in/load out with an AV/IT company, ensure they know your scheduled load in or load out times, are aware of the parking or loading dock situation, understand the building’s limitations (i.e. no elevators, escalators only, no ramps by the loading area, etc.) and are prepared to expedite the process by bringing their own equipment such as carts. These details will make any load in or load out much easier and keep your AV/IT and event vendors happy.
2. Aspect Ratio
Used to describe a screen’s width proportional to its height, aspect ratio is an important term to be familiar with. The current international standard for HDTV is 16:9. (The older standard of 4:3 is also still in use, but being phased out as HD becomes the norm.) “Familiarize yourself with the aspect ratio of the venue’s projectors or displays in advance of the event so that your presenters and display content can take full advantage of the screen size,” says LuVisi.
Knowing your presentation aspect ratio and screen size ratio will help avoid unsightly presentation problems. For example, when the screen size is 4:3, but the presentation is 16:9, black bars will appear on the top and bottom of the screen and the content will be smaller than expected. Conversely, if your presentation is 4:3 and your screen size is 16:9, the content will be the expected size, but there will be black bars on the left and right sides of the content. Pairing your aspect ratios properly means your presentation appears as it is intended and is not a distraction to your audience.
Be mindful of the aspect ratio of the screens in your event space.
Stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface, which has become the industry standard for transmitting audio-visual data. In fact, every laptop within the past five years has a video output that can transmit HDMI either through an adaptor or dongle. HDMI’s predecessor, VGA, or Video Graphics Array, is analogue and not all new facilities have this, and if they do, converting VGA to HDMI does not always work properly.
Any venue should have all the necessary adaptors to connect any device to their video system through HDMI. Ensure all laptops and other AV sources have an HDMI outlet. Keep in mind that most Macs don’t have built-in HDMI ports, and require a specific adapter.
To safeguard against any transmission problems, double check that the venue has staff that can recreate the set up with extra equipment in case something fails. This means having extra cables, HDMI/VGA splitters, extenders, and video switchers at the ready.
4. Wireless Microphones
Wireless microphones, fall into two main categories: handheld and lavalier. A handheld mic is a traditional-looking microphone, without a cable, often passed around during audience Q&A sessions that follow a presentation. A handheld microphone can be easily moved among audience members and facilitate engaging conversation. Some speakers actually prefer handheld microphones as it helps them avoid awkward hand movements and gestures.
In contrast, a lavalier is a hands-free mic usually worn by presenters on a tie or collar, and is known by numerous other names, including lav, lapel mic, tie clip, clip on, clip mic, body mic, or personal mic. A lavalier is excellent for speakers who like to move around during presentations and need their hands to point to screens, call on audience members, or otherwise use their hands. One thing to note is that lavalier placement must be tested before use so that you can check sound quality and volume before a presentation begins. If a lav is clipped to a lapel or shirt collar and is too far from the speaker’s mouth, it can be challenging to seamlessly adjust the volume without disrupting the presentation.
Make sure you find out the preference of your speakers before the event and liaise with the venues technology team accordingly.
The right microphone setup is especially important in large event halls.
5. Run of Show / Cue-to-Cue / Cue Sheet
This is a type of schedule that outlines each and every change in the lighting, sound, and video departments during an event. The document includes a description of each segment, equipment required, the person responsible and any audio, lighting, or visual cues that indicate a required action. Here’s a template to give you an idea of what a cue sheet might look like. Having a master document with each step mapped out in advance makes for a much smoother experience, not only for presenters and audiences, but also for event planners and the production crew.
If you’re working across teams and need to update your cue sheet on the fly, using a technology such as Shoflow is recommended. This software allows you to manage every detail of your event production – from cue sheet to schedules to production lists – and keep your team in the know without having to reprint and redistribute physical run of show papers. For event planners, this kind of technology makes iterating feasible and helps events run seamlessly all from a smartphone, laptop, or mobile device.
6. Webinar Broadcast / Live Stream / Video Conferencing
All three terms refer to a video interaction or presentation broadcast in real-time. Such videos and audio are recorded as standard throughout the event, and afterwards can be edited and used to create evergreen content, such as a podcast, YouTube video, social media post or promotional material for your next event. While this may have seemed like an add-on item in the past, live streaming is becoming essential for increasing brand awareness and sales conversions. According to Livestream’s research, “live video is more appealing to brand audiences. 80% would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts.” Broadcasting and videos are effective means of promoting your business, conference, or products and perform better than many traditional marketing methods.
You might be surprised at just how affordable live streaming can be. “Many people putting on events don’t realize that, compared to the cost of the event itself, the cost of capturing content to be used later is incredibly low, since much of it is being recorded anyway,” says LuVisi. “So, since events are often part of a larger marketing or brand awareness campaign, a well thought-out content strategy can vastly increase your ROI.” Check out our tips for repurposing video content from events here.
7. In-House Supplier
The in-house supplier is the contractor or contractors that form part of the venue’s event services offering, such as catering, conferencing equipment, and technology. Some vendors specialize in this business model, and hotels often work with them. An in-house supplier is beneficial for AV/IT needs as they are keenly aware of the space, its limitations, and they have their own equipment that they’re comfortable using.
The largest benefit and difference between in-house suppliers versus outside vendors is having complete control over the space. “An in-house supplier understands the limits and abilities of the facility intimately. This gives us the ability to provide the client with creative options they may have not thought of because so much time and energy was spent planning for basic items such as how many microphones, how are they going to get into the facility, and how will audio and video lines be run,” says LuVisi. With in-house technology, these things are built-in, making it easier and reducing costs to do higher end effects like LED walls, unique lighting, video, and webcasts.
8. Sponsored Wi-Fi
Sponsored Wi-Fi is wireless internet offered during the event via a branded portal, meaning the Wi-Fi network access interface or login page includes a company’s branding. Event attendees expect high-speed Internet as a standard offering; plus, it helps ensure things run smoothly behind the scenes. Some venues are unable to offer the necessary bandwidth, however, and sponsored Wi-Fi presents a good solution. It can also be an added revenue stream for your event.
A top priority for all event planners when it comes to Wi-Fi should be cybersecurity. Skift recently took on this subject, and offered some helpful suggestions including installing and using anti-virus and anti-malware software, encrypting data, and making use of VPNs on mobile devices.
Fast (and secure) Wi-Fi is a must at any event or meeting.
9. Exhibitor Order Forms
An essential document that exhibitors complete and send to the contractor, outlining all the technical equipment required for the event. This ensures both sides are on the same page from the outset, and helps to keep important aspects like budgeting in order. Depending on the type of event, presenters and performers may have very specific technical requirements, so gather all those details in advance of sending the form.
10. Technology Labor
A catch-all term that refers to the event’s dedicated technician(s). It’s the expert in the room who manages the AV and IT requirements, troubleshoots issues and is your main point of contact for anything AV/IT related.