Whether spoken or unspoken, every new relationship begins with many questions. A new or fledging relationship between an event planner and an audio/visual services provider is no different. While playing 20 (or more) questions with a supplier may feel tedious at first, it’s actually the best way to ensure the event planning process produces a successful event.
Event planners expect seamless production delivery.
They should. And it is possible. While truly great relationships take time, extensive questioning and open communication can speed up the process and create a unified team front. Learning to communicate your event’s detailed needs and expectations strengthens the planning and production team’s ability to do their best work. It also eliminates the risk associated with the new and unknown.
What to Ask?
As an event planner, it can be hard to know what questions to even ask because event technology changes so quickly and the equipment is so nuanced (and often comes with vastly different price tags from one AV supplier to another). So here’s the first step. In advance of an event, RFP, budgeting, or quoting process, ask your event production provider for a comprehensive list of questions you should consider. The best AV suppliers will be open to sharing this information- even when you’re considering their competitors. They’ll want a fair equipment comparison, plus the ability to demonstrate how their capabilities meet your more intangible needs in terms of knowledge, service, add-on services, and personality.
Some questions to discuss with the audio/visual team will be obvious like the “what, when, and where” of the event. However, a big opportunity that is often missed and not discussed is the “why” of the event. Audio and visual aspects of an event can assist in meeting the larger goals of the planning team. Because of this, it helps to discuss questions like:
- What is the content?
- What are you trying to accomplish?
- Why are you hosting this event?
- What are you trying to communicate?
- Is there “special” content, such as live music, video, webcasting, etc?
Who Does What?
Defining roles and responsibilities is another way to build a team atmosphere and eliminate the chances of an important detail falling through the cracks. Within a production, there are many roles that either the end client, production supplier, or 3rd party planner could support. Prior to contracting, it’s important to identify and define the responsibilities and who will fulfill each role. This ensures that you are fully staffed and alternatively, not overpaying for roles you traditionally fill. Assumptions can lead to challenges that can make a financial and aesthetic difference to your next event. Think about some of these roles that are easy to overlook:
- Microphone runners
- Stage management
- Breakout session support
- “Voice of God” announcements
- Music cue lists
- Creating a show flow
In addition- based on the complexity of the content, equipment, and budget- production roles, such as a breakout technician, may need to be dedicated in each room or a technician may be able to service multiple rooms at once. Asking these role-related questions in advance produces a clearer vision for the event and sets achievable expectations for all involved.
Defining Your Standards
In combination with knowing the right questions to ask and answer about your event program and staffing, providing more information than you think is necessary can elevate your production company from a supplier to a true partner. This is typically regarding your organization’s standard operating procedures. For example, your production team can help assist by knowing simple things like your CEO expects 3 mini water bottles under the lectern during her talk.
Here are a few additional items that often get overlooked:
- Will you require scenic elements (furniture, lecterns, drapery, soft goods)?
- Do you expect “back up” equipment?
- Will your staff office need a printer?
- Are recordings needed and how will they be used (archival, transcription, video-on-demand)?
These are all elements that a good production company can assist with and carry into future events.
This differs from company to company and has a major impact on your level of satisfaction with a production provider. There are many nuances that leave room for interpretation. Make a tangible impact to ensure all factors are accounted for by questioning and setting program etiquette expectations in advance. Things like:
- How do you plan to handle furniture for a panel discussion? Will it be placed at the start of the program, moved during an agenda break, or brought out just before its needed as part of the program flow?
- Does your presenter prefer a hand microphone or lavaliere? This can be very important to a panelist, moderator or keynote speaker. Knowing their style and preference in advance can ensure the right equipment is made available.
- Will presentations be sent in advance, or are “speaker ready” rooms required on-site? Nothing is worse than updating presentations on the fly at the back of the room!
There is no “right” way. A production company that wants to serve you in the most efficient way possible will consider defining the program’s etiquette a crucial task.
If you don’t currently have a long-standing relationship with an AV supplier, use these questions to start setting and defining your expectations. Working with a provider that can anticipate your event needs and act as an extension of your team is a professionally satisfying process that will make all parties shine.