(Video) How To Make Your Event A/V Foolproof
Our webinar, “How To Make Your Event A/V Foolproof” was a hit!
If you were unable to watch it live, you can see it here as A/V expert and event planner, Will Curran from Endless Entertainment, shares his experience and must have info for all your event A/V needs.
Event A/V Tips
Will was named one of the Top 40 under 40 as an event leader and recognized by Inc Magazine’s Coolest College Startups. This is all before he graduated college! He’s been producing events like Phoenix Comicon, Festival Block Party and Color Run since high school.
01:53 Basic event A/V needs
04:39 The benefits of using an in-house A/V company vs. an out-of-house vendor and what to watch for
08.02 Tips to negotiating your event A/V
09:45 How do you make your event visuals flawless?
14:09 How to create audience engagement through your event A/V
18:24 What kind of event budget would you recommend for event A/V?
22:32 What to look for when hiring an A/V company
Have questions about event A/V? Ask them in the comments below…
Melanie: So I just want to introduce Will because Will is President of Endless Entertainment, which is based in Phoenix, Arizona, and you may have recognized him from one of my interviews on Event Planning Blueprint TV on my YouTube channel. He’s been named one of the Top 40 under 40 in the event industry, as an event industry leader actually, and also with Inc Magazine’s Coolest College Startups. This is all before he graduated college, so he’s got a number of amazing accolades to his name. He’s been producing, not just big events, but massive events since high school – actually you got started as a DJ, didn’t you Will?
Melanie: Yeah exactly, and some of those events include Phoenix Comicon, Festival, Block Party and Color Run, so some really, really great, big events. Thank you so much for being here and sharing your wisdom on A/V and fool-proofing it for events.
Will: Oh, it’s no prob! I’m really, really excited to spread the knowledge for sure.
Melanie: Absolutely. So this Webinar is going to be really good for anybody who is ever going to use A/V for any event, whether an event planner or you’re a company looking to hire an A/V company or maybe even just a hotel. If you have some questions or you just need some basic information about A/V, this is a perfect Webinar for you. About 30 minutes in length, 40 at most, depending on Q&A at the end, and then we’ll have a special offer at the end as well.
If you have any questions, feel free to put them into the side bar, any live questions that is. We’ll be taking questions after we’ve recorded, but any live questions as we’re going, feel free to put them in the side bar on the right hand side there and we’ll get to them at the end, provided we have enough time.
So Will let’s start – I’m kind of embarrassed, I wasted about ten minutes of our time here – let’s really get into it. [1:53] Can you share with us some of the basics of what people need to look for when it comes to event A/V?
Will: Absolutely, absolutely! And I will preface this by saying I talk really fast, and I’m going to jump straight into the technical mess. If you have any questions, drop them in the side bar and please feel free to ask me any questions at all, and I apologize for talking really fast, lots of good information to share.
Melanie: Okay, it’s going to be recorded so it’s perfect.
Will: Yeah, so you can rewind, you can YouTube, do whatever.
Melanie: And pause, yeah.
Will: So, the must-haves for your A/V. Let’s jump right into it. First, you want to make sure you have a digital audio mixer at your event. No more analog, everything’s digital these days. The reason why you want to do this is, the digital audio boards that are coming out, have all the processors built into them. That makes sure that audio tech can tune the room, make sure it sounds perfect, reduce feedback and everything. Ask for a digital audio mixer if you can, when it comes to your audio.
Next, when it comes to audio, is making sure you have high-end quality microphones at your event. The reason why this is important is because the last thing you want is some big presenter to cut in and out and sounding horrible. Make sure that you have a really high-quality, high-end microphone at your event.
Also, make sure that you have external antennas. A lot of the wireless microphones, the good ones, can have external antennas, therefore you can get better reception, less cut out, and they sound generally a lot better. The next thing is you want to upgrade from 4:3, the more square sized video, to 16:9, the wide screen video. More and more, you’re going to want your presenters to make sure that they have a wide screen. 4:3 is the old school days, the one that looks like a box. Go to wide screen, it looks way better. Definitely get access to 16:9.
The last one is make sure that you have floor monitors and confidence monitors for your presenters. The reason this is important is because when you have a presenter up on stage, if you don’t have any source speaker coming back at them, they hear themselves, they’re just going to hear the slapback and echo off the wall, and that’s something that’s going to throw you off. It’s about hearing your seconds – if you’ve ever been on the phone and heard yourself about a second later and you’re thrown off, it’s the same kind of an effect. Confidence monitor, same thing, you don’t have to make it so they have to turn around to look at their presentation every single five seconds because that’s just kind of awkward. So floor monitors and confidence monitors. Those are the quick fire of the must-haves you got to have at your A/V.
Melanie: Right. And those are a little bit of a distraction too for the people watching, not just for the presenter.
Melanie: I’m just thinking of some of the conferences I’ve been to, where they haven’t had the mixers or really good mikes or anything like that, and they are cutting in and out and it’s so distracting, and especially when you’re trying to learn something, if you’re having some sort of educational seminar or workshop or conference of any sort.
Melanie: Right, those are awesome. [04:39] Now, just explain to us, because often, especially if you are unfamiliar with A/V, you haven’t been around it a lot, people don’t understand the difference between using an in-house A/V Company, so for example in a hotel, versus using an out of house vendor. So could you explain some of the benefits and things to watch for, for those two?
Will: Totally, yeah. Today’s day and age, more and more you’re finding that the hotels and the venues are, because they really want you to use the in-house A/V companies. One reason why, if you don’t know, is that they actually have a business relationship. So whenever you use the in-house A/V Company, the in-house A/V Company writes a check back to the hotel, so they are definitely money motivated to get you to use in-house A/V companies.
But I could talk about in-house versus out-house all day long, and obviously I favor the out of house companies because that’s what I do, but I’m going to actually give you some of the reasons why in-house companies are also good. The first one is making sure that, the good thing about in-house vendors is that they may be able to give you a really, really good discount, and the reason why is, let’s say you haven’t negotiated your rooms or your venue cost yet, you can put the muscle in on the A/V company and say “I’m already spending this much money on food, and beverage and rooms, and things like that. Give me a discount on the A/V so that I see some sort of savings.”
However though, you may find that the out of house companies are just insanely more creative than the in-house companies. The reason why is because in-house companies are used to doing the same thing, in the same room, day after day after day. It gets kind of boring. Whereas the out of house companies, they’re coming with a fresh pair of eyes. They’re going to be able to get really, really, creative with you. Also, they really truly care about the client because they’re not just being handed business, they actually have to go out and get business, because at any minute, they could be dropped from working with you. So that’s one key thing to keep in mind.
One big thing to keep in mind with in-house A/V companies is you actually might be able to save a lot of money versus an out of house company, because in today’s day and age, a lot of venues are putting huge fees for utilizing an outside A/V company. But what you can do is, when you are talking about your venue contract, before you sign it at all, ask them what is the cost to have an outside A/V company. A lot of times you’ll see things like babysitting fees, where someone has to babysit the outside A/V Company while they load in and load out, you may see things like rigging fees, power fees, the list goes on and on. Just ask what is the cost of an outside A/V company, and pull your muscle in and get those fees removed, so you can use your favorite out of house A/V Company.
Melanie: Sorry to interrupt you, but let’s say you’re going to use an out of house A/V company in a hotel, do the hotels typically have a price list that you can ask for, or is it something that they say off the top of their head?
Will: When it comes to the in-house A/V Company, they function exactly like we do, so they do have pricing lists available. You can always ask them for a quote. What you could do is, before you even sign the venue contract, is say “Hey, I want to see your in-house A/V company bid on this as well, versus my out of house company” and if you see that the costs are so outrageously high, you can say to them “My cost was so much higher using your company, I’m going to use the out of house company, and I want you to remove those fees” – so another negotiation tactic as well. Does that answer your question?
Melanie: Yeah, that did. [08:02] I know we’re not really talking about negotiation tonight, but since you brought it up a few times, do you have any techniques or tips that you use, or you would suggest, that work well when you’re trying to negotiate your A/V?
Will: Absolutely. What I’ve always found is that, an outdoor A/V company to come in and take the first initial beating, when it comes to getting rid of the fees, because we really know the technical portion of things. For example, I’ve had clients that come in and say “Hey, I need you to do the A/V etc. etc.” but we know we’re going to need power, so what we’ll do is we’ll contact the venue directly and say “This is how much power we need.” They come back with a quote and we know what’s too high and what’s too low, so we’ll know what’s really expensive and what’s not. So we’re going to throw the first set of punches and say, “Hey, you need to reduce this.”
A lot of times though, A/V companies, we work with all the different venues, so for example, in one event case, we actually really compared the pricing from a venue across the street and said “What if we get this 1/3rd price cheaper on the power side of things and save the client massive amounts of money?” Then what ended up happening is, the venue came back and they said “Oh, this is our loss. We’re broke” and all those things like that. Then my client came back and said “Hey, this is not fair. I feel like you’re ripping me off. This is like punishment for me not using your in-house A/V Company. I want to see the cost lowered. I’m already spending this much on XYZ” and while you know it, the price came out to be the same across the street, and it worked out really, really nicely. So probably using that tag-team effect works really well.
Melanie: Right, okay. Probably just also doing some price shopping by the sounds of it as well, and knowing what you’re talking about.
Will: Absolutely, getting more experience, exactly.
Melanie: Yeah, okay great. [09:45] We’ve talked a little bit about the audio side, I feel a little more than the visual side. What about making the visuals flawless? We talked earlier about making sure that the sound is really good, but what about all the visual aspects as well?
Will: Absolutely. Well, one of the first things I always recommend at an event is use stage lighting if you can. The reason why is that, if your budget permits, the darker you can get in inside the room, the better those projectors are going to look. And far too often we see with our clients, they expect all the lights to be 100%, then they only buy a 3000, 5000 lumen projector, which is medium range, and it doesn’t work as good, whereas for a bright room, you’re going to need a 15000 lumen projector or 20000 lumen projector, which is really good. However, if you can get the lights down, throw some lights on stage, or on that presenter, you can make those presentations pop really well.
Will: The next one, this has a lot do with planning ahead and in advance, telling your presenters, making sure that you get their presentations well in advance, and giving them guidelines. One thing I really recommend is doing dark backgrounds with white text. That makes it so the text pops really, really well, it doesn’t use a lot of the bulb, and it actually doesn’t cause it to be really cloudy and bright, whereas dark backgrounds with white text will pop a lot better. It’s really easy to work with that contrast.
The next thing, use huge fonts. Please, use at least a 30 point font. Often too not, the font is really big, and you have a hard time reading it. We’ve all been there before, right?
Melanie: Especially as we get older and the harder it is to see.
Will: The harder it is to see.
Melanie: You might not be there yet.
Will: The next thing is making sure that you communicate the aspect ratio of the screen. We talked a little bit about doing 16:9; make sure if you are doing 16:9, tell all your presenters “I need presentations in 16:9.” If you’re doing 4:3, tell your presenters 4:3. That way they all look consistent and look really great across the board, and you won’t have people wanting 16:9 in 4:3. It looks whack.
Melanie: That’s a really good point, and one that probably should be repeated, just because it is often overlooked, so let’s just repeat that.
Melanie: And it’s an important one.
Will: First thing, communicate with the presenters. But second of all, communicate the sizing of the screens, whether it’s 16:9, widescreen, or 4:3, square. The reason why is that it’s going to look a hundred times better. So, I recommend 16:9 and I communicate it to everybody that it’s 16:9.
Will: The next thing, make sure you test all the videos on presentations, on the computer you’re actually going to use beforehand. So if you’re going to be using the A/V Company’s computer, give them all of the files in advance and tell them run through them to make sure they look great. If you’re using your computer, get all the presentations and test all the videos. One weird thing is that sometimes Powerpoint, if the video file is not with it, it won’t load the video, and everyone sits there going “Oh why isn’t the video working?” So just make sure you get the videos ahead in advance.
More quick tips – make sure the audio on your presentations is tested beforehand. A lot of the times, presenters will come up and expect the audio to work, while if the A/V company hasn’t run an audio line up to the podium, it’s not going to be able to have any sound. The next thing is bring backups, and also bring backups for your backups. Make sure that the A/V company does that as well. Having usually three options, having the file on a USB stick, and having it on the Cloud on the internet, and then having it on a disk, is always a really good idea. Because if the flash drive doesn’t work, then you have it on the internet, but if the internet’s not working then you have it on that disk. It’s always good to have those backups.
Melanie: Batteries are a good backup as well, if you have any sort of remotes or anything.
Will: Absolutely. Ask your A/V Company, make sure that they have enough batteries for microphones, for slide advance, make sure they have batteries on their quote. They should have it on there.
Melanie: Right. I always like to travel with extras, just in case, because you never know, depending on who you get working in the A/V, if it’s out of house, they’re tempted to be a little more on the balls, but if you were in hotels, they’re a little, not so on the ball, we’ll say – not always, some are great, but not always. But I would always just like to have that backup in my own little toolkit, in my event toolkit anyway.
Will: Yeah, absolutely.
Melanie: Often we don’t think about A/V and audience engagement, but really there is a correlation between the two. [14:09] Can you just share with us how you can create some really good audience engagement through your A/V?
Will: Absolutely. I believe that A/V really can make or break an audience engagement. Far too often, there are pretty venues, good food, but really the big thing that’s differentiating a lot of events these days is the production. If you see a lot of these big productions like Dream Forest, and you see ICON Conference, they have these massive displays, and that’s what everyone remembers.
So the one thing I always recommend is focus on creating an amazing visual display. For example, a huge trend right now is massive widescreens, so we were talking about 16:9 earlier, that’s a 9 feet tall by 16 feet wide, these screens are more like 50 feet by 10 feet, and they’re extremely wide getting custom content, but they’re absolutely gorgeous and they blow people away. I totally recommend doing extremely wide screens and focus on the visual effects.
Also on video, and this is kind of a very similar effect, is video mapping. I don’t want to talk about – I could talk about it for days and days, but Google “video mapping.” It’s usually, the best way I can describe it is, if you guys have seen the video where they project on a building and make it look like it crumbles down. That’s video mapping. There are some really cool things you can do with that. That actually gets a lot of people engaged.
The next thing is, giving people their 15 seconds of fame. A lot of people don’t think about this, because you’re in this massive crowd of people, how can you get them to be really, really engaged? Well, make them feel like they are famous. Do the 15 seconds of fame. One way we do this is by doing Tweets on screen, or we’ve also got Instagram on screen, and the way we do this is, pick a hashtag, whenever a picture shows up, it gets moderated, and throws their picture up on screen. People love it, they go absolutely crazy, and they feel like they’re famous. One way I recommend is, is to Instagram a screen or a service that would provide, or also a tool like IdeaCloud. Very, very cool stuff.
Another cool thing that you can do is countdowns. When you just take a countdown up, everyone sits on the edge of their seat wondering what’s going to happen, especially if you build that buildup. Maybe you have a kabuki drop or an effect where all the cameras are at, maybe you have confetti drop, maybe that’s when the big speaker comes out or it’s when you hand out iPads, I don’t know. The countdowns get everyone really, really excited. So definitely share that.
The next thing is to treat your event like a story. The way you’ll do this, is to have a climax, is a big way. I talked about the countdowns, have some sort of thing that you’re building up to, because that’s what really gets people engaged. Treat it like a story, treat it like a book. People really get a huge experience right there. The last thing is, don’t leave your audience in the dark. We talked a little bit about lighting and making it darker, if you do make it darker, figure out a way to light it up on the outside. Maybe you have some moving headlights and pop lights around the room, because you don’t want to have everybody falling asleep during the presentations. But you can use a lot of really cool lighting to make that room look really awesome.
The last cool effect is, a shout out to my buddies here in Phoenix, Arizona, it’s a cool tool called Cloud Mics, where they actually transform smart phones into microphones for your event. So imagine you can get everyone in the room chiming in with their answers, doing polls, doing chats etc. It’s a really awesome way to get everybody engaged. That’s my spitfire audience engagement tips.
Melanie: I love it. That’s so cool. Thank you for all of that. That’s a lot of information, and we’re going to stop it there, in terms of our questions or our conversation, and get into the Q&A, if there any questions from anyone, because there was a lot of information covered, and we don’t want to overwhelm everyone, and we can always come back and have another one and get more in depth to it.
So if anybody has any questions, feel free to just pop them into the side bar on the right hand side and Will and I will be happy to answer them, or I should say Will will probably answer them rather than I will, because it’s quite technical, and I always relied on A/V guys like Will.
Will: That’s what I’m here for.
Melanie: But I do actually have one question, before we get into any of this, Will. Because there’s a lot of technical terms, and you’re talking and I can actually just hear from other people, they’re like “Wow, how much is this going to cost me?” [18:24] What budget do you think, and I know it depends on the type of event that you’re having and how many people and where and so forth, but what kind of budgets, maybe there’s a range even, would you suggest that people allocate for their A/V?
Will: Absolutely. Yes, it definitely varies. This is a very hard question. This is when you get stumped doing these webinars. But the one thing is, I think the general thing I can tell to start with is, be ready to spend money. I think a lot of times people think A/V’s very simple, and I think what happens is when A/V companies have to start cutting corners, that’s when quality starts to go down. Yes, there is a little bit varying pricing between different companies, but don’t just assume that all companies charge the same.
For example, with our company, we have a huge focus on customer service, so our big thing is we want to make it so that A/V is completely taken off your table, you don’t have to worry about it, like you were saying earlier. What people don’t realize is you can’t compare us to a company that’s just going to provide equipment, setting up and walking away. If you provide a different level of service, then there’s a pricing associated with that.
You may find that a company with a huge creative background, for example they’re doing a lot of cam designs, or doing video content for you, they might be charging a different amount for the same amount of work as well. So it varies based on the skills of the A/V Company, and what you’re looking for. Be ready to spend money though. I think far too often, people will just bid A/V companies against each other and expect them to be exactly the same, which isn’t a 100% true all of the time.
Melanie: I agree.
Will: I can tell you for example, for a simple, four breakout room sessions, with maybe a very, very simple general session room, I’d say you’re spending about ten thousand dollars or so, just for a very, very simple setup across two days or so. So that’s something to just keep in mind. But the more you put your money to your A/V budget, the more you’re going to get out of it, in terms of those cool things like video mapping and really great technical productions, really cool effects, really cool designs. You’re going to see a lot of that when you translate into dollar for dollar inside your A/V budget.
Melanie: Alright. So it all depends on the scope of the event.
Melanie: I think, to get a really good idea, and of course it’s also going to depend on where you’re located, the budget and fees that you’re going to have to pay, but my rule of thumb, and this isn’t even just in business, but even in my personal life too, say I’m going to buy windows or something for my place, I get three to five quotes for everything. Because that first quote, you don’t even really, especially if you’re new to it, you don’t even really know what questions to ask, and then they start asking you questions and you’re like “Oh, I never thought of that.” Then the second quote you get, you know a few more questions to ask, so by the time you get to three or five, you have the questions, you know what you need, and you know how to negotiate a little better as well.
So if you’re just starting out, even if you’re not just starting out, I still think that’s a good idea, but if you’re just starting out, it’s even better because then you can learn as you’re going as well, and not just about the budget, but actually what’s important to your event.
Will: Absolutely. Yeah, definitely you want to let your A/V company ask you a ton of questions, because the more we ask questions, the more we’re actually going to help you beyond just the A/V portion as well, but also the event. For example, we are working on an event, literally just before I got this, where they’re working in a bunch of breakout rooms and we’re looking at it and we’re like “You’re moving from this room to this room, then to this room, then to this room. You’re never coming back to these rooms. Why not just combine it all into one room, and instead of spending a little bit of A/V budget in every room, you can spend a bigger budget on one room and make that room pop more.” That’s something that came out of our conversations, when you let us ask questions and you let us know, rather than a lot of times, when you’re doing the bidding process, a lot of companies say “Here’s what I do. No questions asked. Boom. You don’t need to ask.” and then you don’t even get the feedback from the A/V company as well. Something to definitely keep in mind.
Melanie: Right. I don’t see any other questions popping up so I’m just going to ask questions because they’re popping in my head. [22:32] When you’re looking for an A/V company, are there maybe two or three things that you can tell us about, that you should either ask or you should look for, or they must have?
Will: Yeah, one thing, I’m a huge believer of this, and not all the A/V companies are doing this, is ask them if their staff is in-house or sub-contracted? Far too often with A/V companies, all their staff works for five other A/V companies. How can you expect them to care about your event if they’re just going to go work for another company the next day, and a different company the next day?
So that was one commitment that we had as an A/V company; we’re like “We only want our staff, we want people who are committed to us and our clients, and no one else. That’s something really huge to watch out for. The second thing to watch out for is – that’s my biggest one, how do I top that one?
Melanie: Well, it’s a good one, so you don’t have to top it!
Will: I got a good one too. So the next thing is making sure that the quality of equipment compares. Luckily, if an A/V company is just putting one microphone, you should ask them to put their very specific brand, monitor, everything in there, because a lot of times the company’s going to say “Oh yeah, give me four wireless mikes” and I’ll go in and say “four wireless mikes,” and then another company that comes in and says “four wireless mikes.” When you want to have a $400 dollar microphone here, you might have a $4000 dollar microphone here, but this person’s charging $40 and this person’s charges $100, you obviously want to the higher quality one, that’s only a slightly more expensive.
So make sure that the A/V’s a very specific model, when you’re doing your bidding, and make sure that you get the quality of the name, when you Google, you’ll see the productions they are using them. If you look at it, and you don’t recognize the brand, Google it, and if it looks like it’s from China or it is the most random off brand ever, that’s something to definitely watch out for. Far too often we’ve been seeing that, where we bring a $4000 light compared to a $400 light.
Yeah, I apologize by the way, if it’s okay; oh I guess I’ll wait until the end. I was like so excited.
Melanie: You look like you’re going to explode! You can tell us now, if you want?
Will: Bout of energy. It’s ironic because it’s the end of the day here, so I should be really tired. Well, a lot of the terms I was using, I’ll throw it out to you guys, is that a lot of people don’t really get what a moving head is, or a leko is, a line array versus a ground stack system, we created this really cool handy photographic guide, that you can take, print it out, put in your binder, and it explains all the different productionomics of what day rates versus non-day rate means, and everything like that. I’m going to post a really cool link in the chat as well.
Melanie: Yeah, and I’ve actually just shared the screen, so you can see “Download your free event production infographic” at this link here.
Will: Yeah, http://j.mp/FreeProductionGuide. So super awesome, we made it just for you guys, so you guys can come to the battlefield on with knowledge to be able to make the right decisions.
Melanie: Awesome. Yeah, thank you so much for doing that. That will make everything clear, especially after watching this webinar, so that is fantastic. I’m just going to take this off quickly, and I’ll put it back up in just a second. I just want to make sure and see if there are any other questions before we sign off here. If anybody who is live, has any questions that you want to throw, please do now, otherwise we’re going to wrap this up, because we’ve had about a half an hour of amazing, very technical, event A/V information from Will. So we’ll just wait a second. 1, 2, 3.
Otherwise, the offer that I was going to throw out to everyone, that I mentioned at the beginning, is that with any of our products, so whether you want to buy The Event Toolkit or Business Launch Formula, buy any of those in the next 48 hours, actually you know what, I’ll extend it to Sunday, because we’ll get this up on YouTube as well, so Sunday this week, which is October 26th, buy any of those products and we’ll be sending you a free product. So it’ll be a bit of a surprise, but you will be very happy with it I promise, and if you’re not, then you can ask for a full refund for the product, and I’ll be happy to do that too. But I’m pretty sure you’ll be happy with it, with our little bonus offer.
Melanie: Not to worry! Anyway, alright, so I think that’s it Will. I’m just going to put this up, I’m going to share your screen again so everyone can see the URL for the infograph, and make sure that you get that. Will, I really want to thank you again for being here and sharing this amazing knowledge, I know that it’s a lot for some people, but the nice thing is we have recorded this, so you can go back and watch it again, or pause and take notes when you want to – excuse me, I’m getting tongue tied all of a sudden!
Speaking of the end of the day, it’s almost 10 o’clock at night here. Anyway, what I was going to say is, if you want to stop and start and take notes then you can do that. Make sure you sign up for Free Weekly Advice at www.eventplanningblueprint.com, and also if you want to get The Event Toolkit, which gives you a lot of information about how to plan your events, how to charge for your services, go to Products at www.eventplanningblueprint.com, and then of course, make sure you get your event production infograph at http://j.mp/FreeProductionGuide, and I will leave that there for just a second so you guys can see that and get those.
Thank you all for being here. I really appreciate it. Will, thank you so much once again, and have a fantastic night.
Will: Well, thank you guys so much. Have a good night everybody.
Melanie: Thanks. Bye!