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Female: You are listening to the Meetings Podcast with Mike McAllen, Jon Trask and Tom Hillmer. The Meeting Planner podcast source for what’s new and exciting in the meetings and events industry. The information and opinions expressed in this podcast are of Mr. McAllen, Mr. Trask and Mr. Hillmer and are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of their past, present or future employers.
Please send in your question and comments to [email protected] and make sure to visit our website for pictures, video and show notes at www.MeetingsPodcast.com
Jon Trask: Today we’re going to look at the topic of finding and choosing your audio visual vendor for your meeting, in a sense that’s going to be your guide through the land of audio visual. So, we’ve really got a couple of different places that you can start with when you’re looking for that guide, the first is going to be an in-house provider, the second is going to be an independent company or an outside provider and we’ll spend a little time here and we’ll talk about both some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Let’s look first at the in-house guys, there some advantages to using in-house AV, the advantages is usually are they have a great knowledge to the facility that means they’re going to know the back whole is, they’re going to know the best ways to get gear in and out of rooms. They’re going to know how to work the property to its maximum capabilities and that’s because they’re there everyday. You’re going to have the knowledge of the hotel staff available to these in-house guys as well. They work with the catering department, they work with the different sales people on a daily basis, so they’re going to know each other very well and there’s going to be a lot of cooperation. They’re going to know the internal schedule, their going to know when a room available, so maybe they can sneak in and get your setup done a little bit early or something like that.
They’re also going to have some immediate access to basic equipment, most in-house property won’t have an extensive inventory but they’ll have some basic gear if a single item pops up at the last minute, they may have it available. For example, if you need an extra LCD projector, have availability of something like that. They’ll probably have some microphones. On the on the downside though you’ve got look at closely at the staff that you’re working with, it tends to be an industry training ground. A lot of people start out in hotels. It’s really where people get their beginning in the business. So, often times you’re not having a large full of experience that you’re tapping into, the way you would be with some other companies who have tax, who’ve been working in the industry for a long period of time.
Another drawback can be that the staff may have a split focus. There are going to be multiple rooms on the property and they’re going to be focus on taking care of a number of customers, so you’re not that self focus that day particularly and especially if maybe you’ve got a single room and it’s a large property. They do have limited equipment available, so if you want something a little esoteric if you want something unique, if you want a large setup. They’re going to have to go out the house to bring that in as well. So, those were a couple of things to keep in mind when you’re analyzing the various companies that you’re going to be taking bids from.
Now, working with an outside company, you’re going to have more flexibility in your equipment and selection because their going to have their inventory but they’re going to have a lot more ability to go to other places and bring in the appropriate equipment to service your meeting, they may not be trying to fit in something that they have on property. You’re going to have labor that it’s specific to your event, so that labor that’s coming in is going to be specifically your payroll and people that you are employing that day. They’re going to have a much greater focus on to your meetings and no risk of that kind of split focus running from room to room. They tend to be more experience too, the outside companies tend to be brining in either freelancers or people who’ve worked on their staff for a longer period of time. So, you’ll generally have a more knowledgeable crew which can come in handy if they’re any stumbles or bumps in the road or changes or problems because just the experience of having done this for a period of time allows them just a little bit more knowledge that they can pull from that you not find within in-house company, some additional services and actually this is true of both but in particular and outside vendor may offer CAD drawings, they may offer set designs, they may offer to do vendor coordination.
So, if you’re brining multiple vendors to do different things related to staging your show, you’ll have like one project manager who can sit down and coordinate all of those different arrivals and rental furniture and sets and carpenters and things that may come in on a larger production. Well, there are cost to everything and this higher level of service or the higher level of experience will tend to cost you a little bit more. So, that’s something that you just have to really sit down and analyze when you’re looking at your budgets and decide if it’s a worth that for the piece of mind that’s say a more experience crew will provide versus the budget that you’ve got, to work with a little less experience crew because maybe the meeting is not so high profile and you can just handle doing it that way.
There’s also a time and distance factor, sometimes travel cost will come in, certainly if you’ve got last minute ads beyond what your vendor has brought along which is usually some backup equipment, there are still can be sometime to get things there from staying outside warehouse or from other local vendor. So, really what this all points to is the key is asking questions, what you need to do is talk to your AV vendor on both sides, in-house and out of house. Get a big sense of what they’re about, what they do, what they offer and they should be asking you a lot of questions too. With this dialog you’re going to better communicate your specific needs and you’re going to better understand their specific choices and the bottom line is that’s going to create a better show for everyone.
In part one, we talked about the key to your audio visual vendor choices being asking a lot of questions and a lot of communication and both sides, getting a better sense of the goals of the meeting. Today we’re going to look at some of those questions and what you may want to ask both in-house provide and of an outside company and that you’re considering is your audio visual vendor. So, let’s start first with the in-house provider would be how much equipment do you keep on property that will give a sense of what resources they actually have available to them, Can you provide a detailed quote with specific equipment listed, you want to try on all fronts to get as much detail as you can so that you can make intelligent comparison when you’re looking at the budget side by side. Ask how large is the staff at the venue, some property may just be staff by one person and when they have a show everyone else that they bring in is from outside the property. Will there be a technician assign to my group? You want to know, are you going to have somebody directly assign to you or are they going to have that split focus that we talked in part one of maybe taking care of a number of different people on the property all at the same time.
How long will take to setup the gear? Get a sense from them of how many people and how much time they think it’s going to take to make your audio visual setup and this becomes more important when we’re talking about a larger staging event as suppose to just setting up by single projector but it’s still good to get a sense of what they really have in mind and what the timing of it is. Ask about local resources, do they have a local warehouse, can they equipment from some place that’s above and beyond what they keep on property because inevitable you’re going to have meetings that are going to need more or different gear than what they have available and you want to know that they have those resources close by that they can pull from to support you meeting. Talk to them right up front about security, you want to know who’s taking responsibility for the equipment, usually that’s you as a meeting planner. So, you want to talk about the security arrangements for room, what equipments is going to come in and out of the room, how it’s going to be lock at night. If a security guard require.
These are – all communications thing you should be clearing up right up front with them. You should also ask if there are any additional charges, you want find out about charges for power, it’s likely if you need more than basic wall plugs, you’re going to have some power charges in the room. You want ask them about services charges, some facilities instead of charging you for individual technicians, will charge you a flat service fee as a percentage of your budget. So, you want to know who all of that is coming together when you’re asking this questions.
Now, aside from just talking to the on property vendor, there are some things about the facility that you want to keep in mind as well. First and foremost the room capacity charge are not always accurate in particular when you start talking about putting audio visual and thing in the rooms, so it’s something to be very, very cautious of because I’ve seen a lot of cases over the years where people will have a room that hold a capacity, let’s say 500 people but by the time you’ll actually put the staging elements and for the projectors and the screens and the stage that they need for the group, you’re suddenly at 350 people capacity and now you’re either looking at moving it to a larger room, opening it up another section, all of this things cost money. So, look at it right up front the capacity of the room and make sure that its not just taking in to account the seating but it’s actually paying attention to the staging in the room. Ceiling heights for the room do really matter, there are very important task in AV side of thing because we want to get the screen up and make them visible, the lower the ceiling the more difficult it is for the entire audience to see specially as the room get larger and larger and what happen in that case is suddenly you’re paying for additional screen so that people further back in the room can see something that a single larger screen at the front of the room could handle if you had the height to be able to put it in.
Power is more then having a few wall plugs available basically when you’re brining in a lot of this equipment, it has specific power needs and you want to be aware that it’s going to require more than just having a couple of plugs in the room. Here’s something that a lot of people don’t ever think about but the location and size and access to the loading dock can particularly cost you money. How long it takes us to get the equipment into the room is on your clock, so you’re paying for the technicians or the truck loaders who are loading and unloading the vehicle and the longer and more twisting path that they have to follow to get that equipment in the room the longer amount of time before they’re actually setting up the equipment and getting ready for your meeting. So, it sort of a hidden cost that people don’t realize but if you we have to unload a truck two blocks away in the rain and push it down a ramp and into different places, it gets very challenging and it cost you money because it might take three hours to unload the truck where as if you had a convenient dock at dock height you can unload in an hour.
And the last thing to consider is the in-house PA, the speaker up in the ceiling, they’re useful for some meetings in particular meeting where you have maybe a single microphone and you’re doing just one person speaking but they’re really bad for some others. If you’re doing a sales meeting where you really want to pump your audience up and you want the sound just blasting through the room, it’s not going to happen with those. So, analyze when you’re using them and why and make sure that it’s the appropriate choice for what you’re trying to accomplish that day. Now, step in over to the other side, we would be asking you a lot of questions and among those questions, what are you trying to communicate right upfront when I’m talking to somebody about their meeting, I want to know what’s the purpose of the meeting, what do they have in mind what are they’re trying to do because meeting have different rhythms and different styles and will require a different equipment per se one of those blasting pumping music sales meetings over a very serious corporate board meeting.
There is just a lot of choices that can be made and the first place is trying to figure out what you’re trying to communicate, I want to know what the audience size and seating arrangement is because you can have the same size audience seated in the different way that will require much more equipment, if your spread out over a larger area, your going to need more PA, you don’t need more screen so people can see and it can be the same size audience but if you spread them out into a bigger area, you need more equipment, even it’s the same number. Who is your audience? Tell me a little bit about who’s going to be at this meeting, it goes along with what you’re trying to communicate, we just want to get sense of their expectation and what they’re use too. What kind of AV support has been requested by your presenter or presenters? What are their expectation, are their going to be using some sort of PowerPoint? Are they’re going to be showing a video? Do they have audio clips they want to play, is there some sort of special effect, maybe they want confetti to shoot off at the end of their meeting.
These are all things that we want to know so that we get the right equipment specified for your meeting. Another big question will come up relating to your presenter is do you have a writer for them? Most artist say a musical performance group will have some sort of writer that’s going to tell you these are the things we need to make your show happened, when you can pass that information to me or your audio visual vendor right upfront we’re better able to address it right from the beginning and say, “Okay, this band needs this sort things to make their performance go correctly” and you’ll have it right in your budget from the beginning instead if it coming in late in the game after you’ve kind the made decisions and things are set in and you find out suddenly, wait there’s a 12 piece band, going to be on the stage, makes a huge difference in the type of equipment, the type of labor, the different things that you need. We’re going ask if the rooms under 24 hours hold, you want look at holding those rooms so that you don’t have to set and strake your equipment over and over.
One of the most difficult things for us is having a perfectly running show where we’ve work very hard and build and rehearse and put everything in and we do days worth of meetings and then we have to take it all out so there can be something else happen in the room and then we turn around and put it all back in over night to get it ready for the next day. It’s just – it tires the crew and that makes you much more prone to having mistakes and problems. How long do we have the sentence strike the equipment? And look at both ends of this equation, a lot of times people will out adequate time on the front-end because they know they need rehearsals and they want to come in and practice but they don’t think about how long it’s going to take to get the equipment out on the back-end.
An example of that years ago, I did meeting where they gave us four days to load in, we had a hundreds of feet trust and lots of lights and huge screens and a big PA system for 3000 people. We had four days to put this in and rehearse and they gave us four hours to take it out which was really a physical impossibility and it made a hugely challenging we had to bring in a ton of extra labor. We got out in about six but it was a problem all around because contractually they hadn’t had the foresight to look ahead and see how long it would take to remove all these equipment that was going to take us that long to put in, in the first place. When are the presenter, the show computers, when is your material arriving that the other thing that we’re going to and want to know too because we’re going to – want to see what their PowerPoint looks like on the screen. We’re going see what their video looks like on the screen. We’re going to – want to hear them to the microphones and just have a chance to maybe coach them on little things that they might need. So, go through and make sure that you’ve plan for some adequate time for both a rehearsal with your presenters and the technical rehearsal with your crew, even it the presenter is aren’t there. It’s nice to have a technical rehearsal, let the crew get familiar with everything, let them get familiar with your material and let them run through the show queue to queue.
Now, when you’re getting a budget back from your vendors after we’ve asked all these questions and we’ve made all these decisions and put together all this information into something for you to look at. You’re going to get a budget from us and that budget is going to be broken down in a few different ways. First of all major item are generally going to be listed but you may not have a list of every single cable and connector that’s on the show. We’re going to give you the highlights and the rest of it is assumed to be filled in unless otherwise stated. So, a lot of the smaller items just may not be itemize on their. We may not tell you every single cable you need to do the show, some areas maybe listed systems. There are companies that do it, one way there are companies that doing as other, you may receive a quote that says, “Your PA system cost this amount of money” as suppose to align item.
The policies are going to vary on discounts and days charge, it’s something to talk to your contact about, find out what they’re basing their week rates on, their day rates. Find out what’s sort of discount they’re able to give you. You’re doing all this because you want to compare like item and equal level of service, so we’re possible get as much details as you can so that you can lay this budgets out side by side and you can look at them and really see what each person has proposing to you. That’s going to give you the best sense of all of whose understanding your meeting, who has a grasp of it and who’s giving you the appropriate solutions. The budget, it will generally be broken into a few major sections, you’ll have audio, you’ll have video, you’ll have lighting. There maybe a section for power distribution, there maybe a staging or a miscellaneous or a set type section, then labor is usually broke up separate and any expense that are involve in doing the show, will be broken out separate. So, those are all places that you’re going to be comparing, you’re going to be comparing like levels of audio support and like levels is video support.
Now, ways that you can get yourself in trouble on all this and this is how start increasing your cost and endangering your show, sometime unintentionally. Not holding your rooms, not having those 24 hours hold, not having adequate time to get the equipment in and out of the room. Doing short load and unload out times, having late starts for your crews, starting your crew at midnight and then trying to work them all day and into the evening, it cost you a lot more. There’s also a human tool involve with it, a tired crew is more prone to making mistakes no matter how experience they are. You don’t want to have short turn for your operators, you don’t want to have people who you work all day and then you have them go away and a few hours later you want them right back, those short turns cost you money and endanger you show because again people need a break, they get tired and you just want to get adequate time so that your crew is fresh and on the ball. Not having breaks for your crew, what happen is we tend to work through your breaks because were putting your show on, so while your audience is maybe out having a break we’re still doing things and the same thing will luncheons while your audience is having lunch, your crew is working. So, you need to make sure that you’ve plan some adequate time for your crew to get a break, to get out to get some food and to do the necessarily things to keep them in their top, tip top shape and giving you the best performance on your show.
The last thing would be the presentation that arrives late because we talked about wanting to have that material there and have it on time well it’s the same thing, having it come late again it endangers your show. So, that’s an overview of working with your audio visual vendor, communicating and asking the right questions and how you start to build a very successful meeting and create a great event.
Female: We appreciate and thank you for listening to the Meetings Podcast. You can find Mike McAllen at d72.c4e.myftpupload.com, Jon Trask at avsu.com and Tom Hillmer at creativegroupinc.com. The Meetings Podcast theme music comes from the Delgado Brothers which can be found at delgadobrothers.com. Special thanks to riptidegraphics.com for the audio editing of this podcast.