Questioning Your Way to a Successful Event
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 is actually be 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 can strengthen both the planner and production team’s ability to do their best work, while eliminating the risk associated with the new and unknown.
What To Ask?
As event technology changes so quickly and the equipment is so nuanced, often with vastly different price tags from one AV supplier to another, as a planner, it can be hard to even know what questions to ask. A first step is to ask your event production provider for a comprehensive list of questions that should be considered in advance of an event, RFP, budgeting or quoting process. The best AV suppliers will be open to sharing this information to help you compare apples to apples even when you consider their competitors. They will 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 will be obvious in terms of “what, when, and where” but the “why” of the event is often not discussed with the audio visual team, and that’s a missed opportunity. The audio and visual aspects of an event can be used to meet the planning team’s larger goals so 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?
Questioning, then defining roles and responsibilities is another way to build a team atmosphere and eliminate the chance that an important detail will fall through the cracks. There are many roles within any given production that could be supported by the end client, production supplier, or 3rd party planner. It is important to identify and define these roles and responsibilities prior to contracting to ensure that you are fully staffed and not over paying for any of the roles that you would traditionally fill. Assumptions can lead to challenges but questioning and defining roles like these could make a financial and aesthetic difference on your next event:
Breakout session support
“Voice of God” announcements
Music cue lists
In addition, production roles such as a breakout technician may need to be dedicated in each room or have multiple rooms serviced by one technician based on the complexity of content, equipment and budget. 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 addition to knowing the right questions to ask and answer about your event program and staffing, providing more information than you think is necessary regarding your organizations standard operating procedures and can elevate your production company from a supplier to a true partner. For example - knowing your CEO expects 3 mini water bottles under the lectern during her talk or that your sales executive wants “Get Lucky” played for “walk on” music are ways that your production team can back you up when your occupied with a different portion of the event.
Here are a few things that often get overlooked:
Will you require scenic elements (furniture, lecterns, drapery, soft goods)
Is “back up” equipment expected?
Will a printer be needed for your staff office?
Are recordings needed and how will they be used (archival, transcription, video-on-demand)
These are all elements that a good production company can help you get right the first time and carry with you into future events.
This can differ from company to company yet have a major impact on your level of satisfaction with a production provider. There are many nuances that leave room for interpretation. Questioning in advance and setting expectations makes a tangible impact to ensure everything has been accounted for. Things like:
Will furniture for a panel discussion be placed at the start of the program or moved during a proper 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 important to a panelist, moderator or key note speaker and knowing their style in advance ensures the right equipment is available.
Will your presentations be sent in advance or will you require “speaker ready” rooms on-site? Either of these options is better than asking your presenters to update their presentation on the fly at the back of the room.
There is no one right way and therefore the need to consider and define becomes critical to a production company who wants to serve you in the most efficient way possible.
Working with a provider who can anticipate your event needs and act as an extension of your team is a professionally satisfying process. In the absence of a long standing relationship, and perhaps on the way to what will be a great partnership, use the right questions, to set expectations and make all parties shine.