Basic Meeting Environment:
Site inspections are critical in knowing how a room will lay out for the best viewing and listening by the audience. If you can’t be here in person, ask for actual photos of room setups with AV set the same as your requirements. Determine sight lines for screen(s), projector and sound placement, podium location, best panel discussion area, lighting considerations during the event hours and seating arrangements. Get a to-scale room drawing to save time and money, especially for setup crews.
There are dozens of good manufacturers of LCD (liquid crystal display) and DLP (digital light processing) projectors. Order equipment with professional advice based on the number of attendees, screen size(s) and the amount of ambient light that will be present. As audience size or client requirements grow, you may have to consider the need for projectors with higher lumens (brighter), additional power, special lenses, rigging and a skilled projectionist.
Have the proper audio speaker system for the size of the audience, including mixing boards, equalization accessories, microphones and an experienced technician. Some meetings will require a technician to be present to operate multiple microphones or change audio sources during a presentation; others will not. Recording is another matter because the type of recording you make depends on what it will be used for in the future.
A simple rule of thumb is to use professional-grade equipment if you want professional results. Check video formats in advance to be sure that they will play in the selected machinery.
Usually, a computer will be needed to display presentations. You may encounter Macs or PCs, and software such as PowerPoint (a Microsoft product), Keynote (a program written for Apple computers) or any number of portable document format files (PDFs). All of them will run as long as the software is loaded onto the computer.
Be sure that the presenter can be seen by everyone in the room. A minimal amount of lighting should be present (especially if you are video recording) so that the presenter may see his or her notes and that there are no visual distractions on the presentation area.
Scenic and staging:
Consider simple and inexpensive scenic additions such as pipe and drape behind the presenter and panel; uplighting on drape or walls; sponsor signage or logos on hard surfaces; messages or logos projected through gobos (plates with patterns cut into them that fit between the lamp and the lens); and foliage. These options also apply to large conferences, meetings and special events. It’s a matter of scale, complexity and budget. Attendees do remember the little touches!
Get local labor rules in writing to avoid surprises on the final bill. Ask about local union overtime, meal penalties or extra labor charges for holidays (including load-in and load-out days).
AV equipment requires a clean power source to run all electrical equipment. Proper voltage can mean the difference between “hum” bars or clear images on your video screens, or extra hiss and noise from your audio system, or voltage surges because lights are on the same circuit. Rent a generator if an electrician determines that neither a clean power source nor enough power is available. Don’t leave this decision until the day of your event.
Some properties may waive power fees as long as you use their in-house AV supplier which, for some events, can be very cost-effective. Ask.
AV technology and Information Technology (IT) are forever linked. The “AV/IT Convergence” has been brought to the forefront of presentation conversations in the meetings industry. There is no “rule of thumb” for what authority in any facility controls access and pricing for broadband service (Internet). Be sure to know the rates and liabilities beforehand. Find the contact who knows the most about the broadband infrastructure and get 24-hour access to them in case there are problems or changes.
Formulate your own AV checklist.