WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA – June 16, 2015
It’s a known fact of life.. We learn from our mistakes. (or at least we should!) You burn yourself when you’re a kid and learn not to play too close to fire, you assume that you can jump from the trampoline to the pool and break your arm and realize you aren’t invincible… These life lessons continue as we get older and no one knows these better than event producers and others involved in the events industry. One must learn quickly to have a plan B, C, and even D if everything is going to run smoothly.
1. Assume that the last person to do the job did it correctly
This applies to event planners, producers and definitely audio visual technicians. We are often called into a location that has some of it’s own audio visual equipment and we simply add to it with our own. We then network it all together for a seamless event. The problem arises when the A/V team does not properly do it’s research regarding the in-house equipment and simply reads over a list of needed equipment in preparing the order. Many pieces of equipment simply are not compatible (like Macs vs PCs in the “old days”) and some others simply need the correct cabling.
This also applies to simpler aspects of the event such as confirming that the volume of the speakers are turned down before they are plugged in, the ratio of the projector to screen is correct for what is being presented and the wireless microphone has fresh batteries!
2. Assume there is enough equipment/space for the job
As with the previous assumption, it is common to get a call from a planner at a venue telling you exactly what they need. “We need a projector, no screen, a cable for a laptop, and a technician to set up and run everything“. This frequent request can be very dangerous to your reputation if you do not already know what the venue has and what is expected of your technician. If the event begins and the venue only supplied 2 speakers for a 300 person conference, everyone in the back of the room is going to be looking to your technician to resolve the issue when they can’t hear the presenter. If you investigate beforehand the type of event, location, number of attendees and in house equipment, you can suggest to the planners ways to fix these issues BEFORE they arise.
A few weeks ago we received a call for a projector and screen for a private meeting space in a restaurant. The call was last minute, so we did not have time to check out the space beforehand to determine the proper size screen needed. Because we have years of experience and all of our guys have “learned the hard way” in one way or another, our tech knew to bring 2 different screens to adjust for the size of the room.. Sure enough, the larger screen that he was planning on using was too big and he had to swap out for the smaller screen on location.
3. Assuming any guy with production experience is right for the job
To explain how we work, I often compare us to a general contractor. If you want someone to install some drywall and expand your closet they can probably do it all. The same is true for us, if you want a couple projectors, speakers and microphones any of our technicians can “do it all”. However, if you want to do a complete remodel of your bathroom, the contractor will probably do most of the work, but call in a plumber when the major pipe work needs to be done. If you call in the painter to repair the pipes, you’re probably going to have some major plumbing issues! Again, the same is true for us. If you need the projection/audio set up AND an LED video wall, we will call in the “video wall guy” along with our general technicians. We’re not going to call our our lead audio technician to set up the video wall. We know our strengths which means we also know when we need specific additional support for bigger or unique productions!
A few months ago I was on a job supporting the production team in the tech booth at an event. The producer had called in some technicians with dozens of years of production experience who were supposed to create an amazing technical experience. The problem was, all of their experience was working with a certain set of equipment and we had provided some different, very specific equipment for a very unique job. Even with three guys with 15+ years each of experience it took them hours to figure out how to set up and run the specific equipment because they were not properly trained and experienced with it.
4. Assuming you can achieve any concept on the client’s budget
Everyone in the event world (and most people out of it) know that for every event or production there is a budget. Sometimes the budget is flexible to meet the concept and other times the concept is flexible to meet the budget. An event production team tends to run into problems when neither the budget nor the concept is flexible in the eyes of the client. This is when producers tend to start cutting corners with their vendors. Some cost cutting changes won’t have a major effect on the overall experience of the event – chicken instead of fish, simple cotton tablecloths and smaller floral arrangements. Other changes can majorly affect the ambiance, such as one projection screen instead of two or half the number of speakers. A great rule of thumb is to never promise the client something BEFORE you know the entire scope of the event.
There are a great deal of variables when planning an event and it all starts with having a great plan and a great team to execute that plan. Analyzing the good and the bad after each event will always help you be more prepared for the next time, and the more you do this, the fewer problems you will have. In conclusion – trust your team, learn from your mistakes, and always have a back-up plan up your sleeve!