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Sound Decisions for Event Planners

You've heard the age old question: If a tree falls in the forest but no one hears it, does it make a sound?

How about this: If the funniest comedian in the world performs his act to an empty room, is that performance funny? (I guess the image of a comedian performing for an empty room IS kind of funny).

Likewise, if you hire a speaker or entertainer and there are sound problems that make it difficult for the audience to hear the entire message, you are diminishing the impact of the presentation, which you probably paid a lot of money for.

A successful meeting has compelling content. However, if the content cannot be heard and the message is lost, it's not very compelling.

As a corporate performer, I have seen some meeting planners take my A/V needs seriously and attend to the details I lay out in my contract technical rider. But I have also had planners seem to feel that those details are the responsibility of the facility and the presenter. But a/v glitches not only make the speaker or entertainer look bad, they make you, the meeting planner, look REALLY bad as well and ultimately the client will blame you for the problems.

Here are some things that you, the meeting planner, can do to ensure your hired presenter's message will be heard loud and clear.

1) Read the details of the contract and rider. Most speakers and entertainers know what they need and put it right there in writing. If they do not address the sound system in writing (which could be a red flag), you should take the initiative and ask them what they need. Some of those details include:

- Who provides the microphone(s)? Will they be provided by the facility or will the presenter bring their own?

- What type of microphone is needed - handheld, lavaliere, headset?

- Is more than one mic needed? In my shows, I need one lavaliere or headset for me AND one handheld mic for audience members. Since the audience plays a major role in my shows, they need to be heard as well.

- Batteries - I have mentioned this before because it is a huge issue. A microphone that dies during a presentation not only causes a delay to switch it out, but if no backup is available it can be a disaster. I make it a point to bring my own backups but always start with a fresh one.

- Sound system inputs. If the speaker brings her own microphone(s) and/or has their own music that needs to be put through the house sound system, be sure to find out what the specific input types are (1/4 inch, XLR, etc.) and that the sound board has available jacks.

2) Coordinate the sound check. I know you have a million details to handle on the day of the event, but be sure that the speaker and the facility have arranged a sound check at a specific time prior to the audience arriving, and that it happens at that time. Put this in the contract and impose a penalty on the parties who do not show up for the sound check. It is THAT important.

3) Take the initiative. It is extremely easy to think, "It's a speaker and he's bringing his own mic, he's got it covered. After all, how hard can it be?" Do not assume that everyone else has their act together. Make sure to ask questions about the details and make sure everything is tested.

We have all witnessed presentations where there were problems with the sound. Sound is one of the most difficult things to get right, so take care of the details yourself and improve the odds that your presenter's message willl be heard and loved.

For a list of the top 10 A/V mistakes to avoid, see Netania Engelbrecht's post here.

Until next time, think good thoughts!

- Steve


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