It’s no secret that it’s important for AV techs to be able to collaborate and communicate with event planners, and it’s just as important that event professionals can respond in kind, making sure all parties are on the same page in this age of virtual, hybrid, or “we’re not really sure, but it’s got to be perfect” event production.
As a certified event professional who sits at the intersection of production and events, I commonly work with clients on budgeting and execution of the production of a perfect event. I’m also predisposed to be on your side.
I got lucky early in my career and had an amazing AV tech team that tolerated my million questions of “What does that switcher thingy do?” and “Why do we need that guy over there?” and “Why does your double overtime always seem to coincide with my Sunday evening banquet reception and after-party, and how can you help me avoid all those extra charges?” They taught me how to produce my own shows, and also to know when to step the hell back and let the experts handle it.
The pandemic blurred a lot of those lines, though, since convention centers now tend to be the event planner’s home office, and we’ve traded our comms headsets for Slack chats. In this article, we’ll explore the top five things I commonly encounter that event planners wish AV tech teams really knew.
1. Answer the Question Nicely and Thoroughly
I’ll share a secret you might already have figured out. Event planners hate not knowing the answer. We’re the people who know all the things when it comes to our event—in fact, we’re expected to know, understand, and explain it to others while looking stylish and unruffled in our black power suits.
Which means that in the midst of virtual and hybrid, in a world of uncertainty coupled with ridiculously small budgets, answering these questions for us helps alleviate one of the biggest challenges you’ll face when talking AV to event professionals (aka eventprofs).
Questions like “Do I really need this piece of equipment?” and “Do I really need this many AV techs?” come from two places.
First, event planners may worry they’re being “cheated” somehow, that the AV team is padding the bid with unnecessary equipment and people, which may occur when the event person doesn’t really understand the technology or can’t see how it fits into the overall event workflow. And now more than ever we’re having to justify every single penny spent.
Second, we aren’t sure how we’ll control it or how we’ll mitigate risk if it goes wrong when we don’t know what that person or piece of equipment does.
Why do we think these things? The first example, of having to pay for unnecessary equipment and people, happened quite a bit in the pre-pandemic world, though not usually for malicious reasons. While there are companies who are in it for profit over people, the reason companies usually add gear to a bid is to cover their butts, not to cheat the events team. Once we realize that, it makes perfect sense. There’s nothing we love more than redundancy—even our backup plans have backup plans. If you take the time to explain the quote and the entire invoice before, during, and post event to help us understand and plan for costs, you, my AV tech friend, will have a customer for life.
2. Don’t Badger the Event Planner for Updates
Listen, we know you are an amazing AV tech. We also know you can always do more if we tell you exactly what we need. Except that we don’t always have the answers, and sometimes we don’t find them until precariously close to showtime. And we don’t like admitting we don’t know it all, especially to you, keeper of highly technical, often mysterious knowledge.
Help us help you better control the situation by setting up a steady cadence of check-ins that include education as necessary. Explain how we’ll need to do the thing we’re talking about that day and show us, along with asking us for that update.
Yep, it absolutely takes more of your time, but it’s worth it. Our job is to act as an intermediary, explaining everything you explain to us to a ton of different people: speakers, our bosses, our team, sponsors, exhibitors, attendees. It’s a lot of communication, and then communicating back to you and then back out again. We need time and we need aids that help us use your words effectively.
3. Be Explicit with Important Details
Details are extremely important. Telepathy is not widely available as a form of communication, so it is imperative that the AV tech give the event planner a fighting chance by providing them with all relevant details as far in advance as possible.
You may think you already explained it to us, but we speak an entirely front-end language. Like you, we work in tactical details, but after managing them, we need to explain them to end users, the attendees, and others involved in the event. This communication/language translation problem is compounded by the fact that more than 80 percent of the event planning industry is female, and you, my delightful AV tech team friends, are a mostly male industry. We approach the listening and hearing game differently.
Overcommunicate in pictures, diagrams, and how-to documentation that your mom could understand. Show us in as many ways as possible what the equipment and people will be doing, and show us the consequences of it going poorly. Give us options for budgets and then show us what that looks like for events that have done it in a similar way.
4. Trust the Event Planner
Even before the pandemic, producing a live event was a trust fall exercise. We’re all trusting this big crazy idea we’ve had is going to work, and since March 2020, we’ve been doing it all from home.
In the last year, event planners have talked more about microphones, switchers, and other hardware we’ve probably let the AV team handle for years. The good news? We have been listening when you’ve shared your insights about how to produce better events from an audiovisual perspective. Trust us to explain what you’ve shared with us over the years. Help us course correct when we get it wrong.
5. Be Honest with the Event Planner
I hope you’ll be honest with the event planners in your lives. We know we have unrealistic expectations, uncertain budgets and timelines, and hopes and dreams that might never happen, but you’re our partner in this grand adventure.
Event planners know that AV people can be an enormous resource for us, and not just when it comes to technology. I’m blessed to count #AVTweeps as some of my must-have partners (and dare I say friends) who I insist we bring in early as we plan most of our clients’ events.
When you treat eventprofs as one of your own and are honest with us, we trust you. Event planners want you as guides and partners who help ensure our events are in line with themes and ideas that might impact our budget and overall attendee experience.
Lindsay Martin-Bilbrey, CMP, aims to make marketing, events, and technology easier for eventprofs to use and participants to enjoy. She is the CEO of Nifty Method.