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It’s one of those ‘if only I had a quid for every time I’ve seen that happen’ moments.
You’re at an important meeting or conference and the main speaker has just stood up. This person has been booked at great expense by the organiser of the event because of their profound expertise in, and knowledge of, the event’s subject matter. All the preceding speakers have been interesting but this is the one that the delegates have come to hear.
After the initial applause there is a frisson of expectation as the guru approaches the microphone stand, opens their mouth and then... Nothing.
The next few minutes see a confused jumble of t-shirted teccies running around the stage, unravelling lengths of cable and frantically rigging up some kind of back-up device that will get things moving again.
Of course, it’s not just microphones. Wherever there’s technology there is the potential for disaster. There can be few people who haven’t spent time at an event twiddling their thumbs while the A/V guys perform running repairs on a projector, DVD player, lighting rig or other effects machine that has decided, at the last minute, to pack up.
No organiser wants this to happen at their event, so what are the best ways of making sure that all runs smoothly?
“Dialogue,” says PSCO managing director, David Holmes. “The supplier should try to gain a minute understanding of what the customer is trying to achieve and with what budget.”
PSCO is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of A/V products and Holmes has lengthy experience of helping people apply technology successfully to their events.
“The supplier then has to be frank about what can be done with that budget and how far it will go towards reaching the target the customer has,” he continues. “I believe that you have to get as much information as possible, it’s a bit like a marketing brief, in many ways your output is only as good as your input.”
The customer, therefore, should have a clear idea of what they want to achieve before they even make the call.
According to Holmes, the right supplier knows all the possibilities of, and uses for, the machinery they offer. The wrong one will simply supply what they’ve been asked for without offering any input.
“It’s a bit like a salesman cutting and pasting his previous quote to another client in the hope that it will work just as well with the next,” Holmes adds.
Another thing is that every aspect of the delivery has to be exemplary. PSCO, has just renewed all its cabling simply because as it gets older it gets shabby and dirty.
“A small point maybe but you’d be amazed by how many people say ‘wonderful presentation, shame about the mucky hardware’,” says Holmes. “It can really take something away from what the client is trying to achieve.”
This is where a good supplier is working from the outset to ensure a good event. If, however, it is so apparently watertight, How do the cock-ups arise?
“Inevitably there are disasters from time to time but usually it’s because the build up hasn’t been timetabled properly,” says Holmes. “An example is the production meeting. The good supplier will have made it clear to the organiser that they must hold a production meeting in which everyone involved is present, the presenters, prize givers, hostesses, whoever. I was at an event recently where the organiser didn’t insist upon this with the result that only half the relevant people were there. Needless to say, when it came to the actual event half of the people didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing and there was chaos.”
Once again it’s yet another job for the organiser but the good supplier will have worked with the organiser to make sure it happens.
There is of course another option and that is not to use any A/V gimmicks at all, surely a great speaker with personality to burn doesn’t need artificial support?
“Obviously I would say this but technology can greatly enhance any event, there are some really marvellous products available now that do all kinds of amazing things that can really add the wow factor to any event,” concludes Holmes. “However, if the content of the event is awful or the product you’re launching isn’t actually that exciting, no amount of cutting edge technology will help you.”