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2 August 2014
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Organiser's Guide - AV & Lighting

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How to impress your guests with razor-sharp sound and vision.

A is for Advice Unless you’re a tech geek, you probably won’t know much about AV. Do some research and ask for recommendations, whether from colleagues, Twitter contacts or the online V&E Forum.

B is for Back-up Expect something to go haywire on the night. Most common are dodgy mics. Make sure you have replacements to hand and have them sound-checked in advance.

C is for Content There’s no point in blowing half the budget on HD screens if the visuals aren’t up to scratch. Content is king – focus on getting it right before you think about the presentation.

D is for Developments AV technology moves on all the time so you need to keep up-to-date with the latest tech, lest you be judged by AV snobs. There’s nothing worse than having guests muttering, ‘This is so 2012…’ under their breath.

E is for Economy Good technology doesn’t have to be expensive, but if one AV specialist is much cheaper than its competitors, you should ask yourself why. A top-notch outfit should save you time and money in the long run.

F is for Feedback Surely by now everyone knows that if you get too close to the speaker stack with a radio mic, you’ll cause horrible feedback? It seems not – remind the speechmakers beforehand.

G is for Green The ultimate weapon in the party planner’s fight against stragglers. Set the lights to green and it will soon see them on their way.

H is for HD Believe the hype – it really is worth the extra expense (provided you’ve read ‘C’, above).

I is for Interactive Guests love anything interactive. Consider a digital glass mirror (check out YrMirror from Luma), where users can interact with event-specific content using gestures.

J is for Jargon Your AV team will often speak in a language incomprehensible to ordinary humans. Ask for an explanation: it might be important.

K is for Kilowatts Can your venue’s grid handle your AV requirements? Do check this out in advance rather than risk an embarrassing blackout.

L is for LED Once you’ve used LED lighting at an event, there’s no going back. And you can run them from a standard 13-amp plug too.

M is for Music So easy to get wrong. Think carefully about what your guests will like. If you’re putting on an awards ceremony, prepare musical ‘stings’ for when the winners approach the stage.

N is for Naked Don’t feel compelled to decorate a bare room with drapes and flowers – costs will quickly mount up as you struggle to make an impact. A budget-friendly way to decorate a room is with lighting. You can also change the ‘decor’ of the event as the night goes on, at the flick of a switch.

O is for Original Even if your budget is small, AV experts with a bit of imagination will be able to create something unusual to wow your guests. Don't be frightened to push them hard (they love it really, honest).

P is for Projection Projecting faces onto the side of buildings is fun, but it isn't exactly cutting-edge. The next big thing is 3D video projection. It costs a fortune, but has to be seen to be believed. Buildings can be made to ‘disappear’, crumble or turn inside-out.

Q is for Questions Create a checklist of questions, and make sure any AV firms you speak to give satisfactory answers to each and every one (in clear English, not techspeak) before committing. It'll save you endless headaches further down the line.

R is for Reputation Don’t take risks on AV suppliers. If a specialist isn’t able – and keen – to supply a list of recent clients (ideally with names you recognise) and contacts for references, don’t hire them.

S is for Support When hiring kit, ask if a technician is included to help on the day. If the processes involved are even slightly complex, this is a minimum requirement.

T is for Testing Don’t assume it’s all going to work just because your sound guy says so. Test it yourself. And then test it again.

U is for Upbeat Assuming you’re not organising a memorial service, you’ll want your event to have a dynamic, positive atmosphere. AV is the easiest and cheapest way to achieve it. Make sure your DJ knows to play upbeat tunes – there’s a time and a place for Radiohead and your event isn’t it.

V is for Volume Remember that a roomful of people absorbs sound, and bear this in mind when doing a sound check in an empty space. But make sure that people close to the speakers aren’t deafened. As for the music, remember guests will want to chat, not shout at each other.

W is for Webcasting Streaming your event live on the internet will cost next to nothing, so there’s no excuse not to. Try editing a mini movie for your company’s website and flagging it so it’s picked up by search engines. A snappy piece will drive a lot traffic your way if it’s produced to a high standard.

X is for X-Factor For your event to stand out from the crowd, you need that ‘X-factor’. Imaginative AV is the easiest way to get it. Explore the possibilities with your AV team – if they know you’re keen to do something out-of-the-ordinary, they’ll bring lots of creative ideas to the table.

Y is for Yelling You’re not a sergeant major and shouting at guests isn’t cool. You’re also at risk of not being heard, which leaves you barking madly at the crowd like Basil Fawlty impersonating a rabid terrier. Always use a mic.

Z is for Zones Use lighting to create distinct atmospheres in different areas. In a multi-room venue, have different music styles, too.

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