Event planners typically plan general sessions around the speakers and what these individuals can bring to the table: the excitement they can generate, the wisdom they can share. All of that’s great, but as engaging and memorable as a speaker might be, there’s a lot of truth to the idea of “learning by doing,” and smartphones offer a lot of new possibilities for audience engagement. Here are a few ideas you can use at your next event to take the general session to the next level:
Ask the audience. Everyone loves to be asked their opinion, and audience members are no exception! Several different mobile apps enable speakers to poll or quiz the audience, so when you’ve booked your plenary or keynote, work with them to see how they might use this audience engagement technology to enhance their presentation.
Move the Q&A. Most Q&A sessions are squeezed in at the end of a presentation, and rarely—if ever—does everyone get to ask their question. But what if this activity happened in the middle of the presentation, and everyone got the opportunity to “speak up”? It would wake the audience up, for one, and you wouldn’t even need to pause the presentation. With certain mobile apps, you can collection questions from the audience at any point throughout a presentation, and then the speaker can answer them at the end. (And if you don’t want to ask people to download yet another mobile app, even setting up a designated email inbox would work! Just make sure you have someone on hand to feed the questions from the inbox to the speaker.)
“Push” the audience. If you have a designated conference app, you can set it up to send push notifications to attendees… so why not use this feature to augment the general session? Doing so will require some coordination with the speaker, but sending a key point straight to people’s phones at an important moment in the presentation can really hammer that point home.
Most event venues come with in-house audio visual equipment and staff or, at the very least, a list of “preferred vendors.” Going with what’s already in place may seem like an easy, straightforward choice, but, when you consider the needs of your event and the resources you have to work with, it’s not always the best choice. And that’s why you ought to always at least consider working with an outside vendor.
Let’s start with budget. Your venue may impose a fee for using an outside AV vendor, so that means it will be more expensive, right? Well… maybe not. In-house AV providers typically have to split the revenue with the venue, sometimes paying up to a 50% commission. This means that the cost of services likely goes up. If you shop around with outside vendors, you might find that even with the added fee, they are still the cheaper option, or that you’ll get more value for the money.
Next up: equipment. If your event is fairly “no frills,” then it might make sense to use the equipment provided by your event venue. However, if you want the newest technology and equipment that is guaranteed (not first come, first served), it will make more sense to go with an AV vendor who can provide a wider variety of options.
Finally, there is the question of who will be staffing your event. With an in-house team or preferred vendor, you do not get assurance that the team you will be working with has extensive experience working with event production companies. Outside AV companies, however, are risking their reputations—and future business—with every event they service. Therefore, they put much more emphasis on staff training, familiarity with the equipment, and, of course, customer service.
To put on a professional event, you want to make sure you’re working with professionals—so choose wisely!
Hiring the right AV company for your event can be nerve-wracking. You want a flawlessly executed event, but if you’re using an entirely new company, there’s no way to know with 100% certainty that everything will go off without a hitch. However, if you adhere to the following four guidelines, you can sign on the dotted line with a lot more confidence.
- Talk to past/current clients to learn about the company’s previous work – this will paint a picture of the company’s reputation and the sort of work it is capable of undertaking, so that you can evaluate the business’s strengths (and weaknesses) against your own needs.
- Find out about their equipment inventory – it’s important to determine ahead of time what the company has available to rent and, if they have a network of suppliers, to investigate the quality and reputation of the suppliers, as well.
- Confirm the level of on-site support you’ll receive – you don’t want to be stranded the day of your event!
- Ask them to walk you through the quote line by line – this is not only a good idea so that you know what you’re getting, it’s also a litmus test of their commitment to you as an event partner.
“Provider” and “partner” sound similar, but they are worlds apart. A provider gives you what you ask for, nothing more, and (hopefully!) nothing less. They leave the planning, execution, and analysis all up to you. A partner, on the other hand, treats your event as if it’s their own. They work to build a relationship with you that is founded on trust and an intimate knowledge of your goals, with the aim of eventually being able to anticipate your needs and help you fulfill those needs and troubleshoot when unexpected obstacles arise.
For event planners who are in need of AV services, building a partnership with an external AV company is the way to go. But how does one do this? Here are a few steps you can take to start developing that partnership:
- Bring up goals and challenges in the planning process and get their input
- Decide how you will measure ROI at the outset, and incorporate AV objectives that can be measured and evaluated
- Rely on their expertise! Ask for suggestions, develop a plan for execution, and then step back and let them execute that plan
- Go over the budget and contract together
- Take them on a walk-through of your venue to identify any unforeseen challenges or obstacles