Special Events
Let's Get Technical

Let's Get Technical

YOU SPEND a small fortune to book a top-name act, commission lavish decor and cook up delectable food — but then the power fails and your event does, too.

Your technical production team can make or break your event. But too often, many tech pros say, planners won't share all the information in time for the tech team to work its magic. Here, tech experts offer their tips:

  1. Don't keep secrets.

    Tech companies can't succeed when planners feel the need to withhold information. “They're afraid that someone will steal their ideas,” explains Bob Estrin, principal with Orange, Calif.-based BE Creative. But, “the more information I have, the better job and the better price I can give.”

    The danger in planners keeping secrets so they can stage a surprising “wow” at the event is that they can wind up surprising the wrong people. “It's lovely to surprise the client, but don't surprise your vendors,” Estrin says. It can spell disaster at an event, he notes, “when you tell everyone you're doing a confetti blast, but then fail to tell the waiters.”

    Estrin points to a recent high-end fund-raiser at a private home where the client hired subcontractors independently, never coordinating a team. “On site, we had generators, but no power distribution,” he recalls. “The result was a totally frazzled client the night of the event, with many extra hours and extra costs trying to fix things.”

  2. Involve your tech partner early.

    “In general, the earlier we get involved, the better,” says Amy Oriani, vice president of production and creative services for Minneapolis-based Martin Bastian Productions. “We help our clients with site selection, room logistics, agenda development, speakers, entertainment, video production — all working together to make a cohesive event that packs a powerful message.”

    Having a jump on the event planning means the tech team can develop the most effective, efficient program. As Jim Gordon, director of client relations and business development for Los Angeles-based ShowPro, puts it, it allows his company to “do our homework at home.” He adds, “We believe in providing and working from accurate drawings, having productive meetings where logistics, schedules, meal breaks, etc., are determined long before we get on-site. We would never just load a truck full of gear and figure it out on-site.”

    Of course, many event planners have little time themselves to prepare as lead times for events grow shorter and shorter. To help, Tempe, Ariz.-based AV Concepts offers an online RFP system, available on its Web site. “This feature makes it easy for industry veterans and novices alike to supply pertinent show information so a custom proposal may be created,” explains AV marketing communications specialist Alison Weidner. (See “Send an RFP” on www.avconcepts.com.)

  3. Look at the parts as a whole.

    David Skaff, director of sales for the San Francisco office of Creative Technology, cautions against relegating the tech component of the event to second-string status. “When one element is viewed as a commodity that can be plugged in anywhere without thought as to how those elements work together, confusion and ultimately a low-quality end product ensue,” he says.

    David Fischette, president and CEO of Go West Events & Multimedia in Westlake Village, Calif., agrees. His company is unique in that it acts sometimes as technical designer and sometimes as overall event producer. His perspective: “The event planner needs to realize that the technology is not just a rental, it is an integral piece of the experience, and the tech team should be treated and valued as a partner.”

    Be conscientious of the event budget and priorities. “Don't spend $20,000 producing a slick, flashy opening video module, only to budget a few hundred dollars for playback via VHS and a low-end, LCD projector!” Skaff says. “This happens more times than I care to think about, and often leaves the end client frustrated with the equipment vendor, laying blame for not providing the right equipment.”

  4. Bear in mind that big acts make big demands.

    A common mistake planners make is failure to consider the impact that entertainment can make on venues and schedules. “A big-name band's rider requirements can take up considerable ballroom space, when you consider stage size and front-of-house placement and size requirements,” Oriani notes. “In addition, sound checks for bands need to happen the day of the performance, and can be tricky to schedule into a day that's already jam-packed full of general sessions in the ballroom.”

  5. Keep it fresh.

    One of the biggest challenges facing event planners is a jaded audience, Fischette warns. “We've all seen it, heard it, smelled it before,” he says. Although it is becoming increasingly challenging to “wow” clients, he says, “We must get further out of the box, deeper into our creativity and risk more to receive greater rewards.”

  6. Stay on message.

    Keep a clear understanding of what message you want attendees to take with them from the event. “Understanding that one element and conveying it to everyone involved in the planning stages paves the path for success,” Weidner says. “If your AV support team understands the message you want to get across, they may find a creative way to get it done.”



As Estrin puts it, “We're in the smoke-and-mirrors business. We can make things look a lot better than they cost.”




RESOURCES

AV Concepts, 480/557-6000; BE Creative, 714/639-4955; Creative Technology, 510/217-2655; Go West Events & Multimedia, 805/557-0333; Martin Bastian Productions, 612/766-5045; ShowPro, 323/805-8000

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