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TIP: Get it right on site.

So many responsibilities, so little time. Those are the conditions facing event-makers during the critical setup, production and strike phases of most events, notes Cynde Stetler of Richfield, Ohio-based ProMarketing Inc., an authorized Motorola distributor. That's why two-way radios are essential on-site, “allowing increased efficiency, multi-tasking and group communication at the push of a button,” she says.

“During every event there are multiple demands and a constantly changing environment,” Stetler explains. She cites catering jobs such as emergency cleanups and food replenishing, security issues such as crowd flow, and entertainment issues including onstage sound quality as just a handful of the areas where two-way radio communication comes in especially handy.

To help event planners and caterers adapt to changing on-site circumstances, ProMarketing provides Motorola's CLS series and XTN series, which both offer lightweight, professional-looking equipment without monthly fees or service contracts, Stetler says. Entertainment production and security experts, meanwhile, are opting for the new, digital-technology DTR410, which provides “crystal-clear communication” and greater range, she adds.

Whichever unit you choose for your company's particular needs, Stetler suggests buying rather than renting. “The cost of two-way radios has decreased over the past few years,” she says. She notes that client feedback suggests that “if one rents more than four times, they will have paid more in rental fees than if they had originally purchased.”

TIP: Ensure a speedy delivery.

With 200,000 square feet of warehouse and building space and multiple job sites to manage on any given day of the week, the staff of Chicago Party Rental requires a two-way communication system with range and versatility. The McCook, Ill.-based company's Valerie Braun says CPR gets what it needs from Nextel phones, each of which comes with Sprint's Direct Connect two-way radio system built in.

Not only are the units rugged and ready for anything — “We have found the Nextels to be a very durable product that can withstand heavy impact and are water-resistant,” Braun notes — but they let employees keep in touch across CPR's headquarters or across the country.

“Radios are a valuable tool for our delivery service representatives to communicate with our office to notify us of unusually heavy traffic, accidents, emergencies, etc., while on their routes, without having to tie up telephone lines to our office,” Braun says, citing the Nextel i670 as the service reps' phone of choice. On top of that, “Our dock personnel can communicate directly with our warehouse staff during the loading process, which is a great timesaver,” she adds.

Braun, who says that CPR is sticking with Sprint/Nextel for the foreseeable future, notes that the provider's Direct Connect system is not just beneficial to her company's staff, it's essential to her clients' own goals as well. “Our use of Direct Connect saves our clients time and money because it allows us to be more productive through better communication,” she explains. “Our clients feel more secure knowing that our delivery service representatives can communicate with our logistics office or with a sales rep while at a job site.” And with sales reps able to use their Nextel i560s to access on-site crew leaders immediately in order to help clients who call in, the advantages of two-way radio communication are even more apparent. “We have found that clients would rather hold for a minute than wait for a return call,” Braun says. “Ultimately, when our clients benefit, everyone benefits.”

TIP: Choose the real deal.

While two-way radios from the local electronics outlet may be fine for communication among families or friends, they can't meet the needs of event professionals. So says Earl Martin, rental division manager for El Segundo, Calif.-based SJM Industrial Radio.

His most popular radio product among event industry clientele? Motorola's CP200, which Martin describes as “small, compact, powerful and easy to operate.” With up to 16 channels for 16 separate talk groups or departments, the CP200 makes it possible for event production teams to “communicate with their staff and handle priority concerns as they arise during the course of their events,” Martin says.

But be advised: If you're using the units, you'll need the proper audio accessories for each radio, unless you want clients or guests to be privy to that unforeseen electricity outage or straggling swagging. “Let your radio rental vendor know what type of event you're planning, and ask them to recommend the best type of headset, earpiece or hand microphone,” Martin suggests.

Whatever radio you rent, “Be aware that two-way radios have limitations,” Martin cautions. The best thing you can do to ensure that the units will serve their purpose efficiently is to know your venue. If your site is especially big, for instance, your radios might require a repeater — a signal-boosting device that can enhance coverage but typically requires an experienced vendor to install in the proper location in your event space.

Also understand that rented radio equipment “is expensive to replace if lost or damaged,” Martin adds. For that reason, he says, most rental companies will request a certificate of insurance that lists them as an additional insured by the renter in case equipment is misplaced or mishandled. “Always inventory your equipment upon arrival and put a key team member in charge of radio allocation,” Martin advises. He suggests equipping the assigned person with a checklist of who has which radio — radios should always be engraved with an identification number, he says — and what type of radio accessory.


Chicago Party Rental, 800/322-5868; ProMarketing Inc., 800/215-5160; SJM Industrial Radio, 800/688-1653

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