With my old company I looked at a lot of AV quotes, and honestly with Strategic Meeting Tech I STILL look at a lot of AV quotes.
I mention this small item today because of a session that I just attended where the AV company had a significantly negative impact on the presentation the speaker was able to do.
What reminded me of looking at quotes was that I frequently would see areas of a budget where it was obvious that the person preparing it either didn’t know much about it, or didn’t pay much attention to it (often because it wasn’t the “cool” or “fun” stuff like the general session). I was occasionally guilty of this myself early in my career...(adding an EQ to each audio system without really knowing why it was needed.) I also witnessed it even back in the 80’s with a fellow salesman who would just (seemingly) add gear simply to pump up the budget, or just add things he had no idea the cost of that would then lose money when actually subrented for the show.
A quote that I saw a few years back came to mind where the salesman spent many obvious hours crafting the general session quote, drawings, renderings, multiple concepts...then only bid three of the nine breakouts, just forgetting or ignoring the other six. Just be honest with me if you only want to do the main session, but don’t half-ass a bunch of breakout rooms quotes that you’re setting up for failure. On that same bid another company had forgot to put any screens and projectors in the general session room quote...so sloppy work isn’t constrained by company, room or budget size.
The big rooms at this show have been well supported. Cues were hit, levels were good, video appeared exactly when called for...
But in today’s smaller room, problems (I won’t speculate the specific reasons because there are multiple possible issues) totally undercut the presenter. One monitor didn’t work, then both, then one worked and the other flashed off and on. A beligured tech stood on stage and fiddled with the laptop (live on screen), before finally admitting defeat and exiting with the system still flashing on one side. Lucky the presenter knew her stuff and could soldier on and get through most of the presentation (we ran out of time).
But the room design itself also hampered the effectiveness. If you know what a silent disco is...this was a version I’d call a silent session. No loudspeakers, just a translation like and uncomfortable headset and beltpack on each chair. The mechanics of this meant that when she interacted with an audience member it was silent to the rest of us. I wear glasses, but I can’t wear them for close up work...so for me to to take notes I’d have to pull my glasses off, then remove the headset to replace the glasses. The result was I stopped bothering to even try to do any written notes. Also, the effect of only having her microphone feeding sound made me feel like I was isolated and listening to a session in another room...which ironically I could do by changing the channel. Let’s not even consider that 20 or 30 people a day are wearing those with no cleaning going on in the time in between sessions (based on watching the room after ours ended). A well designed small PA would have worked, allowed better interaction and been just fine.
Sometimes the way we do things is based on experience, not just inertia. I’m sure that all this looked great and fun on paper, but did anyone test a session done this way (with headsets)? Did anyone test the feed to the monitors?
I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus, but so many planners get distracted by shiny objects trying to liven things up...and so many AV companies cut corners to build their margins, but lose sight of proper training, staffing and performance on show site. I see it far too often, and far too widespread. Things go badly, someone gets blamed...then everyone shrugs and nothing really changes. More often then not, next year the planner will pick a vendor on bottom line price again. And there will be a string of the same or slightly different problems which get written off to AV being hard or complex.
When will every show and every single breakout room be done to a high standard?
And done expecting it all to be flawless, while yet having tools to remedy any unusual occurrences that arise?
I’ve been watching this for over 30 years and the names and the gear change...but the problems seem to just be stuck on endless repeat...
We can do better.
And we need to just stop accepting mediocre performance by our AV companies.
Jon Trask, CMP, CMM
A passion to improve both the meetings and Audio Visual industries by helping to create better and more effective technology conversations..