So you sit down to begin planning your next corporate event; how do you decide what AV equipment you need, how much budget should you set aside and how could you make your event more interactive?
We’ve been speaking to Stephen Gilbert, Managing Director of Kernow Installations to try and help answer a few key considerations when planning your AV requirements.
1. Firstly, can you tell us a little about your business, Kernow Installations?
We have been installing and hiring audio-visual equipment since 1985. Originally from Falmouth we relocated in 2004 to Launceston to be more central to our clientbase.
We hire all shapes and sizes of audio system for both indoor and outdoor events and also hire large screen projection, TVs and LED lighting. We can also provide a complete production package for awards or product launches.
2. At what point should you start thinking about AV equipment during the event planning process?
The sooner the better so that your AV company can ensure that they can satisfy your AV brief. However, it is not uncommon for the AV to be considered later on and in some cases it is necessary if you don’t know what the take-up on an event is going to be.
3. What are the key pieces of information that you want to see in a client AV brief?
In addition to the obvious, (date, times, venue), an idea of audience size and layout is useful. We also need to know what media will be used, whether it is on a Mac or a laptop and if it is to be shown in standard format (4:3) or widescreen, (16:9). Also, if there are any particular needs (eg. a visualiser for close up demonstration). We have often discovered that the client has limited knowledge of what technology is available to them so it can be a good idea to provide an overview of what the event is about and we may be able to offer suggestions.
4. Once you’ve received the brief from your client, what are the next steps?
The normal procedure is that we come back to the client with a quotation which will often include a few options for items that may not be essential but would possibly enhance the overall impact or effectiveness of the event. If required, we will carry out a site survey/meeting prior to providing a detailed quotation. Depending on the size of the event, it may be necessary to have further meetings but this would of course increase the cost.
5. When should you opt/use an external AV company for a corportate event as opposed to using in-house AV?
The obvious answer is when the in-house AV system is not up to the job. Many venues have an in-house system with one or two microphones and a projector and screen. For larger events or more complex requirements, it may be possible to integrate additional hire in equipment but our experience is that many in-house systems are not set up for this. We operate a flexible approach and it will normally require a site visit unless we know the venue. The other reason is when the presentation requires an experienced technician to oversee the event for peace of mind. If the venue is OK with this, we can even provide this service with in-house equipment.
6. Clients are always trying to engage and become more interactive with their audience, can you give some examples of how you might do that using AV?
If you have an audience of more than 50, it is worth considering at least a small PA system with say a lapel microphone. It is not that your guest speaker cannot be heard without a microphone – it’s just that projecting your voice for a full day is very tiring. Using a projector and screen that all can see (and point to) is more involving than photocopied sheets. A well produced Powerpoint presentation perhaps with embedded audio/video will keep the attention of the audience. A Visualiser that can show something very intricate on the screen can be very impressive. Whilst Touchscreens and links from iPads etc.. are all possible they are normally an installed product. That’s not to say, we can’t provide but for anything but the larger events, it is normally unjustifiable financially. One worthy addition to an event with multiple presenters is a video switcher providing seamless switching between laptops.
7. Can you give an example of the most imaginative use of AV you have seen/heard of?
The latest thing for video conferencing involves a life sized 3D ‘hologram’ of your manager sitting at the end of the boardroom table so ‘real’ that you almost want to shake his hand as he offers it to you. I saw this at an AV expo in Amsterdam and no, we don’t have one!
8. What do you think will be ‘the next big thing’ in the world of AV technology in the next 12 months?
Ignoring AV technology that is currently beyond the budget of us mortals, LED projectors are becoming brighter and cheaper which reduces heat, energy and maintenance costs as there is no lamp to replace. Video walls are also becoming more affordable which is a good thing for people into digital signage. Digital signage has been around for years but I think you’re going to see a dramatic growth in its use in Devon and Cornwall as the hardware costs have fallen. Regarding presentation events, most TV/projection brands now offer software to allow delegates to put their iPad/laptop content onto the main screen. This will certainly change the way that some conferences are run.
9. Have you ever run a virtual meeting and what are the benefits?
No, I haven’t. Video conferencing is another rapidly expanding technology and I am still quite new to it. We offer video conferencing on installations but with the support of a major national player. The benefit for a busy company to virtually pull everyone together when it is physically not possible is obvious. What benefit there is for a local conference may be outweighed by cost.
10. Is there anything you would recommend your clients finding out about the venue space /conference room when planning their AV?
Depending on what your event is, try and decide the orientation of the room and take into account ambient light levels with regard to projection screens. If the setting sun is shining on the screen there’s not much we can do – the suns brighter! Consider sightlines ensuring that all members of the audience will be able to see. It may be necessary in L-shaped or larger rooms to have more than one screen or TV. Discuss with the venue you access times – it may be preferable for the AV to be set up the night before if you have an early start.
11. What budget should you typically set aside for AV equipment & installation?
We can provide a small PA system with a projector and screen for say 50-100 people for around £150.00. For conferences with a larger PA, a projector and large screen along with a technician for the day, it may be around £500.00. Large product launches/ awards events will be several thousand incl. staging/sets etc.. This does not include travelling and V.A.T
12. What advice would you give event planners when looking for an AV production company?
Call Kernow Installations obviously! However, other companies are available. My advice is don’t go on price alone – there are plenty of enthusiastic amateurs out there. Don’t be impressed by someone spouting techo-babble at you. A good AV company will talk your language and for that reason I’d suggest dealing with someone you can easily work with. We work closely with other AV companies so if there is something you want that we don’t have we’ll source it for you.
For further advice on how AV could transform your next corporate event, visit www.kernowinstallations.co.uk or email Stephen at email@example.com