For meeting and event planners new to working with audiovisual services, it’s often hard to know what you need. You have a good idea in your head of what you’d like the event to look like, the material you want to share, and how the speakers should be presented. But translating that into a service order can be nerve-wracking- you don’t want to forget anything vital!
First of all, you’ll want to provide your company background, the purpose for the meeting, venue details, and equipment requirements for each location and segment of your meeting. But going beyond this, you also want to make sure that the A/V company or event production company you choose has the equipment and expertise to handle your request. That’s why we’ve come up with this checklist- we hope it will be helpful when you’re putting out an RFP for your next event!
Want to make this checklist your own? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for an editable version that you can use to make all of your future RFPs more comprehensive, so you’ll get better bids!
Ok, now down to what event planners really want to know, what does all this Power stuff mean to me? In Part 1 of the Power blog, we touched on three-phase power. I’m sure you’ve had people tell you “I need a 200 Amp, three-phase, 220 service.” This means you will need three hot conductors at 110 Volts, capable of carrying a maximum of 200 amps on each phase, or leg. (A phase is also referred to as a leg, which is a single hot conductor.) The electrician will run cables from the service panel on the back wall (the one with the big Frankenstein-looking lever), to the distro. The distro will have breakers with amperage values, normally 20 to 50 amps. We achieve the 220 Volts by adding two of the legs together. The plug we use will have two hot legs, a neutral, and a ground. Any higher voltage is beyond the scope of this article and will be ignored. Now all we have to do is make sure we’ve used the equation for power to calculate our load (in amps), and we can connect our gear with relative ease and piece of mind.
At this point, a demonstration of the power equation would probably be in order. Let’s look at the real world and do a calculation using an ordinary household light bulb.
Example: How much current (in amps) will a 120V 60W light bulb draw?
Using the power equation, we know that:
W = V x A where W = 60W
V = 120V
With simple algebra, solving for A becomes:
A = W ÷ V
A = 60 ÷ 120
A = .5 Amps
Our household light bulb draws half an amp.
This may seem like an oversimplification, but it really is that simple. All electrical and electronic gear will have at least two, if not all three of the necessary variables marked on its case to calculate the load for that piece of gear. Add all of your loads together, and that is the size of service you need to order. By the way, make sure you leave yourself at least twenty percent for headroom. If you have a 20 Amp breaker, don’t exceed a 16 Amp load. From our example above, that’s the equivalent of 32 bulbs.
By having a basic understanding of power, the event professional becomes something of a “power” as well. You will be able to speak with confidence and authority at your next pre-con. Who knows, you might even show up the tech geeks. Good luck and never be afraid to ask a qualified electrician or technician for help if you don’t understand any of the concepts we’ve covered today. You can send an email to email@example.com if you would like to discuss this subject in more detail.
When pre-production planning turns to the subject of power, lots of folks suddenly remember that they accidentally left the oven on, and need to go home before the house explodes. Why the sudden jog of the memory? The fact of the matter is power can be scary.
We’ve all managed to stick our finger into an electrical outlet as a kid, and most of us still remember that experience. While we weren’t seriously injured, the shock we felt left a lasting impression on our brains for the rest of our lives. It’s time to stop demonizing power and put it into terms and a perspective that most industry professionals can easily understand. This may get a bit technical, but will make sense in the end.
Let’s start with power in the broadest sense. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, power is defined as the product of the effective values of the voltage and current with the cosine of the phase angle between current and voltage in an alternating-current circuit. Huh? Let’s make up our own definition and say power is the electricity we use to make our electronic stuff work.
There are two forms of electricity, alternating current and direct current, or AC and DC. Direct current is used primarily for electronic circuits and battery powered devices, which we will assume don’t apply to our discussion. We are left working with alternating current.
Anyone who has ever plugged an appliance into an outlet is accustomed to working with 110 outlets, but how many of us know how those little plugs get electricity, or what 110 even means?
In any electrical system, there is a minimum of three separate conductors. There’s a “hot”, a neutral, and a ground. The hot is the positive electric charge, for our purposes 110 volts. The neutral is just that, neutral, meaning it has a net electric charge of zero. See also Switzerland. The ground is a point of zero potential. This is often times the literal ground outside your building, sometimes referred to as the earth ground. If you hear someone refer to a single-phase service, this is what they mean.
When talking about a three-phase system, we have three hot conductors, a neutral, and a ground. In our business, the three-phase system is preferable, for reasons we will later explore.
When working with three-phase systems, there will be some sort of distribution box, or “distro”, which breaks out into the individual circuits. The distro will have breakers and various plugs for each circuit. Each conductor will have a distinct color, and in the United States, hot conductors are black, red, and blue. The neutral is always white, and the ground always green. The Europeans do things differently, so make sure whoever is working with the distro is familiar with current European standards.
Now that we’ve established some basics, we can get into more technical matters. Don’t fret, though. The practical stuff is coming right after the theory. Keep thinking of your happy place and this will be a breeze.
In 1827, Georg Simon Ohm (1789-1854) published his book, Die galvanische Kette, mathematisch bearbeitet, which spells out Ohm’s complete theory of electricity. Today, Ohm’s Law is one of the most important fundamental equations in electrical physics. By examining the basics of Ohm’s Law and related equations, we can more easily understand why plugging those extra lights into that one circuit pops the breakers.
Ohm’s Law focuses on current, voltage, and resistance. Current is the flow of an electric charge, measured in amperes, or amps (I or A). Think of current as the amount of water flowing through a hose. Voltage is electrical potential, or potential difference, measured in volts (V). Voltage would be the water pressure in our theoretical hose. Resistance is the opposition of a body or substance to current passing through it, resulting in a change of electrical energy into heat or another form of energy, measured in ohms (R). This would be the size or diameter of said hose.
Ohm’s Law is the relationship among voltage, resistance, and current in a circuit. The actual equation is I = E ÷ R. That’s great, but you’re wondering how this applies to figuring out the size and number of circuits to make sure the extra bar you ordered will work properly. In reality, it doesn’t apply.
The equation for power, though not actually part of Ohm’s Law, is related, and is defined as W = V x A (Think: West Virginia). “Hold on a minute,” you say. “Where’d that W come from in the new equation, and what does it mean?”
The W in the equation for power represents, wait for it, Power. Power is the energy used to do the work when an electrical current is made to flow through a load resistance, and is measured in watts (W). The load is whatever we happen to be plugging in at the time, nothing more. This is how fast the water is running through that same hose we were talking about earlier.
Okay, take a deep breath and relax. You’ve just learned more about power in a few minutes time than most people will learn in a lifetime. We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to Power, and if you’d like to find out about the practical side of Power for event planners, please check out Power Play Part 2!
So you’ve decided to have an event, and you’re not sure whether or not you need professional assistance. A good event management company should be an asset to your event, not a liability. They will bring knowledge and experience to the table which can help you save time and money. But not all event managers are created equal. Here are a few tips to help you find the right professional.
Ask about their experience. Event planning sounds like a glamorous job, which is one reason why event planning and management companies are popping up all over the world. However, there is no licensing or education required for one to call themselves an event planner, so ask to see examples of past jobs. And if they have beautiful pictures to show you, make sure they explain what their involvement was in the event pictured. Did they actually manage the event, or were they a volunteer helping with a small portion of the event?
Ask for references and follow up with them. It’s invaluable to find out what a past client’s experience was like. Make sure that you get a list of past client references and not personal references. Also, does the company have a list of repeat clientele? Consider checking with these clients, because repeat business is a testament to the quality of their work.
Ask about the company’s relationship with venues that you are considering for your event. An experienced professional should be able to work in most environments, but it can be an added bonus if they are experienced working with a particular venue. This can help save you a lot of time and expense with labor scheduling, site visits, and any union issues that could arise.
Ask how the company will charge for their service. Is it an hourly charge or is it a percentage of the event? Are they contracting and paying the vendors or will you be responsible for payments? If the company is responsible for paying the vendors, do they have good credit terms? If they are not responsible for contracting and paying the vendors, you will need to make sure that each vendor is properly licensed and insured.
Ask if the company owns/operates their own equipment. Some event management companies are able to provide services such as audio/visual production, decor, rentals, etc. in house, which may help reduce the end price. If they do not own or operate the equipment themselves, find out who are their partners in service.
Ask about the company’s network. Do they have access to unique ideas and services for your event? Are they current on industry trends?
Ask the name of the individual on staff that will be in charge of your event. After the contract is signed, will you work with an event coordinator throughout the process? Will that individual be on site for the event? If there is an intern or assistant coordinating the details during the planning phase, how are they being supervised?
Ask if they will be responsible for assuring the load out and clean up will be completed according to the facility’s requirements. Every event has an ending, and the clean up is an important part of the production. There may be fees involved if anything is left behind, so someone needs to be in charge to be sure the job is complete.
Ask for an example of how they’ve handled an emergency. If there’s one thing all experienced event managers will agree on, it’s that things never go exactly as planned. A good event manager will be able to analyze the situation and make quick, informed decisions to keep the event on track. The ability to make good decisions is what makes a good event manager great.
A guide to the proper care and feeding of your production team
From the Beauty:
Regardless of what you’re planning, it’s key to know your audience. Today we put a spotlight on the backbone of almost all productions: the production crew. These are the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that everything runs seamlessly from a production standpoint. Their hours are long, usually starting before the sun rises and finishing long after it sets. They often go unnoticed, but they should not be forgotten.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Have a food allergy list for your crew as well as your attendees.
- Set up a beverage station with hot and cold beverages that are refreshed throughout the day.
- Offer food selections that can be eaten hot or at room temperature. The crew may eat in shifts.
- Offer healthy options that keep energy levels consistent.
- Treat your crew as you would any valued attendee or staff member.
- Properly feeding the crew creates solid morale, which translates into more motivation to work hard.
From the Brain:
The production team is in the spotlight if a projector fails, sound quality is poor or if any number of other technical snafus occur, so you want the best of the best at the helm.
Dedicated crews arrive earlier than most and are often last to leave. Installation and tear down requires physical and mental energy and, while the show is running, these folks are the nerve center of your operation.
It’s ironic that people who are critical to successful content delivery are often overlooked, if not ignored. Here are a few ways to correct that while improving your show quality:
- Contract enough time for load-in and strike and avoid overnight load-ins. If something goes wrong during setup, there are few options for replacement equipment. Speakers likely won’t have time to rehearse and your program is at risk of starting late. Additionally, your cue-to-cue rehearsal may be cut, which means you have no dry run for your program.
- Overnight load-ins have the crew up all day, loading in overnight and likely working the next morning. Depriving the people responsible for key timing and execution of sleep is bad for everyone.
- If you have a 15-minute break, the crew has about eight minutes to hit the bathrooms and return. They rarely eat as they have neither the time nor the opportunity. Have catering bring food to the crew during breaks. It should be able to be eaten without a fork and only drinks with lids should be offered for equipment safety.
- Strongly encourage speakers to submit slides at least 24 hours before the event. Put them in a PowerPoint deck in presentation order and put them on a jump drive. Include title slides and walk-in/walk-out slides or still stores. Hand the drive to the production team so they can load the presentations into show computers. Make time to sit with the graphics op to make sure there are no unseen glitches. If you want walk-in/walk-out, play-on/play-off music, let them know that as well as what type of music you prefer.
- Provide the names and titles of speakers and a pronunciation guide for anyone who requires a VOG (voice of God) introduction to the stage.
Production teams work tirelessly to make your event run smoothly. Treat them with the kindness they deserve.
Want more tips on the proper care of your production partners? Email me at: Christy.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, remember that smart is beautiful!
Thank you to Christy Lamagna, CMP, CMM, CTSM of Strategic Meetings and Events for reprint permission.