AV Professional or just an AV Company

I recently endured a presentation the increasing role of Corporate Social Responsibility in meetings and events. My enduring this presentation had absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter. I have long believed that corporations should have a greater social responsibility and should not exist only to produce sufficient ROI for shareholders. It had nothing to do with the presenters who seemed both interesting, informed and committed. But for the life of me, I couldn't tell you what they had to say. Their message to me got lost, buried under a host of AV problems that in reality should never have been allowed to occur.

The event was fairly simple from an AV standpoint - your basic luncheon presentation. There was a welcome from the host, then an opening video, followed by a panel discussion involving a moderator and three panelists with powerpoint support. It began well enough but then;

  • Sound of the opening video could only be heard from one speaker
  • One of the panelist microphones did not work
  • The second panelist microphone did but they could barely be heard
  • The third panelist could be heard but only just above the ringing
  • The first sentence of each speakers was lost as their microphone was not opened promptly.

Video was not be overlooked either as

  • An Outlook appointment reminder popped up in the middle of the presentation and sat on screen for 3 minutes.
  • The screen repeatedly went black
  • The image moved around the screen as the projector was bumped and readjusted live
  • The only presentation computer locked up and had to be rebooted in the middle of the presentation
  • The PowerPoint work screen appeared on screen as the host tried to get the operator and the slides back on track
  • Shadows appeared on screen as people walked in front of the projector beam during the presentation
  • Backstage doors opened several times and washed out the rear screen projection setup.
  • The AV company screen saver kept popping up during lengthy discussions between slides.

All this within a 60 minute presentation. From my viewpoint as an AV producer, it was a pretty sorry performance.
To be fair, this was a luncheon presentation for a trade association and the AV company was donating their gear and services at no cost, in exchange for the chance to showcase their capabilities. Unfortunately I think the impression I received was not the impression they were hoping for. Whether ill prepared, ill equipped, indifferent, or just having a really bad day, I can't say. What I can say is two things, first that at least for me, the ongoing myriad of AV problems totally compromised the presentation and destroyed presenters message. And second, I would never trust this company to handle the simplest of my shows.

Now I am willing to admit, that as an AV producer I may be more sensitive to these “glitches” than other attendees and may therefore be a bit harsh in my observation. But this is what I do. I produce and manage the AV and staging portions of corporate meetings and events. To do that, I evaluate the capabilities of various AV companies and then hire the company that provides my clients with the highest quality product at the best price for each specific meeting. In my world, with my client's expectations, there is no excuse for any of the above things to happen. Everything that happened could have been anticipated and prevented. After all, that is what you are hiring professionals for.
AV has become an integral part of most meetings. It should seamlessly support and enhance the presenter and the presentation. If things goes smoothly, the audience should never even be aware of the AV at all, only of the content of the presentation. AV should never call attention to itself. As this meeting showed, if the audience becomes aware of the AV, if they spend more time being aware of the AV than the presentation, then they are missing the point of the meeting and something is seriously wrong.

Unfortunately the barriers to starting an AV company are very low. Buy some gear, call up a few friends who are into AV and computers, find a client and call yourself an AV company. But as this experience showed, there is more to it than just setting up a screen, projector and a couple of speakers. Anyone can call themselves an AV company, but to truly be an AV professional you have to be able to deliver a flawless meeting each time, every time.

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