Those of us who are technical designers and directors sometimes get carried away with the technical possibilities of an event or venue. We're not the only guilty parties. Sometimes event managers--or their bosses--get caught up in the desire to use the latest and greatest.
Complex, high-tech events are potentially more effective and certainly spectacular, but when you push the envelope, you are dancing at the edge of reliability. Higher-tech means higher risk. Lowering that risk requires budgeting enough time and resources to work out the bugs well in advance.
This in turn means asking yourself a question: Do you have a good grasp of the technology you intend to use? It's easy to let an AV supplier sell you flashy presentation technology, but expect a disaster if you don't know how to use it. If in doubt, hire a technical director/producer. This person has the skills to integrate your message with the media, working through all the technical, people, and facility issues. Work closely with director on the treatment and budget early, then let them run with the details.
Even with an AV pro at hand, for a fail-safe event, you'll need a backup plan. Be prepared with lower-technology materials. Carry paper copies or overhead transparencies of slides and presentations, and keep them handy; you might need them quickly. Even if the computer projector blows a lamp, an overhead may be available within minutes. Sometimes these printed back-up materials end up as supplementary handouts as well. They are also good to speak from.
Getting It There How do you make sure program materials arrive on time? What are the perils of transporting software, and how do you work around these potential pitfalls?
Apply an archive approach for safety: On airline flights, carry (do not check-through) data files of your program materials in at least two different storage media: ideally, one magnetic (diskette or high-volume storage, e.g., ZIP or JAZ disk), one optical (CD-ROM). Make sure someone back home knows where to find a complete copy of your materials that can be shipped to you overnight or by e-mail. Consider an Internet storage option (free, secure, on-line storage) such as www.freedrive.com. Or, send your non-confidential materials in advance to a Kinko's, Sir Speedy, or similar service franchise.
Let's say you've arrived on site and found your materials haven't. Now what? Get your back-ups to the hotel's business center or a full-service print shop. Always make friends with hotel concierges. They live for these opportunities to serve you!
What about rented A/V equipment? Triple-check with the rental company, asking for specific make and model numbers, not just generic descriptions. Confirm compatibility between your source devices (especially laptops) and such display devices as plasma flat panels, computer and video projectors, and monitors. Remember, the best quality results from matching your computer resolution to the native resolution of the display device.
Power Planning Ask about the reliability of the power service in the facility and, if remote, the city where the meeting is being held (especially island destinations). Bring adapters and transformers for everything you are transporting, including laptop computers (www.magellans.com is a source for these devices). Plan around afternoon thunderstorms. Carry spare lamps and fuses. If power issues are even a remote possibility, prepare a lower-tech Plan B presentation.
The ounce of prevention adage always applies. Think and plan ahead. Hire competent help and trust them. Even with all of this preparation, have a back-up plan. Don't tempt Mr. Murphy!