A little knowledge is all you need to save time and money with audiovisual and production services, believes Greg Valentini, director, event technology, at John Hancock Financial Services in Boston. Valentini shared his expertise with attendees during a Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Northeast Region Summer Meeting, held at July 25–27, 2010, at the Hyatt Regency Newport Hotel & Spa.
Here are some of his top tips on AV, staging, production, and personnel.
1. Don’t Sign a Meeting
“Most of the time it’s fine, but sometimes we need an overnight set, so you will need to know the cost,” Valentini explains. Another consideration: Rigging often determines how a room must be oriented. If your AV person is not with you on a site tour and you want to know how the room will be oriented, Valentini suggests asking your salesperson how it was set for the last big event that happened there, and make sure that set works for your group.
2. Consider Skipping the Producer.
“Some planners automatically hire a producer because they are afraid,” Valentini says. “If you’re only doing slides and video, and you have in-house support, you don’t need a producer.” Furthermore, you can save a significant amount of money by finding and hiring vendors yourself rather than having a producer act as your contractor. “It takes a little knowledge and a little bit of a comfort level, but it’s doable,” he says. Ask the hotel who everyone goes to for lighting, who everyone uses for rigging, and go directly to those individual vendors. One caveat: Tell each vendor which other vendors you are hiring and that they will need to work together.
3. But Hire a Producer When You Need One.
A producer is a must for pre-produced materials, such as videos, when you can’t oversee things yourself or when you need someone who is responsible for the overall operation. In big union cities, for example, a producer is a must for negotiating and overseeing union labor. If you hire a producer, he or she should be independent rather than affiliated with one of your vendors. That allows you to use multiple vendors for their individual strengths and best pricing.
4. A Director Will Save You Time and Aggravation.
To determine if you need a director, think about which of the following media you are using: PowerPoint, video, Web demos, music when people are walking onto the stage. If you’re using two or more, you need a director. A director will save you a lot of time by dealing directly with your executives on their issues. The difference between a producer and a director? “A producer hires crew and services and coordinates pre-production items,” Valentini explains. “A director coordinates on site.”
5. Your Entertainment Determines Your Stage Set.
Entertainment may work with your existing stage and setup (if negotiated) but if the entertainment has many members/performers or is technology intensive or it is high-end, named entertainment, that usually dictates the size of the stage and the maximum requirements, so you’ll want to set that stage from the beginning, Valentini advises. “Review the entertainment rider and show to your production people before signing,” he adds.
6. Graphics and Lighting Designers: Yes or No?
If expectations are high, it’s worth it. You can get each for $5,000 (up to $10,000 if the graphics designer is bringing in his or her own computers). In particular, a lighting designer “can make the difference between an ordinary and a really cool staged event,” Valentini says.
7. Rigging and Power Made Simple.
Rigging is everything on the ceiling. For typical productions, rigging will be $5,000 to $25,000. “Rigging takes three guys,” says Valentini. “If someone tells you it takes 10, they’re not telling you the truth.” As for power, the vast majority of programs have one of two power requirements for lighting and sound: either 100 amp/200 amp service or 60 amp/100 amp service. It depends on the size of the stage and what else is being lighted. “In 30 years of doing this, I have never used anything else, so don’t let anyone charge you for 400 amp service,” Valentini notes. “You don’t need it.” The usual price for 100 amp/200 amp service for a week (i.e., anything more than two days) is $3,000.
Note that costs vary by market, he adds, and that if there are unions involved, you need to research union rules.
8. Negotiate Power and Internet as a Concession.
“If you’re spending $30,000 or $40,000 on production, that’s a reasonable request,” Valentini says.
9. Create Floor Plans and Share Them.
Make sure the decorator, for example, sees what space can and cannot be used based on your production setup.
10. What’s New: Large LED Displays.
The newest large, flat, LED displays are great for special effects and backgrounds, Valentini says. They can also help you deliver on executives’ wildest requests. Need a roaring fire? Clever use of an LED display is a nice, safe option. “They can cost $8,000 to $13,000, but consider that it is an alternative to a stage set,” he says.
11. What’s New: Video Signage.
A “video podium” is a lectern with a plasma TV built in to the front. They cost between $200 and $300 a day to rent, and offer a much more creative and versatile way to do lectern signs.
12. Skip the 3D.
Because you need an absolutely dark room and glasses, 3D technology is still not feasible for most meeting environments, Valentini believes.