Those slightly scary guys dressed in black who magically make pictures appear, lights dance around and make stuff louder. It’s as important for conference and event producers to understand them as it is for them to understand you.
Here are ten tips for conference and event organisers on getting the best out of your technician(s). For the purposes of this article we’ll assume the technician is a “he” working alone or in a team of two or three.
1. Coffee. This is the staple life support of a technician on an early morning start who has more than likely had little sleep working late ensuring everything works, looks good and is ready for you when you arrive in the morning. Most likely you’ve been up half the night preparing too but if you know how to get your hands on a coffee you’ll immediately get a smile and the lead up to the start of the event will be happier and more efficient.
2. Explain. A technician’s mind needs to know how and why as well as what; it’s analytical and logical. If you make a technical request ensure the technician gets a brief explanation of why you need it as he may well have a quicker, neater or more flexible solution for you.
3. Presentation. Slides, music, videos: they are all really important and your technician understands this. If there are a number of presenters throughout the day it is wise to check how much pressure is on him and whether you can assist with managing the flow of requests from them, clients and colleagues. It may be that waiting until the coffee break or lunch will be better. If you have a ready-made presentation for awards for example do try to get it to him as early as feasible or ideally before the day if possible.
4. Technical. Occasionally there are technical glitches: slow computers, strange noises, flickery pictures; usually during rehearsals. Your AV technician will have done as much as possible to avoid these but sometimes they are out of his control. In an ideal world your technician will want to halt proceedings and fix the problem but this of course isn’t reality. If it can be fixed on the fly it will be done. Avoid pointing out the problem is “still there” – it only serves to aggravate and put stress on him, thus removing his focus from the issue to be resolved. A quiet conversation to ascertain how and agree when it can be fixed will help enormously. Whatever happens don’t touch any control equipment yourself!
5. Sound. Avoid touching table-top or lectern microphones, avoid pointing microphones at loudspeakers, don’t push switches on radio microphones. If you’re ushering microphones during Question and Answer sessions keep eye contact with the technician so he can see where the questioner is. If possible hand the questioner the microphone the right way round!
6. Screen. Most good AV technicians can edit PowerPoint and work with video and it helps if all clips are available separately as well as within your presentation. Don’t forget that whilst the presentation may run perfectly on your laptop a different machine will need to buffer the videos. Your technician will always be looking for the way to ensure the best possible quality and smoothest running presentation so he may have to make a few adjustments to a complex presentation to get it looking its best on the big screen(s).
7. Food. It can be difficult to get a lunch or dinner break with demands from technical issues, changes, presenters and presentations taking up a lot of time and often your technician won’t get a chance to leave his position even for a comfort break. If you notice this please see if there’s a way of getting a plate of food and drink to him, running on empty is not recommended!
8. Help! Don’t be afraid to ask for some assistance when you’re under pressure. A good technician will integrate into your team and work with you to ensure your client has a positive experience. If that means moving some chairs then so be it! If he’s already busy with his work then he’ll tell you but if he says “it’s not my job” then you probably need to consider your technician options for your next event!
9. Finishing. The end of the conference or presentation may be time for you to go home and collapse. For your technician there will be a few more hours of fairly hard work dismantling and then a drive home, possibly further unloading. Do take a moment to say good bye and thanks.
10. Next Event. If your technician ticked all the boxes and exceeded your expectations do feel free to request your project or account manager sends him on your next event.