Lights, camera…AV

Within the live event and conference sector, sorting out the required AV services tends to feature high up on an organiser’s ‘to do’ list. The means by which AV is incorporated into an event depends predominately on the organiser’s preferences and the venue’s stance on AV suppliers.

Using an in-house team, either an external supplier based in the venue, or the venue’s own AV team, seems to be the preferred method of many of the UK’s venues.

Many venues are open to clients bringing in their own suppliers, but most seem to make use of the specialist team already in place.

“We have always had an in-house supplier because we want to provide a one stop shop for all elements of producing an event and AV is integral to this,” says James Varah, Event Sales Director at The Brewery in London. “We find that approximately 70 per cent of our clients choose to use our supplier AVC.”

Among the benefits of using a single supplier, Varah notes building a strong relationship with the in-house team and using their knowledge and experience to ensure the venue provides the most innovative and up-to-date technology is key.

Other benefits, Varah says, include having the team available to attend clients’ meetings and provide advice and expertise. “We can also ensure that client costs are as low as possible, as we keep a lot of our equipment on site,” he adds.

From AVC’s perspective, working as an extension of the venue means the team can provide a consistent approach and delivery of services. “Having a dedicated in-house technical management team gives complete accessibility to event organisers and means we can regularly survey the equipment and invest in new technology,” says Business Development Manager, Julie Howles.

This method does have its challenges, Howles notes, with logistics, finding on-site space to store equipment and ensuring turnaround is seamless for back-to-back events, the main offenders.

Excel London’s in-house service provider Blitz Communications’ Branch Manager, Tey Mossadeghi also mentions scheduling conflicts when space is let back-to-back with no gaps for service prep or pre rigging as one of the most tricky issues in-house service providers have to deal with. However, he says that liaising closely with delivery partners, working overnight, or pre-installing equipment to facilitate a quick turnaround can help ease this type of challenge.

“As an on-site supplier we have an intimate knowledge of the building and its infrastructure, which often allows us to find creative solutions,” he says.

Presentation services company PSAV is the in-house AV provider in more than 1,200 locations worldwide, and lists the main benefits as knowing the venue inside and out; employing its technological expertise and creative talent in the service of one mission; and improving the venues’ businesses.

30 Euston Square works in partnership with London-based Metro Broadcast, which provides on-site technician support, additional specialist equipment and keeps on trend with the latest equipment. The venue sees continual digital development as the way forward, with expectations for an increase in demand for multi-functioning technology across events, including iPad registration, online polling and Twitter Q&A’s.

Farncombe Conference Centre’s Assistant Operations Manager, Dave Streeter says ease of use for corporate groups when it comes to AV is key and the reason behind the venue moving to a new system, with just a simple panel control. “It’s plug in and play and our customers love it as it creates less anxiety.”

Rather than use an external in-house supplier, some venues employ their own in-house AV team. RSA House in London has full in-house control and its AV team all have technology backgrounds and training enabling them to fix any problems quickly.

The venue hosts a number of hybrid events weekly and, as such, now has the required facilities to support these events. New AV facilities include HD cameras for video streaming and simultaneous recording of live images, HD broadcast studio capabilities and bespoke multi-touch interactive walls.

The AV Manager at Robinson College (RC) in Cambridge has over 20 years’ experience and works with a team that can be extended according to the needs of the event.

The venue hosted an event for the Cambridge University Technology and Enterprise Club which in the first year saw the organisers bring in their own AV specialists to work alongside the venue’s in-house AV team. However, the following year they chose to use only the college’s AV team.

“The reason for using RC’s in-house  AV specialists was their high level of expertise and knowledge of the space and technology available on-site,” says Alessandra Caggiano, from Cambridge Event Management, which organised the event. “They were able to fully understand our requirements and put in place our vision for an event which is all about technology and required high tech solutions for keynote presentations and streamed interviews with international speakers.”

While ACC Liverpool has its own in-house production team, the venue also has a preferred supplier list and will work with any AV company of a client’s choice.

“We have a great relationship with many visiting production companies, who may have been working with their clients for years,” says Senior Production and Technical Manager at ACC Liverpool, Nicky Norman. “As an in-house production team, we’ve grown our level of support to clients and their preferred supplier, often assisting with all rigging and draping services.”

Norman adds that the venue’s selection of on-site equipment, including pre-built large wide screens, means it can offer added extras at significantly lower cost to clients.

One challenge Norman says the venue has been working hard to eradicate, is people’s perception of an in-house team and what they can do as a stand-alone production team. “We’ve done this in a number of ways, including expanding the team from four to 18 members and investing in our equipment.”

From an agency perspective, the different ways in which to get AV into an event each have their own benefits and challenges.

Kim Collins, Director of Events at Capita Travel and Events, says that while in-house control means you have on-site assistance of those who know the kit well and can fix issues quickly, if the in-house kit isn’t geared up for big shows or meetings, it could be a disadvantage.

“You also lose control to some degree. You should choose the venue to accommodate the event design and not the other way round,” she advises.

In terms of using a venue’s preferred supplier list, Collins says this can be useful for turnaround and pre-event access.

Richard Bridge, Creative Director at Top Banana, says: “When venues have a preferred suppliers list it can be a good thing because these companies know the venue inside out, and have proven effective. There is still an element of trust here, so it is a must to ensure the venue’s internal person really understands the brief as it pertains to AV.”

Bridge adds that for venues with basic AV provisions, operating an ‘open door policy’ for a client’s own AV supplier is wise.

For agencies offering AV, Nick Hart, Director of Corporate for Anna Valley, warns that agencies keeping AV in-house are “generally  making an expensive move, but several, including DRP Group, have pulled this strategy off by having the expertise on board and a policy of constant investment to back it up”.

Hart adds that being part of a preferred supplier list is a good way for agencies and venues to work. Care must be taken, he warns, that the list is regularly reviewed to guarantee the best equipment is being used. After all, for some events it is all about AV, and getting AV into an event needs to be as seamless as possible.

This was first published in the June issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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