As live events return, they will look very different and require a variety of modifications from planners, venues and audiovisual (providers. For example, hybrid meetings—blending both in-person and virtual components—will be the new norm.
For planners, maximizing budget is always important, but in the months following COVID-19, it is critical. As recovery continues, budgets will be affected for months to come. Events will need to be well planned and seamlessly executed because the attendee experience will matter more than ever. With new health and safety protocols, social distancing guidelines and food and beverage regulations in place, communication with your venue and service providers—early and often—is key to successfully carrying out safe, yet engaging live events.
Larry Blocker, vice president and general manager of Media Stage, a member of the Rental and Staging Network, says one of the best ways planners can extend their budget is to involve their AV provider early in the planning phase.
That simple, yet important step allows the AV team to make equipment recommendations that maximize your budget. It also ensures plenty of time to collaborate with the venue to identify efficient and cost-effective audiovisual solutions that will work within a space.
Blocker offers additional tips for maximizing AV spend:
Tip 1: Ask your provider for ways to consolidate or reduce venue charges. For example, if you are renting furniture for an event and it has charging stations in it, let your AV team know early in the planning process. That can save you from having to purchase more power at the last minute or ordering it twice and being charged double the labor by the venue.
Tip 2: Maximize use of your general session room and AV equipment by holding various event functions in one space. Work with your AV team to transform the room throughout the event, which will allow you to use the same AV for multiple sessions.
Tip 3: Host shorter breakout sessions in one or two main rooms to reduce the number of spaces that require AV.
Tip 4: Use an LED screen to do double-duty—use it on the stage as an adaptable scenic element and as a way to display sponsor logos.
Tip 5: Consider a stationary scenic piece that can be projected on or custom lit with gobos, a stencil or template placed in front of a light, to create imagery, patterns or shapes that support the event branding or theme. They are a budget-friendly alternative to signage, providing visual interest in a dynamic way.
Tip 6: Use color changing LED uplights on gray drape to quickly change the look and feel of a room. Reducing spend does not mean you have to cut branding or sacrifice visual appeal.
Tip 7: Inquire about interactive livestreaming solutions in place of live events or to complement in-person gatherings.
For in-person meetings, capacity limits will be lowered, seating arrangements will be spaced more widely and physical touchpoints will be minimized.
“There will be more sophisticated virtual participation options and smaller satellite events to accompany larger gatherings,” says Chris Gerhart, president of Crescent Event Productions, another RSN member. “Planners will need to consider budgeting for elements of live stream or other types of virtual platforms.”
Pre-recorded content will become standard for quite some time. “The show will go on; it will just look different,” Blocker adds. “There will be a rise in webcasting and pre-recorded messages and presentations. Apps will also be used during events to conduct polls and to increase engagement.”
AV providers are adjusting to the “new normal,” as well by offering a broadened array of virtual and livestream solutions. “Companies may even opt to build a custom set or studio from which a live webcast can be broadcast across the web or within meetings spaces at a venue to ensure adherence to capacity guidelines,” Blocker says.
AV companies will also put more of a focus on demonstrating and communicating the measures they are taking to ensure the health and safety of clients and attendees. “Offering new windscreens for all microphones, providing individually assigned microphones for presenters, supplying hand sanitizer to presenters, regularly disinfecting equipment and even wearing masks will be expected,” Gerhart said.
Attendees will be reluctant to commit to registering for events amid safety fears and travel restrictions.
“Live event vendors will need to reconsider their policies surrounding cancellation, force majeure, and the like,” Gerhart says. “The companies that will bounce back from this crisis are those that will meet their clients at their point of fear or hesitation and help them navigate the road to recovery with flexibility.”