What meeting planners need to know about AV

What meeting planners need to know about AV

by Rodrick Pauley, Vice President – Mills James Experience Group

To be successful, meeting and event planners today need to be generalists - skilled across all aspects of event planning, management and production. While many planners are great with people, logistics, transportation and the big picture, most don’t have even a preliminary understanding of basic audiovisual principles. Of course, it’s not essential to be a total AV whiz yourself, but you must know the basic functions of major pieces of gear, the roles and responsibilities of different members of the AV crew, and above all, when and how to hire help.


Getting meeting planners up to speed on AV was the mission for six of us presenting at The Special Event 16, the national convention of meeting planners held January 12-14 in Orlando, Florida. Our session was “Tech Time: AV from A to Z” a workshop designed to demystify event and entertainment production planning, buying and execution.

Joining me as presenters were five more speakers from the Creative Event Team [formerly known as TeamNet] a consortium of experts from around the country who imagine, design and execute meetings and events that connect brands with audiences. The 90-minute session helped attendees identify standard audiovisual gear, understand common AV practices and steer clear of avoidable production pitfalls. 

Here are several areas of AV that we think should be required knowledge for any full-service meeting and event planner:

  • An understanding of basic production equipment including the ability to identify it in bids and proposals as well as on site
  • An understanding of the factors that differentiate audiovisual suppliers, in-house providers and production companies
  • A grasp of production labor including the functions of standard tech positions, the differences between union and non-union labor from a cost and scheduling perspective and best labor practices

At every event, there are always tool-belted, cord-carrying crew members scrambling around to perform their duties. And believe me, it’s difficult to have a meaningful discussion with a meeting planner about their production crew [“Your L1, A1, A2 and V1 will be here for setup at 1:30 tomorrow.”] when they don’t know the descriptions or the basic job functions of the people who will be staffing their show.

As the old saying goes, you don’t get “do-overs” in the live events staging industry. That’s why I truly believe the more understanding and communication meeting and event planners can have about their AV crews, the positions their technicians hold during the event, and the major equipment components used in live staging, the better and smoother their events will be.