What Is AV? The Event Planner's Guide

In this article, we explain everything you need to know about AV in your next event. Let’s make technical difficulties a thing of the past.

June 13, 2024

In event planning, nothing transforms the atmosphere of an event quite like AudioVisual (AV) technology. AV is the heart and soul of any event. It drives immersive experiences beyond what presenters can achieve.

As seasoned experts in event production, our team at Catalyst delivers exceptional AV services for events all around the world. We’re passionate about it, we’re good at it, and we have fun with it. And we want you to have fun with it too!

In this article, we explain everything you need to know about AV in your next event. Let’s make technical difficulties a thing of the past.

Understanding the Basics of AV Technology

So what does AV stand for in an event setting? Well, AV technology is all the equipment used for transmitting sound and visuals during an event. It’s also responsible for all lighting.

  • Microphones: Capture and amplify sound coming from a presenter or performance.
  • Speakers: Broadcast sound in the event space; often used with microphones and audio mixers.
  • Mixers: These adjust the quality and levels of audio inputs
  • Lighting: Lights set the mood and highlight focal points in the event space.
  • Projectors: Display videos or images on large screens; ideal for visual presentations.
  • LED Screens: Showcase visuals and messages; especially useful in large events for maximum visibility.
  • Video Cameras: Broadcast or record the event, especially helpful for live streaming or creating event recaps.

These elements enhance the event's message and boost engagement of attendees.

Now that we've defined the key components of audiovisual technology, let's explore how these elements create engaging event experiences.

The Core Benefits of AV Technology in Event Planning

AV technology simplifies event management, letting you streamline tasks and bring creative visions to life. With the right AV solutions, virtually any event concept can be achieved.

Our team at Catalyst blends passion and expertise to deliver truly exceptional events. We handle every aspect from innovative AV design to top-notch equipment and customer service, ensuring your event is a cut above the rest.

Effective AV Planning and Contract Negotiations

With a handle on AV basics and benefits, a logical next step is mapping out your AV needs and associated contracts. Here are some upfront questions to ask when negotiating with an event venue:

  1. What exclusivity clauses are in place with in-house AV services?
  2. Can I hire an independent AV company and if so, are there associated costs?
  3. Are there exclusive AV labor contracts in place, such as union contracts for my external AV company?
  4. Are any service charges negotiable?

Remember—hotels' exclusive vendor requirements, for rigging, power or internet, are often flexible. Negotiate these if needed. You can also notify them that you already have a contract with an outside AV company.

Building an Effective AV Request for Proposal (RFP)

Creating a detailed request for proposal is crucial for aligning with AV vendors. It allows event planners to convey technical specifications and expectations up front.

When designing an AV request for proposal (RFP), start by clearly defining the event's purpose, target audience, and expected number of attendees. Here's what to include in an RFP:

I. Event Overview:

  • Event date and duration
  • Event location (with floor plan if available)
  • General description of the event (type of event, attendees' demographics, expected attendance)

II. Audio Requirements:

  • Define your audio coverage needs. For example, "Require audio system capable of covering over 5,000 sq.ft. area."
  • Specify any special audio needs, such as separate PA systems for outdoor areas, live performances, etc.
  • How many mics are needed and what type? Ex. “Handheld, lavalier, headset and your favorite throwable mics with your custom logo on them.”

III. Lighting Requirements:

  • Describe your lighting needs and be as specific as possible. For example, "Require stage lighting for a 12'x32' stage with capabilities for spotlighting and color washes."
  • Highlight any special effects or unique lighting needs such as LED lights, moving heads, follow spots, etc. Do you want any up lights on the drape or around the room? Do you want any custom gobos with your logo? If so, where? Lastly, do you want to create a specific mood in the room with lighting? If so, do you have any picture examples?

IV. Video Requirements:

  • Describe your video requirements, i.e., "2 large LED screens suitable for a room size of 5,000 sq.ft. to project live feed and presentations."
  • Highlight any additional video services like live streaming, post-event recap video, etc.
  • Are cameras needed? If so, how many? Do you want to see these cameras on the screens?
  • Will your presenters have any digital presentation they want to put on screens?  PowerPoint or Keynote slides, for example.
  • If you will have digital presentations, will a wireless slide advancer or a “clicker” be needed?  This allows the presenter to advance their slides wirelessly.
  • Do you want any monitors for the presenters to see at the end of the stage? If so, what do you want on these screens? Do you want a countdown timer?

V. Drape Requirements:

  • Specify total linear footage of drape needed. Ex: "Require 150 linear feet of drape."
  • Include height drapes should be installed at. Ex: "12 ft height."
  • Specify drape colors needed. Ex: "Drapes should be event colors Pantone 123C and 456U."

VI. Load-in/out Dates and Times:

Provide precise load-in/out dates and times that align with your event schedule and venue availability.

VII. Schedule:

  • Provide a detailed schedule for each day, including start/end times and breaks.
  • Include the expected number of presenters each day and their requirements if any (e.g., wireless microphone, teleprompter).

VIII. Other Specific Requirements:

  • If the event requires rehearsals, provide dates and times for this.
  • Any other special requirements such as stage setup (lectern, ramps, backstage monitor), rigging points, etc.

IX. Budget:

If feasible, provide a budget or range which will help suppliers create a fitting proposal.

X. Site Visit:

  • If possible, offer a site visit for prospective vendors to inspect the venue.
  • A well-detailed RFP enables vendors to fully understand your expectations, provide accurate quotes, and design an AV solution best suited for your event.

Creative Set Design and AV Integration

Transforming the theme of an event into a visual spectacle can be a fun part of AV implementation. For example:

  • An exotic car showcase could use elevated, rotating stages, intelligent spotlights, large LED screens, and up lights to highlight each car's unique features.
  • A full band concert can leverage multi-level stages with synchronized moving lights and video mapping for a dynamic and immersive environment.
  • An outdoor charity gala could combine garden lights, LED chandeliers, and logo projectors for an inviting and purpose-consistent setting.
  • A corporate award ceremony might use a grand LED backdrop, moving spotlights, and scrolling ticker tapes to focus on awardees and company messages.

Whatever design you decide to go with, strategic AV enhances events' distinctiveness and memorability.

Budgeting for Your AV Needs

Managing your event's AV expenses doesn't have to be hard. Here's what to consider:

Factors Affecting Your AV Budget

The price tag of your AV setup can be shaped by various elements, such as:

  • Rigging requirements: The complexity of your setup can affect the cost.
  • Ceiling height: Higher ceilings require more gear and setup time.
  • Power availability: Depending on the power your equipment needs, you might need to incorporate the cost of additional power supply.
  • Internet speeds: For streaming or online components, faster internet costs more.
  • Load-in/out requirements: The time and complexity of setting up and breaking down your equipment can add to the cost.
  • Flooring needs: Certain types of flooring, like carpets, might involve extra charges.
  • Drape requirements: Using drapes to divide or decorate space can add to your budget.
  • Architectural features: Some venues have pillars or other architectural features that might complicate setup and add to costs.

Factor in these aspects when planning your AV needs and event setup to avoid any unexpected monetary surprises.

Cost-Effective Strategies and Design Factors

There are several ways to maximize your AV budget without compromising the quality of your event:

  1. Prioritize Needs: Allocate the majority of your budget to AV elements that will have the most impact at your event.
  2. Versatile Lighting: Invest in versatile lighting equipment that can change the mood and atmosphere without additional gear.
  3. Work with Venue Restrictions: Incorporate restricting venue features such as pillars into your design to avoid costly adjustments.
  4. Leverage Existing AV Gear: If your venue comes with certain AV equipment, make good use of it to save on rental costs.
  5. Package Deals: Some AV providers may offer package deals, which can cut your overall cost.

If you’re smart about your event AV design and choices, you can create a stunning, immersive event without breaking the bank.

External Factors Influencing AV Requirements

The architecture, size, and features of your event venue are crucial in dictating your AV requirements. This includes its layout or floor plan, ceiling height, and power availability.

However, there are other non-venue factors to consider, including:

  • Audience Size: With a bigger audience, you may need a more robust sound system, larger screens, or more screens, to ensure everyone can perfectly see and hear the presentation.
  • Presentation Type: A live music performance, for example, would need more audio equipment in contrast to a corporate keynote speech.
  • Desired Audio Impact: If your event is designed to have a powerful auditory impact — like a concert or a multimedia show — then you'll need a more powerful sound setup.

Always get key venue data - on aisle size, occupancy numbers, exits. Secure the needed permits too.

These factors give you a full overview of AV requirements, so you can plan a successful event.

Latest Trends in AV Technology

Modern event planning leverages several AV technology trends:

  • LED Displays: These provide high-quality visuals and are increasingly replacing projection systems for sharper and brighter images.
  • Interactive Hybrid Events: Combining live and digital components to provide a more inclusive event experience for both in-person and virtual audiences.
  • Popular Music Choices: Using well-known and trendy music to set the mood and engage attendees.
  • Audience Polling: Interactive polling can increase audience engagement and provide instant feedback.
  • RFID for Name Badges: Get real-time location of your attendees and invaluable information on their interests. You can check which crowd left one presentation over another or what booths were visited most.
  • Surprise Effects: Implementing unexpected elements like cryo cannons or balloon drops makes the event more memorable.
  • Recap Videos: A culmination of event highlights in a video format helps create evergreen content that extends the life of the event.

Adopt these and more technological trends to deliver an immersive event experience for your attendees.

Leveraging AV for Brand Sponsorship and Marketing

Here are some innovative ways to use event AV technology for brand promotion and sponsorship:

  • Gobos: Use custom-made gobos to project your brand logo or sponsor's logo onto various surfaces at the event venue.
  • LED Archway: An LED archway at the entrance can display captivating brand-related visuals or sponsor logos, easily attracting the attention of attendees.
  • Break Videos: Play sponsor advertisements or promotional videos during breaks. This can optimize the downtime and consistently keep the audience engaged.
  • Set Integration: Incorporate brand elements in the event set itself using AV technology—like displaying logos on digital backdrops or LED screens.
  • LED Bracelets: Hand out LED bracelets flashing in your brand's colors or synced to event activities that attendees will remember.
  • Name Badges & Lanyards: If using RFID or illuminated badges, integrate the brand logo or sponsor's logo. It can be a constant reminder of the brand throughout the event.

Each of these methods is a clever way to leverage AV equipment for brand sponsorship, promote brand recall, and make a lasting impression on attendees.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in AV Planning

Watch out for these common pitfalls to ensure a smooth event:

  1. Overlooking Technical Needs: Fully grasp the technical requirements of your event; this includes power needs, rigging requirements, and internet speeds.
  2. Not Scheduling Enough Setup Time: Rushing the setup can cause errors or technical issues. Make sure you schedule enough time for setting up and testing your AV equipment.
  3. Poor Communication with AV Providers: Maintain clear and regular communication with your AV team. They should be thoroughly briefed about your requirements and expected timelines.
  4. Neglecting Contingency Plans: Always have a backup plan. Whether it's additional spare equipment or an alternative power source, be ready for unforeseen AV issues that might arise during the event.

Keep these common mistakes in mind so you can proactively address issues before they have a chance to disrupt your event.

Practical AV Checklist and Setup Guide

Whether you're hosting a seminar, conference, or music festival, an appropriate audio-visual (AV) setup is important. A tailored AV checklist and setup guide can streamline your preparation process for a smoother event.

AV Event Checklist

Initial steps towards effective planning:

  1. Understanding Event Requirements: Different events have different AV needs. Document your event's specific requirements regarding audio, video, lighting, etc.
  2. Inspection of Venue: Evaluate your venue in advance to get familiar with its structure, layout, in-house resources, and any restrictions that might affect your AV configuration.
  3. Equipment List: Based on your event needs and venue structure, compile an exhaustive list of equipment required, including necessary backups.
  4. Team Assignments & Roles: Assign clear roles and responsibilities to your technical team members to make sure every aspect of the setup is duly managed.
  5. Vendor Communication: If you're renting equipment, maintain open communication with vendors about your needs, setup, and support during the event.
  6. Internet & Power Requirements: Ensure the venue has the necessary power supply and internet bandwidth to accommodate your event's AV needs.
  7. Contingency Planning: Determine what backup equipment and support systems are needed in case of unexpected issues.

AV Setup Guide

Effective measures for a smooth event AV setup:

  1. Early Setup: Whenever possible, set up your AV equipment in advance to allow enough time for testing and adjustments.
  2. Soundchecks: Conduct thorough soundchecks, making adjustments for optimum acoustics based on the venue's architecture.
  3. Visual Tests: After setting up your projectors or LED screens, run visual tests to assess the clarity, brightness, and visibility from various vantage points.
  4. Presenter Requirements: Each presenter may have individual preferences and needs; review each presenter's technical requirements beforehand so they can focus on their presentations.
  5. Rehearsals: If possible, presenters should rehearse with the actual AV setup to identify and resolve any issues ahead of time.
  6. Tech Run-through: Do a complete technical run-through to make sure all systems are well integrated and functioning optimally.
  7. Support During Event: Have your technical team or support from your vendor available during the event to handle any sudden issues or changes.

Using a comprehensive checklist to plan your AV needs and leveraging the expertise of a reliable AV company, like Catalyst, will help ensure seamless execution during your event.

Catalyst's Expertise in Action: Case Studies and Examples

The team at Catalyst has built a solid reputation for delivering exceptional AV solutions — with a forward-thinking approach and commitment to outstanding event management. Let's take a closer look at what some of our satisfied clients have to say:

  • Tom Ferry, Founder of Tom Ferry - Your Coach: Tom has trusted Catalyst for the past sixteen years to transform his events into engaging and entertaining experiences. He appreciates their exceptional service in both event production and management.

"Everybody says, Tom your shows are different, it's part rock concert, part fun, how do you do it? Having a group that's so experienced and professional and understands the whole entertainment side of our business - whether I'm delivering the most boring keynote speech or talking to 7,000 salespeople, people want the show. And Catalyst delivers the show and delivers it the right way. "

  • Joseph Mcclendon III, Author/ Presenter/ Ultimate Performance Coach: Joseph highlights the importance of ensuring all aspects of an event are well taken care of, from the sound to the overall atmosphere. He values the top-notch service provided by Catalyst, allowing him to focus on his performance.

"There's nothing more important or more comforting than to know that everything's taken care of when you show up. That determines whether you're gonna do a great job or not, and what I mean by that is your sound, the look, the feel, the room. And the thing about Catalyst is that I look forward to working with them."

  • Ryan Deiss, CEO of Digital Marketer: Ryan applauds Catalyst's proactive approach, recognizing their ability to foresee and address potential problems. Their knack for finding solutions even before issues emerge has contributed to the success of complex events.

"What I love about these guys is they actually anticipate. They are thinking ahead of things that could come up and coming up with solutions before you even realize that things could be a problem."

  • Todd Duncan, International Best-selling Author, and Speaker: With 25 years of experience in the events business, Todd found the perfect production partner in Catalyst. He admires their refreshing passion, professionalism, creativity, and the value they bring to each event.

"I've been in the event business for over 25 years, and I've never worked over that time with a production company that brings such freshness and passion, professionalism, creativity, and value as I have with Catalyst. As an event guy, I never have to worry for the rest of my life about having a great production company because I found one. "

  • Todd Herman, CEO of 90 Day Year: Todd recommends anyone seeking to host top-notch events to turn to Catalyst for their expertise and exceptional service.

"I can tell you this, if you are someone who cares about having world-class events, you NEED to talk to Catalyst!"

  • Tom Ferry, CEO of Tom Ferry International: Tom chose Catalyst for their innovative approach, and he strongly encourages others in the industry to consider partnering with them as well.

"I chose Catalyst for one reason: Innovation. Innovation. Innovation. I strongly, strongly recommend them."

Bringing Your Event to Life: Catalyst is the Key

AV technology is clearly a significant aspect of event planning — helping your audience feel engaged and connected to help ensure the success of your event.

It's therefore important to have a trusted partner by your side that understands the importance of event AV technology. And that's where Catalyst comes in.

Our team effortlessly blends their passion for innovation and attention to detail to ensure your events stand out from the crowd. You can have confidence that we'll handle every aspect of your event with top-notch AV equipment while providing exceptional customer service.

Schedule your free 30-minute event consultation today and let's get you started on your event planning.