I volunteer to a number of professional associations principally to help raise the bar with their presentations.
I take my role as Audience Advocate seriously.
Many meetings simply order equipment from an AV supplier letting them put the gear where it is convenient for them. They will often choose close to the power plug, on an existing stage, with a bright window near the screen.
The result - the audience can’t see the video or graphics, see or hear the presenter, feel comfortable in the surroundings.
The same issue happens when a venue, often offered free for the exposure to an MPI chapter, has its tech person set up a meeting as he or she would for the nightclub venue every evening.
Nightclubs would like to expand their revenue by using their venues during the day for small business or association meetings. Typically, they sell by convincing the meeting planner they have sufficient seating, a built-in stage, a sound system, and maybe even a video screen.
A recent venue in Fort Lauderdale had a great sound system for the dance floor but since our meeting expanded under a balcony 20 people seated comfortably there were not able to hear or see the presenter.
Not only were there no speakers under the balcony but there were auxiliary fans running noisily over their heads. The venue HVAC air handler noise is never an issue with powerful DJ music playing in the evening, but caused additional issues for the audience to hear.
The only seating for those under the balcony were low couches. These folks didn't have a good experience.
The built-in stage was set up with a lectern, or beer barrel, set where the band usually plays. There is no issue with the band stage being 5 feet off the ground. But it creates an uncomfortable perch for the presenter in an intimate meeting.
Compound that with rickety, narrow steps to the stage and you have issues for presenters and award winners coming and going to the stage.
While, the venue wants to sell their daytime space, meeting planners should be more aware of these issues before booking any meeting space, especially a unique venue.
I love unique venues from aircraft hangars and aircraft carriers to Carnegie Hall and hotel atriums. They all have unique offerings to the right event.
Every venue should be analyzed from an audience perspective.
Can I see?
Can I hear?
Will I be comfortable?
Will this be a good experience?
Just because the “stuff works” when delivered by an audiovisual technician it often isn’t sufficient to meet the needs of an important meeting. Resist the venue sales person comment “Everyone loves this space, just this way.”
This one was especially uncomfortable because it was a Meeting Professional International event. We should not accept unacceptable venues regardless of cost.
You can’t blame the AV technician or the in-house tech. They haven’t been trained to do anything more than deliver the stuff.
Have an Audience Advocate on your team. Then the stuff will work, you will have backups and the audience will get the full benefit of the event.