“Sound Good?” Be Ready To Work With Your Sound Engineer

So much goes into planning an event.  Organizers check in with the caterer, speaker, musicians and a host of others, planning carefully so that everything is choreographed perfectly to accomplish the event goals.

But there is one crucial person often neglected in pre-event planning —  the venue sound engineer.  This person will be configuring the room, running wires, setting up microphones and planning media integration for your event and he (or she) needs to know exactly what you have in mind before you arrive on-site. Lead time gives your sound engineer room to find or reserve special equipment or personnel you might need, the ability to think through possible conflicts or problems, and the opportunity to make suggestions for improvements. Without the appropriate planning and set-up, the group portions of your event could suffer.  Communicating early and clearly with your sound engineer and his team are key to insuring that your ideas will run smoothly on stage. At least a month before your event:

  1. Contact the sound engineer of the venue where you will be holding your event.  Introduce yourself and set up a time to discuss your needs.  If he can’t commit to a phone meeting (often difficult due to the nature of their job) agree to communicate over email.
  2. Think through what you want to see happen on stage during each group session.  Will there be a speaker, a band, a video, a panel of experts?  Consider each of the elements for each session and jot them down.  Talk through these elements with your sound engineer, and ask for questions or input.
  3. If sticking to a strict schedule is important to you, consult your sound engineer on how much time you should add in for moving microphones, changing sets and moving people on and off stage.  An event can easily stretch ten or fifteen minutes longer than you anticipated if you don’t build in time for these necessities.
  4. Be patient and flexible.  You may have been planning this event for a year, but your sound engineer has just a few weeks to learn, design, set-up and run your group sessions.  Given enough forewarning, there’s a good chance he can structure things to your guidelines. But, if you hit a snag during planning ask him for suggestions on a solution.  You are the expert on your event, but he is expert on what will work in the venue. He doesn’t want to see you fail, so enlist his opinion.

Including the venue sound engineer in your pre-event planning ensures less surprises, last minute panic attacks, and reduces the use of the phrase “I don’t think that’s going to work”.  You’ve worked hard to plan a first-class function, and now you’ve taken one more step to ensure your message will be communicated clearly.