Heidi Foels is a producer at metroConnections, where she’s worked since 2013. She manages clients, executes corporate events and performs detailed project management. Foels has a degree in marketing from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.
Those in the wild world of planning and executing meetings, conferences and events have all been there: Your keynote is late, your contact forgot to send you the presentation, catering is early, someone shuffled the name tags, and you ran out of coffee. Relax! Here are five tips for things you can control to ensure your event is smooth sailing from registration to closing remarks.
I cannot stress how important it is to double- and triple-check that all your equipment is onsite and ready to go at rehearsal — and then again right before showtime. This includes flash drives with ALL show content, laptops, projectors, batteries, microphones and clickers. Always include a backup clicker, microphone and laptop. These are the presenter’s bread and butter to giving a successful, impactful presentation. Even if you think you might not need a piece of equipment, bring it. I promise, you won’t regret it.
At metroConnections, we always recommend that event planners bring a backup microphone. Once, a panel we were producing insisted on using lavalier microphones after we’d suggested passing a handheld mic so there would be an extra if one failed or if the audience had questions.
Lo and behold, one of the lavaliers failed, and the panelist had to share with the person next to them. Since it was being recorded live, no one at home was able to hear audience questions. We’re confident this client will never forget to add a backup microphone to the order again, but we don’t want anyone else to learn the hard way.
On the flip side, last summer our team was setting up for an event in 90-degree heat. We worked through rehearsals and setup with no issues.
By the time we opened the doors for attendees, the projector had melted. Yes, melted.
Luckily, we had a backup projector in place. Without that, we would have had to produce a four-hour show with one less screen, which was the only visible factor for 200 people on the left side of the room. The client was elated to know that by having this backup on hand, they didn’t have to stress about the alternative — keynote dissatisfaction and a potential negative attendee experience.
Check (more than once!) that your confidence monitors are working and any teleprompter equipment is hooked up to the correct presentation notes or speech. Avoid keynote tragedy by making sure the presenter has all the information they need right in front of them in working order, ready to go.
Another insider tip we’ve adopted as the norm is simulating equipment failures during rehearsals. What would a teleprompter fail look and feel like? Let your speaker practice ad-libbing, stalling and speaking relevantly off-the-cuff, should the worst-case scenario happen during the actual event.
How about a video failing to play — how could that be remedied? Your production team should have a Plan B and C for seamlessly flipping to a new machine or playing a delayed version of the video.
For PowerPoint and other presentation formats, it’s imperative that you run through them entirely (twice!) to ensure fonts have been properly transferred, there are no spelling errors, and all the slides are in the correct order.
If your program requires any videos, watch through them multiple times to guarantee there are no glitches and that the audio is there and matches up. Anticipation is the name of the game! And you can never over-test that everything will go smoothly on the big day.
Have an extra panel chair or tables tucked away (out of sight, but easy to access) just in case your executive decides to add a person to a panel or you need an extra table to sit at and work for a few minutes while folks are at a breakout.
Extra signage is another must-have — especially if you’re working with materials like foam core or cardboard. It’s not difficult for something like that to get damaged from the office to the event venue, so having more than you need is the way to go.
If your budget is tight, or your truck is already full — do yourself a favor prior to show day and research local vendors who can help in a pinch. It wouldn’t hurt to give them a call and prep them with the necessary information, including graphic files, fonts, brand booklets, furniture preferences, etc. Do this extra step up front and thank yourself later!
If there is information in your brain related to your program, write it down on a piece of paper or type it out in an email. Anything from the time the keynote speaker needs to get mic’d up, to when the mid-session snacks need to be set out, get absolutely everything you can in writing — it’ll make it so much easier to transfer information to others if need be.
You never know if a team member has an emergency on event day, but you can anticipate needing to transfer logistics and other details to anyone by documenting everything.
Every meeting, conference or event has the starters: the main venue contact, the main client contact, the main event planner, etc. But just like any major sports team, never
underestimate how valuable the backups can be.
Whether it’s a secondary venue contact who can open a door when your primary contact is on the other side of the event space, or having a colleague back at the office who can send an email while you’re running around prepping the venue, these seemingly simple tasks often end up making or breaking the smoothness of event setup and execution.
This may seem like overkill, but trust me, you’ll be so grateful you took the time and energy that goes into preventing backup-related mishaps.
If any of these are not already part of your overall meeting, conference or event-planning procedure, it’ll take some time to integrate. But after you’ve done it a few times, they’ll be so ingrained in you that bringing extra mics and knowing who your trusted backups are will come naturally. I&FMM