It’s time to learn the AV-related things on a site visit that you must check. Because we all know how easy it is to not think about them at first. And you’re visiting a potential venue, so there are a million other things on your mind. But that doesn’t mean that AV should take a step back! Because as we all know, having your AV on point is one of the best ways to ensure a successful event.
So today, our host Will Curran is here to walk you through 17 important points. If you’ve ever wondered what the AV-related things on a site visit that you have to know are, you’ve come to the right place. After this, your next venue visit will be that much easier. So press play and join us on another edition of Whiteboard Wednesday!
AV Related Things On A Site Visit: 17 Points To Check! – Video Transcription
Hey, how’s it going? Endless fans, Will Curran back here with another Whiteboard Wednesday. And today we’re talking about a very common question I get is the questions and the things you need to be thinking about before you pick your venue, when you’re doing your site visit, or maybe even leading up to the event after you’ve chosen your venue. We want to talk about 17 AV related things on a site visit. So I’m going to try to do these in the best order as possible from pre-event, all the way through what load-in you’d want to do as check-in, to the event itself. These are again, what you want to do as part of a site visit, but again, I’m going to do them kind of in logistical order from start to finish for an event on there, as well.
As you’re doing this, you might want to turn this into your own checklist and actual physical document. We also have our own checklist internally at Endless that we use. So when we sit on meetings with our clients and do site visits with them, some of these things are on here, but honestly, our checklist is like 20 times longer because there’s a lot more technical things on there as well, that we need to go through.
Starting at the top, when it comes to your event and making sure everything’s rocking and rolling and good to go is that you want to make sure you ask your venue for any venue guidelines as well. We sometimes call this an AV packet, a third-party AV packet for a venue. Usually, if you just say, “Hey, do you have any AV guidelines that you need to share, that you want our AV company to know about?” You want to get this from them as well. A lot of things will be on here like, do I need to put plastic down on the ground? Are there any hallways that we don’t want rolling cases on? Who do we go to for ordering power? Is the rigging exclusive? Is it not?
Some of these things that we talk about in this checklist, later on, are part of that AV guidelines. But it’s a really cool packet to be able to get. We always ask our clients when they come to us and say, “Hey, we want to work with you.” We usually go to the venues directly and we just ask for this checklist, if we don’t already have it, as well. So ask for those AV guidelines, give that to your AV company, it’ll make your life a lot easier. Sometimes there are some very nuanced things in there, especially like put plastic down in the hallway, no cases can touch the carpet, things like that as well.
Consider The Venue’s Restrictions
The next part of that guidelines, sometimes it is part of the guidelines, you always want to make sure that you ask, “Hey, are there any AV restrictions or union restrictions when it comes to your venue?” The reason why that’s important is obviously, that it can inflate your budget like crazy. Is there any sort of restrictions, like we have to have a babysitter, we call it? So who’s going to sit there and monitor the third-party AV company? Is there any sort of restrictions that you have if I bring in a third-party AV company?
And very, very important, do not just take this verbally, get this in writing. Because the last thing you want to do is they say, “There are no restrictions,” and it’s not in your contract if there are any restrictions. And then they decided and say, “Hey, by the way, we have this restriction. We told you about that during the site visit.” You go, “What? No, you didn’t. That’s crazy.” “Oh, I forgot to tell you.” That’s the worst one, so make sure that you get this in writing, any restrictions, everything like that, as well. A lot of these things honestly, just get them in writing so that way you have it as well.
All right. From there, let’s go into exclusivity when it comes to the rigging of your room as well. I kind of hinted at that in the venue guidelines. But you want to know, are there any rigging restrictions, as well, when it comes to your rigging points and is it exclusive or not? I’m going to come back to that though, to talk a little bit more about detailed nuances with rigging it as well. But if you are planning on doing the rigging, ask if it’s exclusive or not.
AV Related Things On A Site Visit: Load-In
All right, so then coming in and getting ready for load-in. We’re talking about the process. Again, do this during your site visit, not during the actual load-in and ask this question. But the question you want to ask during your site visit is, “When is this room ready, that we’re going to be in?” My gosh, this is such an important question to ask. A lot of times we assume that “Hey, I’m going to sign the contract. I only need it from this date to this date, because that’s when the actual conferences.”
Well, it turns out your third-party AV company says, “We want to come in and load-in the day before your conference, to make sure everything’s running perfectly before you get in there.” And then you end up going back to the venue and say, “Hey, we actually need to buy another day. Can we get it for the next day, the day prior too? Can we add that onto our contract?” And they go, “Oh, you know what? We have a conference that’s leading butt-up, right against yours, so is not available.”
Ask The Right Questions
So now your third-party AV company’s got to come in at like midnight to load-in. Yikes. That can increase costs, make it a headache, sometimes also lead to some issues. So what you always ask when it comes to when is the room ready is. “Are there any conferences before mine?” And “Can I put a right of first refusal for the conference and all the rooms that we’re going to be utilizing for two days prior, before and after the conference, as well?”
The reason why, sometimes your setups are going to grow, they’re going to expand, you need more time, you need to do rehearsals, things like that. You want to know when other conferences are going on around yours as well. Important as well is just to ask that general question too, “Can I get some idea of when you guys are selling events going on at the same time or around because I might want to expand our conference. We might need to add another room,” or things like that.
You Need To Know What’s Going On In The Venue
Far too often I’ve seen it where you aren’t aware of what’s going on and what other things are going on inside those venues. Then afterward, you end up realizing halfway through the planning process, you need to add another room and then you’re begging for it. You’re trying to figure out how to do things weird. You’re trying to cram people in one spot, whatever it is. But this is important because far too often I’ve had it where clients assume that the AV company’s going to load-in the same day as a conference.
Let’s say it starts at noon and you’ll go until 5:00 PM that day. Well, they may come to you and say, “Look, we don’t want to get in there at 6:00 AM and try to cram this all in, in one day. We want to do it the day before.” You have some complexity with some AV things, yadda, yadda, yadda. What we wanted to do is, maybe you need it the day before, make sure that you ask about that just in case, so you’re all good to go. Hopefully, that makes sense.
All right, so moving on down the road, as well. There’s a lot of good stuff here. Let’s move into that load-in process. So when you are coming into your room before you actually get to the room, obviously everything gets received at the dock, where the truck pulls in with the AV company and they need to set up everything. So you want to make sure that you start by walking all the way down to the dock and walking the path from the dock all the way up to the room. The reason why this is important is that if it’s a very long path that might extend your load-in time and the time it’s going to take to load-in. But also as well, it allows you to see, is this a really quick process? Is it big? Is it weird?
For example, I’ve been in Chicago hotels where you’re going up one level, and then coming back down another, and then you go into a half-level and things like that. And that can take a lot of extra time for the AV companies to set this up. Again, a lot of these things, sometimes your AV company should be checking on beforehand or know about before they do the load-in. But this is good stuff for you to check into because it lets you understand, especially if you’re doing a site visit to evaluate if you want this venue, maybe you want to pick the one with the easier load-in process, rather than the more complex one.
See What Things Look Like
So, go down to the dock and see what that’s like as well, and look at what the pathway is like from the room to the dock and vice versa, all that sort of stuff. A big part of that as well, and we’ll get into contacts, is talking about the freight/dock contact, but you also want to make sure that you think about that as well. We’ll come back to that one quick.
Now you’ve pushed everything in, well, let’s say for example, during that load-in, there’s an elevator. Let’s be honest, there’s always an elevator we got to go into and load everything into. Look at the elevator size before you do your loading and what it looks like. For example, we’ve had it before where clients are like, “Yeah, I found this perfect place, it’s fantastic,” but it’s got this tiny elevator. But then they want a lot of truss and rigging and this and that, and we can’t fit it all inside the elevator, the cases are too big, the truss is too big, everything like that. So we got to reevaluate what our plan looks like. A lot of AV companies are going to want to know what that size of the elevator looks like as well, which is very, very important. So check out the elevator size. Again, similar to that pathway from the dock down to the venue and vice versa. Looking at the elevator size and then we’ll continue on.
AV Related Things On A Site Visit: The Room
Now you get into the room, right? And we talk about the room itself, that we’re setting up everything in. One important thing is to verify the dimensions. Far too often when we’re looking at venues, we say, “Hey, give me the venue layouts.” And they say, “The room is 50 foot by 50 foot by 10 foot tall.” And then we go in and we go, “Cool, it’s definitely that size.”
Well, it turns out that the plan was made a couple of years ago before they updated the crown molding, they added this extra closet, whatever it may be. Now, the room’s a little bit smaller. Make sure to verify those dimensions. Bring a laser measure. They don’t cost a lot of money and they allow you to literally at one side of the room, put it up against the wall, shoot a laser across the room and tells you exactly what the length is, which is super-duper helpful.
Where that’s also helpful as well, is the ceiling height, as well. You want to verify the ceiling height because far too often do we say, “Oh yeah, the ceiling height, it’s 20 feet tall.” But then what turns out is that there are big gigantic hanging chandeliers, they hang down four feet. Well, they never measure from the bottom of the ground to the bottom of the chandeliers. They always measure from the floor to the ceiling. Well, if you have a lot of those chandeliers, effectively, your ceiling height has been lowered four feet.
So you want to make sure that you verify that as well and again, that’s where a laser measure comes in helpful because obviously, you’re not going to like sit there with a tape measure and go all the way at 14 feet. You want to put that laser measure on the floor, measure to the bottom of those chandeliers, and then you know the true height of the room based on where the chandeliers are, as well. Super-duper important because far too often do these plans and being wrong and if you have a very tight room or it’s a very specific setup that has to have been there, it can mean almost life or death for your designs.
AV Related Things On A Site Visit: Rigging Points
All right. Coming back into it, when we talk about the ceilings as well, is these rigging points. Again, this really only applies to you if you’re planning on doing any rigging, which is hanging stuff from the ceilings. You can feel free to check out our Whiteboard Wednesday where we talk about all the different types of rigging. If you’re planning on building everything from the ground up and nothing’s hanging from the ceilings, you can ignore this section.
But sometimes it’s also good just to ask about all these questions for the future, especially if you’re going to stay a longterm relationship with this venue, you need to grow into it. But ask them about the rigging points. What I beg you, and oh my gosh, this almost got one of our clients in big trouble, is that they signed off on a venue based on a rigging plot that they had been given. Well, it turns out that that venue didn’t have an accurate rig plot because it totally was changing. They were going to rehaul everything in the next six months. Well, the problem was, what they ended up doing is luckily, that plan made it so there were more rigging points, but if it ended up making it worse, you can pick a venue based on good rigging and this and that, but then they can totally change it.
You want to verify where all those rigging points are in the room. You want to not only get a rigging plot from them, where all the points are, but you also want to verify that it’s accurate as well. This can sometimes, again, verifying dimensions be life or death. For example, if the rigging point is four-feet off, you could plan that “Hey, we’re going to have this much truss, we’re going to put this here,” and it’s four feet off, well now, we have to sit here and figure out, “Well, we got to get more truss. Is this going to work? Do we have to revise the design?” Oh, yikes. Make sure to verify the rigging points. And then also, as we talked about as well, ask them, “Is it exclusive to use? Who are your vendors? Who do you recommend?” All those sorts of things like that, as well.
All right. When it comes to the room as well, next thing I would recommend is that you go into, “Can we control the lights as well?” For example, if you are planning on having all the house lights on when everyone walks in and then you want them to dim down, and then some color lights come on and everything like that. A lot of times when we’re looking at venues and doing site visits, we don’t think about the fact that if we, for example, want to be able to make it so, “Hey, right when that video plays, that from the lighting board, we can bring down the lights.” Some venues have the ability for us, for our lighting systems, to patch into the house lights of there as well. Super-duper cool.
Some venues don’t have that. Some of them, they’ll give you a box and they’ll just put it on the front of the house and you can control it from right there. The worst though is when they say, “The only thing you can do to control the lights, is a light switch that’s all the way across the room.” What ends up happening is the AV company is literally running back and forth in the room all day. Or we have to get on our communications headset and say, “Okay, now press the button to turn off lights.
Okay, now go to 50%,” whatever it may be in talking to everybody. So you want to verify, are the lights controlled? How can we control them? All that sort of stuff. The big things are, can we control it from our light board? Are you going to give us a lighting control box? And then is there just going to the wall panel and controlling it on there, as well? And are there any costs associated with this? I mean, almost all these things, you want to verify costs and what additional costs are coming into it as well.
AV Related Things On A Site Visit: Storage
All right. My gosh, I promise, there’s a lot of stuff but just going to keep going down the line. Next thing as well, is once you’re done setting everything up, you want to make sure where are all those empty cases going? Especially for things like breakout rooms, this is really, really important because sometimes the breakout rooms don’t have a lot of places to stash it.
Sometimes in big sessions, you at least have a backstage, you can stack cases, everything like that. But you want to ask, “Is there any additional rooms or where we can store cases? Can we put them in the hallway? Can we not put them in the hallway? All those sort of questions related to where do all the empty cases, or what we call dead cases, very morbid, where do we put those? And super-duper helpful.
Coming down the line, let’s just keep going all the way down. Next thing as well, where’s the power in the room? We did an entire Whiteboard Wednesday about why power placement of 20 amp circuits and what a 20 amp circuit is, is important. Go check that one out. We’ll link it down below. However, you always want to make sure that you ask where the power is. Put that on your checklist. And immediately, where are the outlets, is one of the first things I think of, especially for those small to medium-sized events. However, if you have a very large event, ask where the three-phase power, or the high voltage power that you’re utilizing. The reason why this is important, not just asking, “Do you have it,” but, “Where is it,” can be incredibly important to your design.
For example, but you need to use the three-phase high voltage power and it’s on the other side of the room and you want to put your stage on the other side of the room, well, that means we have to either run a ton of cables all the way over there, or we need to talk about reshifting the design on where it’s all going to be. Sometimes too, just be careful about the amount of power, because sometimes they’ll say, “Yeah, our three-phase power drop is right over there.” Well, it turns out that’s the 100 amp drop, but the one that has the big power, the 300 amp drop or the 200 amp drop, that we really want, it’s always on the other side of the room. Oh my gosh, it can create such a big nightmare. Make sure to verify where each of them are on a design for you, as well.
AV Related Things On A Site Visit: Backstage & Front-House
All right, continuing on down the line. Where do you want your backstage and also where do you want your front-of-house on here, as well? The reason why this is important is that a lot of times you need to have the communication and the conversation of, “Okay, we need to have a backstage area where our presenters can get ready and get mic’d up and everything like that.” Well, if the room is going to be facing this one way, that might be possible. If it’s facing another way, that might not be possible with your AV company. So you want to make sure that you discuss what orientation you want the room. Where do you want your backstage? Where do you want your stage? Everything like that. Decide that when you’re doing your site visit, right away.
Also, where’s your front house? All the AV techs, on their laptops and on their boards and everything like that, they’re going to go on a little riser maybe, or maybe they’re just in the corner. Where are you going to put them? The reason why that’s important is that you want to look also as well, because there’s a lot of cables that are going to have to go from the stage there. So, is there any places where we have to run cables along walkways or anything like that? Is it a spot that you want them? How big of an area do they need? All those things like that, you want to discuss that and look at that when you’re doing your site visit.
AV Related Things On A Site Visit: Contacts
Then last but not least, we’re on the home stretch, is contacts. This stuff’s so important. A lot of times when it comes to working with an AV company, we think of the obvious stuff. Who’s the in-house contact? We need to get them in contact with a third-party AV company. Cool, we’re done. But there’s a lot of people involved in this process that the AV company’s going to want to talk to. First one is the venue directly. I know this kind of seems weird, but you want the AV company to work directly with the venue, to get things like drawings, to give them the load-in schedule.
A lot of times an AV company will put together a preproduction packet, at least that’s what Endless does. Every single time we come into a venue, we build-out a packet that says, “Hey, this is who we are. Here’s our insurance. Here’s what our plan is for when our trucks are going to be there. We don’t plan on them staying overnight.” All of those things like that and we want to give that directly to the venue and stay in contact and also build a great relationship with the venue.
Another thing as well, the in-house AV company, you want to build a good relationship with them as well, because a lot of times they might be the ones that you’re using for the rigging. It might be someone that, they might have some sort of restrictions that we need to work with them on, as well. But you want to make sure that you get the contact for the in-house AV companies, so that way the AV company can work with them.
The next one that’s a little bit more obvious, electrical. So if we need to be able to get some high voltage, three-phase power, or we need to verify all those outlets are all good to go, connect your AV company to the electrical company, get that contact over to them, as well. Then the next one that you might be thinking of, the freight/dock company. Some people have specific contacts for who’s managing the dock and who’s also managing the deliveries.
Because sometimes clients are building custom pieces that we’re shipping across the country, that are getting shipped via UPS or FedEx or something like that. We need to know who’s the person that’s receiving that, give them a heads up, let them know it’s coming, here’s the tracking information, all those things like that. Talk to them if there’s anything weird going on, any restrictions, all that sort of stuff as well.
And then the last one is, get the contact for security, as well. Who, in the venue, do we call at the end of the night, and say, “We’re all good to go, lock the venue up”? We need to make sure everything’s secure. Or if there is an issue with security, that we have the ability to communicate directly with them, as well. So a lot of contacts there as well.
AV Related Things On A Site Visit: Bonus!
So that’s all 17 things. Oh my gosh, and I almost forgot one, as well, so we’ll consider this one a bonus for you guys, as well. The thing you want check, as well, when you’re doing your site visits, do you need fog/haze? If so, is it allowed? I recommend, even if you don’t know what haze is or fog, which we did another Whiteboard Wednesday on what haze and fog is and the difference between the two, but if you are planning on doing a big event with some cool lights, plan to do a fog and haze and ask, “Can we do it? What’s involved?” All of these things like that, so now we make a full decision.
A lot of times what ends up happening is that we end up selling clients’ lighting packages and say, “Okay, we’re going to do some haze.” And they go, “Okay, cool.” We’re like, “Oh, did you talk to the venue about this?” And they go, “Oh, no, we didn’t.” Then they say, “Oh, well, we need a fire marshal. It’s going to be a fee, this and this and that,” and the cost can go up. But if you talk about it ahead of time, maybe you can negotiate it into your venue contract, or you can also just make sure, can you even do it, as well?
So, man, 17 things. It was almost 16 things, but 17 Av related things on a site visit, when doing your checklist for your site visit. Go check out, do all these things. We had at Endless have our own internal checklist, as well, that we use whenever we’re working with our clients. Build yours out. Do you have specific things you need to look for?
Make it really easy so that way you won’t forget because this is a lot of stuff. Let’s be honest, if I didn’t have a physical checklist when I was doing my events, to remember to do all this stuff, I would forget. So do that for yourself as well, so then that way, you’re all good to go. And maybe we’ll also include one as a little bonus download, in here as well. Fingers crossed that we can do that for you guys.