Buckle up everybody, because today we’re tackling the exciting topic of politics and AV! As much as we sometimes wish we could, separating politics from our work is very tricky. And quite honestly, that tends to happen with politics and everything else. No matter where we turn, the simplest things that surround us are, in some way, shape or form, tied to politics. So, when the conversation shifts towards political events, AV professionals experience added pressure.
Lately, there’s been quite a few headlines covering politics and AV. And because the Event Tech Podcast never misses a chance to bring you the hottest technology-related industry topics, we bring you this episode. On this week’s edition, our fantastic hosts, Will Curran and Brandt Krueger, walk you through the slightly terrifying and incredibly exciting intersection between politics and AV. Get your suit and tie ready to go, it’s about to get political in here!
When Two Worlds Collide: Politics and AV
What is it exactly that makes political events such a complex thing in the industry? Well, as Brandt explains, “the difference between what happens on a small to medium-sized corporate association event versus an actual televised political event is it’s televised. Any time you’ve got high-end politics involved, you’re going to have TV cameras there. And you’re going to have people snapping pictures and taking cellphone camera footage and all that kind of stuff. There’s this extra level of documentation when somebody screws up on one of these events”.
This means that everything that goes down during a political event needs to be perfect down to a T. But is that even possible?
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Recently, there was an issue with a teleprompter during President Trump’s speech. Of course, all hell broke loose. “The very public excuse then that was given was that the rain was causing issues with the teleprompter. And it made it more difficult to see. It made it harder to read it as the rain kind of filtered off”, Brandt recalls.
Teleprompters aren’t waterproof. And “specifically, the quote on quote Presidential teleprompter is just two pieces of glass at an angle. As rain is coming down, you’re definitely going to get drips and drabs of falling on those sheets of glass. Which is going to make it more difficult to read”.
When it comes to using a teleprompter, “it is something that takes practice. Takes rehearsal. And takes time, so when I’ve talked about in my classes and things about when to use a teleprompter, I always try to emphasize the fact that you need extra rehearsal for someone who’s never done it before.
The Teleprompter Operator
“We obviously have teleprompters at a lot of our events. And you learn a lot about what’s a good teleprompter operator? How does it work? There’s a symbiotic relationship between the teleprompter operator and the presenter”, explains Will. “You have to do the rehearsals the right way. It has to be written the right way. And it’s difficult because I think everyone assumes that okay, with the teleprompter I can just read right off it. No, you still have to know your speech. You still have to be rocking and rolling. And it’s really there just as a guide to remember okay, I’ll go from this”.
“It’s designed to help you be precise with your words. So it’s not just a bunch of free-flowing bullet points. There’s plenty of speakers out there that are perfectly capable of delivering a fantastic, energizing speech-based entirely on bullet points. But when you need to be precise with your words, which high-end politicians generally have to do, they have to be precise with exactly the right numbers and exactly the right facts”, adds Brandt.
“If you’re using Presidential glass, an option for you is to also have the teleprompter go to the downstage monitor. And if for example you’re outdoors and it might rain or it might be really sunny and it’s going to cause glare on the Presidential monitor, whatever it might be, have a backup option. So then that way, you can have something else for them to look at so then that way, they can still follow along with their notes as well”, advises Will.
“Sometimes, you want people to look right down the pipe, especially because that’s where the camera usually is, is straight down the middle. So, especially if it’s being filmed or being put up on IMEG, you want to make sure that you’ve got the ability for the person to be looking down the middle. And so, frequently I’ll see a large LCD monitor or something like that in the back of the room, just as to give them an extra place to look, one more place to look”, adds Brandt.
Is This Thing On?
They might be very good looking, but that’s not why we call them hot mics. “The term of hot mic is obviously when the microphone is left on and it’s hot”, explains Will. And it’s painfully obvious to see how this can quickly turn into a full-blown disaster.
“It’s always the audio engineer, specifically the audio engineer’s duty to mute and unmute the person when they go on stage. And as my audio engineers always say, they say, “I’m never going to put your mic on, unless you’re on stage”. And that’s the go-to kind of practice, I see you walk on stage, I’ll unmute you, I see you get off stage, I’m going to mute you”, says Will. “So this idea of hot mics is a human failing, right? But I think it’s something that, it comes up again and again in politics, it comes up again and again in celebrity news”, adds Brandt.
“I think it’s important for planners to understand as well, is this idea of power locking and having these conversations with your audio engineers. So if it ever happens again, you can also go talk to your audio engineer and be like, “Does this guy know what he was doing, or what was going on?”.
You can also rely on the technology side to give you a hand with this! “There’s some really cool technologies now too, on the audio side. My audio engineers know this way better than I do, but they basically allow them to remotely monitor the pack too. So they can see how much batteries are left in that pack, is it on, obviously, if it’s on, you can see their signal coming in, but now you can see is it switched on? Is it just not getting a signal? How good is the signal? Yeah. How much battery is left in that pack, all those things”.
“I think the moral of this particular area of the story is basically, always assume that your mic is hot. I think you and I would agree it’s still better to trust the audio engineer, rather than trying to put that onus on the speaker”, Brandt concludes.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Power Intersections Between Politics and AV
One of the most genuinely funny moments that happened recently also has to do with the President. It all went down when he came up on stage and posed in front of a fake seal of the President of the United States. Now, while this is objectively funny, it does raise a very important question. As Brandt puts it, we have a lot of power as AV people. The power to make people look good. And the power to make people look bad.”
“We have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to see something, say something. Even if it’s just a spelling error, right? You see a spelling error, our job is to make you look good. And so if we’re doing our job, we need to be able, to be honest about something”, he adds. “There is a tremendous amount of responsibility, a tremendous amount of power, that we as AV professionals have. But we’re also people. And so, when we look at some of the other things like hot mics and some of the other teleprompter issues or things like that, we’re still people”.
“When something like this happens, how you deal with it as a speaker says volumes about your professionalism and about your ability to roll with the punches and your ability to take command of a stage and make it yours and deliver those things”, he concludes.
And that does it for this week’s episode on politics and AV! Do you think we covered everything? What are your main takeaways when it comes to political events? Let it simmer for a while and then get back to us. Plus, don’t forget to join us again next week for another amazing episode of the Event Tech Podcast!