Event Management

The Event Planners’ Knowledge Gap

Skift Take

1. So their event does not get screwed up

It’s scary how little the average planner knows about anything technical. It’s not that planners need to know how to operate a sound board, or install gear or anything.

They are, however, the bridge between the people who speak on stage or prepare presentations to be shown, and the audio visual technicians who make that happen. And unfortunately the planners are the weak link in that chain.

Av assessment quiz

The Double Standard

What’s even more disappointing, is how little planners even care about this lack of knowledge. They take great pride in almost every other facet of event planning, including site selection, food and beverage, event website, transportation, entertainment, décor, logistics, risk management, sustainability – you name it.

But somehow it’s perceived as OK to play dumb on audio visual. They’d storm the castle if the menu for their open bar had Popov Vodka instead of Grey Goose or Kettle One, but they take it on blind faith that the microphones, projectors and lighting instruments on the AV proposals are appropriate for their event.

And that doesn’t seem to bother them, because it’s par for the course in our industry, and they know most other planners simply aren’t expected to master this area.

See Where You Stack Up

To see exactly how much/little the average planner knows on this subject, we created a simple 10 question online Skills Assessment Quiz. It’s anonymous, so no one will know your score, but hopefully it’ll be the wake up call many of us need to raise our knowledge level on this matter.

We’ve had over 600 people take this quiz so far, and the results, which we’ll announce shortly, aren’t pretty.

Why It Matters

This stuff is all learnable, and it should be learned. Planners need to know what they’re doing when it comes to technical production:

. There’s a ton of ways that any event can go south because the planner didn’t ask the right questions or communicate the proper information to the presenters or the vendor.

2. To prove their value to their clients. If all you are is a middleman between the lighting, a/v or production vendor and the speakers, you might as well get out of the way. Instead you should be providing value-added information to the client and taking control of managing the entire event, including what happens on stage.

Here’s an easy example: Any time you look up at a screen at an event and see black bars above and below the slide content (or on the sides), that’s the sign of a mediocre planner. It means he/she never bothered (or even knew) to make sure that the aspect ratios of the visual content and the screen were in synch.

Aspect ratios are a pet peeve of mine, as they’re easily fixed by simply telling presenters to format their slides in 16:9 or 4:3, or whatever the aspect ratio is of the screen(s) at the event.

In Conclusion

The meetings and event industry has made great strides in the past 10 years in terms of professionalism and vastly improved knowledge standards. Considering how many events involve someone speaking at a podium or some other element requiring lighting, sound or projection, it’s high time our knowledge in this area caught up to the rest.


Howard givnerThis is a guest post by Howard Givner, Founder & Executive Director of the Event Leadership Institute, which provides training and education for event professionals through on-demand video classes, white papers, webinars, live events, and interviews with industry leaders.

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