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live speaker event engineering/producing 101 - newbie in need of help

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nathan mitchiner
live speaker event engineering/producing 101 - newbie in need of help
on Dec 6, 2006 at 4:26:44 am

Hello to All (NOTE: This is a long post but please bare with me) -

I am new here to this forum but am a regular to the Cow and in need of some SERIOUS help.

I work for training company doing multimedia production (recording voiceovers, video editing, etc) for training dvd's and/or online eLearning courses. I have a working knowledge of audio and video hardware but am more familiar with the software end.

My company has several clients that have speaking engagements (powerpoint/video based) throughout the year at various hotel and conference room venues that usually consist of 100-200 people as well as several on stage speakers. These clients now want my company to actually produce these speaking engagements (ie. setup and run the whole presentation as well as the audio and video equipment).

Consequently, my company is looking to me (instead of hiring someone) to get a pricing list together for equipment (wireless/stick mics, projectors, speaker monitors, confidence monitors for on stage speaker(s), dvd players, video switchers, rack mounts, cabling, etc) and ultimately produce and run the equipment with a couple other coworkers for each of these presentations.

I will probably have a crew of 3 people including myself (one to run the presentation laptops, one to run the audio, and another person to help do any misc things that may be needed.) We will also have 2 static video cameras to record the events and probably run sound to the cameras from the mixer.

Having never produced any live speaking engagements, I am obviously a little green and need A LOT of advice or tips and tricks from any of you veterans out there who have produced these kind of engagements. Any sure fire equipment recommendations (mixers, mics, projectors, etc) or website/book/tutorial suggestions for producing live events would be GREATLY appreciated.

For the record, I am really interested in this and want to learn as much about the equipment and producing as I can before the first event in Feb. 2007.

Look forward to hearing from you all.


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Andy Stinton
Re: live speaker event engineering/producing 101 - newbie in need of help
on Dec 6, 2006 at 10:05:03 pm

Wow where do I start?

First things first. Are your bosses

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nathan mitchiner
Re: live speaker event engineering/producing 101 - newbie in need of help
on Dec 7, 2006 at 12:48:50 pm

Hi Andy -
Thanks a lot for the sincere advice. I really appreciate and definitely understand where you are coming from. It may very well be that in the end we hire a company to help least for the first couple until we get a better idea of how to handle these events. We may even end up hiring someone fulltime depending on how popular the demand gets.

I was just trying to get the ball as far as I could before informing the boss that we may need "extra" help on this.......especially for the client's sake.

If you don't mind, could you at least take a look at the files in this zip file and give me any critiques or advice? There is a WORD doc with my preliminary equipment list as well as pictures of a previously simliar event done by another company for one of our clients that our events will probably be modeled after. There is also a graphic of 1 proposed setup for how our events are structured.

I haven't quite gotten to the video equipment yet but you raise a great point about it. You think 2 of these lights may work for the room -

Also, I was thinking of maybe picking up 2 sony pd-170 cams for the event. Thoughts?

Thanks again

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nathan mitchiner
Re: live speaker event engineering/producing 101 - newbie in need of help
on Dec 7, 2006 at 12:51:12 pm

Whoops, here is the link to the files I was referring to -

Sorry bout that :)

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Andy Stinton
Re: live speaker event engineering/producing 101 - newbie in need of help
on Dec 8, 2006 at 4:43:18 pm

Nathan. I had a look at your lists and pictures. My suggestion would be to do the first one or two gigs with a good AV company and see what equipment they use and if you are happy with the results buy exactly the same equipment. The company will be only to happy sell you the gear. Another route would be to hire a freelance technical director and get him to make you a list. I am not familiar with some of the gear that you have specified so it would be useless for me to comment.

Your pictures seem to be of a very small room but you mentioned audiences of 200. I would make your equipment list and purchases based on that number then you can scale down the gear for smaller audiences. You may even need two screens.

A few comments powered speakers are not the routes I would go, try a sound set up with out board amps, Crest and EAW come to mind.

Your control booth should be at the back of the room so that your sound guy can hear what

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James Redmond
Re: live speaker event engineering/producing 101 - newbie in need of help
on Dec 13, 2006 at 2:08:27 pm

I just have to reply to these posts.

I also do quite a bit of recording of live events - mainly seminars. And what you are asking is to tell you in a few paragraphs what I've learned in 20 years of experience. Andy has done a really good job of giving you some important pointers.

Here's my take:

First of all what you are trying to do is technicially complex and takes quite of bit of technical skill and artistic creation. Purchasing equipment is just one small detail, getting it set up and working (and yes it does fail and it does do weird things) is a major thing. So it takes someone who can trouble shoot all kinds of strange problems.

You have no experience. So what if you get great equipment and your production looks like crap. There is no value there. How do you frame the shots, what the rules of thirds, etc, etc. Basically you need to make it look good and just not have a camera on a wide shoot and a little person talking in front.

So I would recommend to volunteer for several of someone else's events to start to get trained. For starters don't go buy a bunch of equipment. You don't know what you are doing or if you are capable of it. Then if you have to because of your deadlines, hire someone else to do it and assist them.

If you look on ebay you always find guys who buy all these expensive equipment, use it for 1 or 2 gigs and figure out it's not for them. Then their equipments sits in the garage.

So, in a nutshell, get experience, hire someone else and then maybe rent some equipment.

Sorry to be so hard, but I think you need a reality check. Be well, James

James Redmond
Dynamic Videos, Inc.
Rogers, AR USA

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Re: live speaker event engineering/producing 101 - newbie in need of help
on Dec 23, 2006 at 3:43:09 pm

Hey...late to the party. But at least I'm here...

I just wanted to add my two cents worth even though part of it is "yeah, what they said" sort of thing.

Andy et. al. are exactly right: This endeavour is not for the faint of heart. I do this sort of thing for a living and, as you're finding out, there are many ways to get this training thing done. Everybody had their own set of tips/tricks/hints/ and absolutes for making an event a success. And you may have noticed that you're getting a lot of advice on what not to do. In the spirit of poor sportsmanship, let me pile on.

Do *not* buy equipment. At least not yet. If your bosses only want to do this part time, it makes no sense to actually purchase equipment. Why? Because purchasing gear comes with the added responsibility of maintaining, shipping, storing and upgrading said gear, and each one of these additional tasks has spawned companies that excel in doing that one task. When you buy gear, it all rests on your shoulders. You don't just get to use the gear, you have to take care of it 24/7 wherever it may be...your shop, on a truck, buried in a hotel "secure storage" pen.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that you are NOT getting paid any more money to do this sort of thing. Am I right? ;-)

Right. There's NO economic reason for you in this scenario to buy gear. Rent, and rent from well-respected companies. Being a nationwide chain isn't required, but it *can* help. Good local companies *can* provide everything you need, too...sometimes with better service or newer gear since they can be more "fleet of foot" than a major corporation. Use the ones that provide you what you need lest you need a replacement.

There are lots of other tips I could give you, but I wanted to chime in on this point as it's the only one that would cost you big bucks.



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Mark Suszko
Re: live speaker event engineering/producing 101 - newbie in need of help
on Jan 17, 2007 at 5:11:13 pm

Also not wanting to beat-up on the O.P. but I've had these conversations a lot over the years with people who have gotten just a little "taste" of corporate video and decide to create an instant in-house operation. What I ask them is this:

Do your sales staff all take flying lessons and buy or rent their own plane to make their business trips? Or do they order up a commecial flight ticket from a travel agent and just GO there? Do they build a car or call Hertz? Cut down trees, make the paper, etc. or just buy office supplies at Staples?

What business is your company IN? If you are not in the video business, why go outside your area of competency, when there are experts waiting for your call? It almost never makes sense for a company to re-invent the wheel and create an in-house studio and etc. these days when the people gear and locations can all be contracted for just the time they are needed. Granted, there are always exceptions, but generally this holds for small thru medium-sized companies. You are in the TRAINING business, NOT the video business.

If you go ahead and try to roll your own with these road shows, you will inevitably be disappointed with the results, at least the first few times you do it. Always look at the rate of return for what effort and expense you are putting into a project like this. You will always be on solid ground if the numbers are on your side, don't be afraid to tell the boss his idea is a potential money-loser, that's part of the job. Much worse all-around to just be a yes-man and then have to really work hard yet have to explain sub-par results that don't meet the boss's expectations later. The bosses typically really don't have a clue what goes into doing this job right. TV is magic: you push a button and there it is, fully formed.

That's why an outside expert is so useful in these cases. Concentrate on makignthe best training presentation you can, and hire an experienced video person/company to tech it. You save money by not wasting it.

"The cheapskates always end up paying twice"

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nathan mitchiner
Re: live speaker event engineering/producing 101 - newbie in need of help
on Jan 17, 2007 at 6:03:57 pm

Okay okay, as the original poster, I suppose I should chime in after all of the *abuse* - only kidding. I came to the COW for exactly what you all have given me.....professional and time tested advice. I can't thank everyone enough for all of the info.

We have 9 of these 1 day sales training speaking events now for 2007 all across the country. Based on your advice, I am currently in contact with some national and local vendors to partner with for these events. We will rent the equipment from them and have them run the production.

I will be shadowing very closely to the vendors because of my interest in live production. My boss still wants to ultimately have a combination of owning some of the core equipment and renting the other stuff. And, he still wants to ultimately be able to run these events with an in house crew (me and some other multimedia coworkers) but has seen the light and realizes the importance of using professionals for the first year of this stuff at least.

So, that is where we stand now. As always, I continue to appreciate any advice or road stories/tips/tricks you all have.

Gotta love the COW.

Thanks to all

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