Common A/V Issues

If you're in the business sector, chances are that you have, or will in the future, conduct a meeting or event that requires audio visual support. If you're the person responsible for the meeting, you can likely avoid being found near the projector with a concerned look and cable or two in your hands minutes before the start of the event. In this edition, I will review the most common reasons why meeting AV goes wrong and touch on some ways to make the event go smoothly.

The Agama Production Department finds itself faced with a cornucopia of technical challenges at every A/V and multimedia presentation it does. However, we have built a reputation for being able to overcome almost any challenge and to make almost anything work - and almost always without the meeting attendees knowing any better. How? Because of our adherence to three simple rules that we apply to every job.

Rule #1 - Prepare
Find out what will be required at least 24 hrs. BEFORE the event. It may seem obvious, but this is one of the most important steps that many people don’t do. The best way to KNOW that you're ready for an event is to already have everything at hand that will be required for it. Confirm with the presenter what they will need. Are they bringing their own laptop? Projector? Screen? Speakers? Ask them! Wait a few days and ask again. Will the PowerPoint show have any audio? Does the PowerPoint have embedded video? Is their request for a projector in reference to a VIDEO projector or an OVERHEAD projector? (Don't laugh. This has happened.)

In short, find out what is needed in advance, and you won't find yourself empty handed at the presentation. To help get you started, I have created a simplified “Presentation / Meeting AV Checklist” that you can download and use.

Click here for our Meeting A/V Checklist   

Rule #2 - Test
If possible, get a copy of the media that will be presented. (i.e. PowerPoint, DVD, video tape, etc.) If you can't get the actual presentation materials, then get something that is representative of that media and use it. For example, if the presenter is bringing a DVD video to play but won't send it to you in advance, then bring a DVD movie from home and use that for the test. Or, if they're going to show a PowerPoint presentation, then ask them to e-mail it to you for testing. Trying out a PowerPoint or media file in advance with a computer system is more important than you might think. Why? Because...


Not all computers are made alike. In fact, you should never expect any two computers to function the same - even if they are the same brand, with the same software, and the same hardware. Just because the presentation works fine on the CEO's computer, there's no guarantee it will work on yours. The myriad settings, preferences, IT controls, etc. that are employed on that computer are a sure formula for the unknown. The computer's user is often unaware of these settings, too. Unfortunately, this truth also means that successful testing with your computer DOES NOT guarantee that the system will work with the presenter or the presentation materials that show up five minutes before the audience is supposed to see them. BUT, in the event something won't work right, it DOES give you the ability to say "No problem. I've already tested PowerPoint and video playback on my laptop. Give me two minutes to swap out computers and you're good to go using my system." In fact, the closer you are to the event's start time, the better off you are telling the presenter, "Use my system. It's already tested."


The same scenario applies to projectors. Each laptop (or computer) 'sees' projectors differently. A computer's monitor resolution, output settings, and cable interconnectivity - to name just a few - all influence whether a computer and projector will work together. Testing in advance is key.

Our general rule for AV jobs is to arrive and test no less than one hour before the meeting starts - some events are fully set-up and tested one to two days in advance - and to use only the equipment that tested successfully during the show. I respect that the presenter may have a 'lucky laptop.' I also expect that he'll blame the technician when his computer's battery dies during the presentation.

Rule #3 - Don't Panic
Something unexpected will almost always occur. Hopefully, the "unexpected" was one of the possibilities that you explored during testing. If so, then you've done your part well and you should be able to deftly resolve the crisis in some way or another. Technical failure during a meeting or event is an inevitability. It might not happen today or next week, but it will happen. How you've prepared yourself to react to it is what sets you apart. Don't let the room full of people - staring at you expectantly - get you excited.

Over the years, we have learned to keep a fishing tackle box (two, actually) that is filled with almost every conceivable audio, video, and computer adapter that is made. We also have a case that contains an assortment of commonly needed cables and some other handy items. I almost always prepare at least two methods for accomplishing the same task. And, I usually have a back-up for my back-up - whether it's more equipment or another colleague or vendor that I can call on. This approach gives me the confidence I need to never panic.

If you are responsible for setting up a meeting or event presentation, find out as much as you can about what equipment will be needed for the presentation and, if at all possible, test it's set-up and operation with the actual event presentation materials at least one hour before the event is scheduled to start. Also, try to have at least one alternative solution or resource at hand that you can fall back on if necessary. This will significantly reduce the possibility of you becoming the next meeting's pre-event entertainment.

Click here for our Meeting A/V Checklist