By Mike Murphy
After 30 plus years in the music and event business, I have some pet peeves when it comes to what I hear and see. They are the things that tell me you care about me when I’m at your event.
I like clean, tight, secure banners and easy-to-read signage. I like cabling and other trip hazards that are tended to by whatever means is appropriate. I like being able to easily identify staff, volunteers, and audience. I like to see tents secured to the ground by stakes or weights rather than pop-ups ready to blow away in a 5 mph breeze.
In the (live) music business, your front-of-house mixer (sound guy) is critical. He or she being on their game is as important as the drummer being able to keep time. They are a critical member of the band from the audience member’s experience standpoint, although most of the crowd has no idea of that themselves. If it sounds awful, to the crowd, the band sucks. When the audience leaves, the band thinks they played great. They don’t know that those seated past row 30 were sorely disappointed.
The same holds true for your event.
At its core, you’re not putting on a 5K fundraiser so people can walk. You’re not holding a 100-mile bike ride so people can ride. You’re not throwing a gala so people can dress well to enjoy an expensive rubber chicken. You’re doing these things so you can connect your cause and mission to those in attendance and create advocates. Ideally, you’re able to connect and deliver an enjoyable experience so your event participants will come back to you time and again. They were nice enough to make time to attend and probably pay to do it. So why would you make it difficult for them to hear the words you have to say? Among them, “thank-you”.
We’ve all been there on someone else’s event. Joe’s cousin Bob gave them a great deal on the sound system, but you can hear the crowd saying “What did she say?” better than the CEO saying what’s really important through those two speakers on a stick. Or the squeal coming from the speakers is making the speech horrendous, and Johnny the sound guy is more interested in talking to the cute volunteer rather than fixing his whole reason for being there.
I’m not talking about loud, although volume could play a part. I’m talking about overall sound quality, which entails providing audio coverage for the entire crowd, a well-balanced tonal quality and enough volume for you to be heard without peeling the paint off the house up the road. Here’s how to qualify what you’re getting:
- Be clear with the sound vendor about what you want well before they show up for the event. Provide specific information like: the number of people speaking at any one time. Do any mics need to be wireless? Do you need a podium? Describe the stage you’ll be working from. The dimensions of the area you expect your audience to be in. Will you be using an iPod or a DJ for background music? Is there a live band?
- Tell the vendor that above all else, the spoken word coming from the stage is the most important aspect of the event, and that you expect a qualified engineer to be there to make that happen.
- Make it known to the vendor that you need to secure multiple bids from vendors. Even if you don’t bid it around, you want them to stay competitive.
Whether you’ve budgeted $5,000 or $5 million to produce your event, it will pay you back tremendously to make sure everyone in attendance can hear the words you don’t just want, but truly need them to hear. And it will show them you care by paying attention.
The alternative is this: If they can’t hear what you are saying, you will probably never know it.
Mike Murphy draws upon more than 25 years of concert and corporate special events production experience to create spectacularly creative experiences for our Event 360 clients. A co-founder of Event 360, Mike is an Emmy Award-winning professional who has developed brand-building events, product launches and tours worldwide. As the Line Producer and Director of Special Events for a major movie studio, Mike took film premieres to a new level through extravaganzas in the New Orleans Superdome, the Rose Bowl, aboard the U.S.S. John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and numerous other improbable but spectacular film venues. Mike’s other key achievements include the production of a Papal Mass in Denver for 500,000 attendees and tour management and production for Harry Connick, Jr., 10,000 Maniacs and numerous other internationally known touring artists with music.