March 2017

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Managing the AV at a large conference with multiple breakout rooms can be challenging for any AV company. Often, breakout rooms are an afterthought and are not given the proper focus that they should. The event team is focused on the plenary sessions and making sure that the main room goes well, but the attendees spend as much, or more time in breakouts as they do in the plenary.

The breakout experience can have a huge impact on the attendee experience and an even bigger impact on the presenter experience. Your reputation as an event planner or conference organizer relies on presenters being comfortable and that they have been given what they asked for and what they need. Often breakouts are set up without the proper equipment, or any technical support.

At AVS we have an electronic form that is completed by the presenters who will be using the breakout rooms and they fill in exactly what they need. We then vet those requests to ensure we are providing everything that may be needed. We think about wireless mics, flip charts, projection, sound system, etc. Inexperienced presenters may think they don’t need a sound system but once the room is full of people it becomes obvious that it is hard for attendees near the back to hear. They may also think their video can be heard from the tiny speaker in a projector whereas in-reality, a proper sound system is required.

Having technical support available is also very important. How many times do presenters show up in a meeting room to find a projector and a VGA cable and nothing else? Presenters don’t always travel with the adapters they need to connect their computer, nor do they necessarily have the knowledge to connect their device to a projector. These days there are numerous types of proprietary connections and connection adapters. It is important to have adequate technical staff to help presenters get connected. If you have 10 rooms and one technician, then the chances are many of those presentations will experience a delayed start. A good rule of thumb, is to have one tech for every 3-4 breakout rooms.

The success of managing multiple breakout rooms comes down to good planning. Make sure you have the right info from presenters; do they need a projector, are they relying on having an internet connection, what is their level of expertise, do they have their own clicker and laser pointer, will your AV company have those things on-hand if presenters don’t bring them? As conference organizers, pay attention to the details of your breakout room requirements and choose an AV supplier that is going to support them properly. You shouldn’t have to be chasing down the in-house AV tech who is on another floor setting up equipment for another client. Dedicate the resources necessary and you won’t have 15-20 minutes of panic every time the sessions start.