How to Manage the Cost of AV – Addressing Sound Reinforcement

It's difficult to write about this topic without offending someone. Yet, I can assure you that is not my intention. My goal to share some thinking about the investment in your meetings. Borrowing a few sentences from a Forbes article, I'd like to establish the thought to be considered: Why technology is vital to your meetings.


“The meeting was held for a compelling business reason in the first place. The investment was made to drive an expected outcome (or you’d never host the event at all).  The big picture here isn’t just the costs, it is the return-on-investment and overall gain (or loss).”


Facing the challenges of dwindling budgets, the scrutiny of costs and the need to communicate with your audiences, the challenges can be overwhelming. However, here are a few things consider when budgeting your next event.

First address the purpose of your event. In a word, it usually boils down to communication – delivering a message to your audience. And if your purpose is to communicate, anything that gets in the way of that communication is the enemy of your efforts. Accuracy is the paramount issue. If you’re communications fail, your event is a failure – simple when you consider it

So, let’s look at just what it takes to deliver your message. As the title of this article states, I’m going to confine those elements during this conversation to the Audio/Visual needs of your event.


First and foremost, you must be heard. In most cases that means that you’re going to need a sound system adequate for your audience to hear you clearly.

Addressing the Sound System

Just because your audience can hear you speak, it doesn’t mean that you are communicating. To get your message to the audience, it’s imperative that it is high quality sound. Every word needs to be hear clearly. How many presentations have you heard that the presenter sounded like he was mumbling, that though you could hear him speak, you couldn’t understand most of what he was saying. Those are the effects of a poorly designed sound system.

It’s important to spend enough money to insure your message is heard. One of my biggest complaints about event planners is that they’re willing to spend a fortune on coffee breaks and dinners while skimping on the sound reinforcement. If you need to move some money around, start here.

Microphones Are Essential

When you consider how important it is for your audience to be able to hear you, don’t think for a minute that a microphone isn’t necessary. While most conversations take place within five feet of each other, consider how much louder you’re going to have to speak when addressing someone twenty, thirty, fifty, even a hundred feet away.

You might be able to do it a few minutes, but few can do it for very long. Also take into consideration the effects of turning to the side and not directly facing your audience. Microphones are your best bet for being heard and understood.

Then there is the issue of the audience questions. You want to be able to hear the questions clearly and you want your audience to hear the answers to the questions. Make sure you have plenty of microphones available to questions and answers as well as healthy discussions.

The Technical Aspects of What It Takes

Audio is a mixture of science and art, it takes years, sometimes decades of practical experience to get good at it. But, it isn't voodoo.


At its most basic level the first thing you want to do is measure the sound pressure of the ambient sound in the room. This is easily done with a free app for your phone.


Once you know with what you are competing you have a benchmark with which to work.

The rule of thumb is that you want 20db of sound reinforcement above the ambient sound of the room. With that information, you can design a sound system that will assure your voices will be heard loud and clear. (Of course, it's a little more complicated than that, but it is where you start.)


For an advisory board meeting where dozens of people are seated around a "U" shaped conference table, speakers will often be seated more than thirty feet from their audience and a microphone

is certainly a good investment. As such I would recommend one microphone for each of two seated at the table, another for the moderator and one for the presenter.

While this, at first blush may sound excessive, it isn't. When the message is important enough to call of meeting of decision makers, insuring that every word is heard clearly is the most important consideration.



In Summary

I have written several articles concerning technical aspects of planning of events. However, in this article I’ve only addressed the need for a high-quality sound system and the use of microphones. Look for my other articles that address the need for visuals and how to manage those costs.

Summit Management