3 Factors to Consider When Thinking about Audio for Your Next Conference
When it comes to audio for live events like a conference, you want to make sure that everything is heard. Here are three factors to consider to ensure your audio is spot on.
There are many variables when it comes to organizing a successful conference, from selecting the right presenters to taking breaks at the right time for networking. When it comes to audio, one of the variables that deserves attention is sound reinforcement. The point of reinforcing or amplifying your presenter’s voice in a ballroom, or any room for that matter, is not just so that he/she can be heard from the front to the back of the room, but more importantly, that he/she is comfortably understood from the front to the back of the room.
In addition to sound reinforcement, sound quality is equally important. This is especially the case if you plan on recording your conference. This documented evidence of your event is likely to be used in the future for promotional videos, training or archived for private or public record.
So when thinking about the type of audio support needed for your event, we encourage you to consider the following three key factors:
The audio needs for a Town Hall, a sales rally and an awards gala with entertainment are all different. Fail to match the type of meeting with the appropriate audio solution and you could end up with understated audio or audio overkill. For example a meeting with the purpose of imparting new information or learning requires a focus on clarity of speech and equal coverage throughout the room (arguably this should always be the goal). Therefore, the audio system selected should complement the dominant frequency range of the human voice which is generally accepted to be around 300Hz – 3kHz. This is the spot where intelligibility and recognition like to get together and party.
Once you’ve understood the purpose of your meeting or event, list out your audio needs as this will dictate the equipment required. Use your agenda to visualize the day from your attendee’s and presenter’s points of view. A sound system comprises of four main elements that will work together to capture and amplify sound at your event. They include:
- Input devices –wired and or wireless microphones, discussion systems designed for multiple participants and playback devices.
- Processing devices –audio mixers and signal processors for adjusting the quality of sound through equalization, compression, feedback suppression, etc. Used skillfully audio processors can eliminate/minimize unwanted echoes, vocal pops, feedback, etc. and aim to control the audio being amplified.
- Amplification devices – amplifiers to boost the input sound to the loud speakers. This boosting is required regardless of system configuration applied, hence the term ‘sound reinforcement’. Amplifier configurations can either run independent of loudspeakers or they can form part of the loudspeaker itself. In the latter form this is usually indicated by the term ‘powered speaker’.
- Output devices –loudspeakers and headphones, depending on how the audience intends to receive the sound.Depending on the nature of your conference, you may need additional ancillary equipment for recording, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or streaming. This is uniquely beneficial when all attendees or presenters cannot be at the event at the designated place and time.
Your Audio Partner
When the audio fails at event – people notice. And keeping in mind your purpose and equipment, having the right partner’s onsite can make or break the experience you are trying to create. An audio company that takes the time to understand what matters most to you and your brand, is creative in their approach, and has the experience to troubleshoot, are always worth more in the long run. Consulting with your sound/audiovisual company early on in the process will ensure that the event space you have selected is suitable for the type of audio-visual support your event will need. For example, low ceilings, pillars, rigging points, built-in counters, big windows, proximity to other meetings on the day, power distribution and other factors can dramatically affect the setup of your audio equipment, your budget and ultimately the intended experience of your presenters and attendees. Ultimately your audio engineer’s efforts towards achieving great sound on your event are governed by the laws of physics, not magic, and takes years of training, experience on show sites, and continued learning to master these skills.
Focusing on your event purpose, understanding the equipment you need, and selecting the right audio partner, are three ways to guarantee exceptional sound at your event. And remember, a good sound engineer is ALWAYS listening.