Planning a successful offsite meeting is all about, well, good planning. The decisions can seem endless – budget, location, meeting agenda, meals and snacks, materials, and audio visual equipment all need to be considered and pre-arranged.
While every meeting is different, the cheat sheet for planning the right audio visual and technology set-up for any meeting remains essentially the same and it all starts with asking the venue the right questions.
1. Is there any audio visual equipment built into the room?
And if so, is there a cost for using it? Many meeting rooms have built-in projectors and screens, plasma monitors, or audio systems. You’ll want to know the specifics of what is already in the room, so you don’t end up bringing in (and paying for) extra equipment you don’t need.
However, keep in mind that the equipment in the room may not necessarily be the right equipment for your particular meeting.
For example, there might be a 50” plasma on the wall. But if you’re planning on showing a PowerPoint presentation with detailed graphs and charts, you might be better off using a projector and screen so that your images will be large enough to see all of the important details.
2. What are the dimensions of the room? -OR- How many people can comfortably fit in the room?
When asking this question, consider not only your group size, but the room set-up that would work best.
Is there one presenter and everyone else should be seated in rows? Will there be an interactive training that would work best with tables set up in a U-shape so participants can see one another? A venue can usually give you a maximum number of room occupants based on the set-up you choose.
In addition to verifying that you have the right room size for the number of people you expect, you’ll want to make sure the audio visual equipment you plan to use will be appropriate for the space. For instance, if you plan to use a standard meeting projector and screen, you’ll need to make sure that the screen is large enough for everyone in the room to see it.
Consider the space the equipment takes up as well. For example, a projector needs to be two feet back from the screen for every foot wide that you want the image to appear. (Therefore, if you want to project a six-foot wide image, you’ll need to make sure there’s room to set the projector back 12 feet away from the screen).
3. When can the room be accessed?
Whether you need to access the room for setup or need to make sure your AV technician has ample time to setup and tear down equipment, it never hurts to check when the room will be available both prior to and following your meeting.
Likewise, if you plan to have someone come later in the day to retrieve equipment from the room, you’ll need to know the room won’t be booked for another group at that time.
4. Will all guests have access to Wi-Fi?
We’ve come to take it for granted, but not all venues are set up for easy Internet access. Surprisingly, hotels often charge extra for access to their internet and older restaurants can have poor reception, so if Internet is a must, be sure to ask.
Plan to bring wireless aircards as a backup if you know that the venue’s Wi-Fi is spotty.
5. Where are the outlets, ports, and phone jacks in the room?
Don’t depend on your meeting room to be wired for modern-day meetings. Often outlets are few and far between in older buildings and you may need to bring an extra supply of power strips and extension cords.
If you know you’ll need extra outlets–for a training class where each person has their own computer for instance–plan ahead for the setup of the room, as well as extra time that might be needed to tape down and secure cabling where it’s as out of the way as much as possible. The same goes for Ethernet ports, especially if you need to have a number of computers online at once.
If your meeting requires a phone jack for a conference phone for remote participants, be sure to confirm not only that the phone jack is working, but that there isn’t a fee for use (there often is at hotels).
Remember: There are No Stupid Questions
The bottom line in planning your audio visual setup is that communication with the venue is key. Armed with the right information, every meeting you plan can be flawless and every attendee can leave with a smile. Happy planning!
What other questions do you consider when setting up an offsite meeting? Leave your comments below.