Are you a master of program logistics until you step into a ballroom? Need to know how to evaluate and hire a production team and determine your general session needs but afraid to ask? This week and next, we plan to fill in the gaps.

When doing a site visit, keep your general session needs in mind. Know the minimum amount of space you need for production, not just seating. The rule of thumb is to allocate one-third of the ballroom for a standard-size set and rear-screen projection. Allocate 20 percent for a front screen and standard set. This allows the proper amount of space between the projectors and the screens (the throw distance) and between your screens and first row of seats.

Pay attention to ceiling heights, too. If the ceiling is listed as 16-feet high, but the chandelier hangs down 4 feet, it’s a 12-foot ceiling as far as your production needs are concerned. Know the ceiling height from its lowest point to ensure accurate set builds and room designs. Height matters!

Ask about rig points (the spots in the ceiling from which trusses can be hung.) Some hotel ballrooms don’t have them, so lights and speakers must be placed on “trees” rather than trusses. If the ballroom has rig points, ask about weight capacities and who does the hanging. Either option must be factored into the room design, setup time and budget.

Make sure you have enough time for load-in and strike. Confirm when the group ahead of you will be free and clear of the ballroom AND the freight elevators. If you’re due to start your load-in, but the group that’s leaving is using the elevators and loading docks, you must factor that into your load-in time and schedule labor accordingly.

Make sure you research loading dock particulars. Are there restrictions on when trucks can load-in? Do you need to pre-schedule load-in times? How far is the dock from the ballroom (also known as the push distance)? These items must all be factored into how long it will take to complete your load-in.

Then, if you intend to hold rehearsals, make sure you choose a time after you speak with your production lead, so the room will be ready.

Are these enough variables for you? They’re why you must make sure you hire a professional, capable production team. In-house AV is an option, and requires little effort upfront. But keep in mind that even if you’re being offered a 20 percent discount for using in-house exclusively, the usual “++” charge applies to your F&B and must be added on top of the discount pricing. Ask about the quality, type and level of experience the people running your show have, and if there are union rules you need to know about to avoid overtime fees. Confirm that the gear in the quote is what’s delivered, and that the gear you’re being quoted is what you need.

Working with an outside production company is your other option. You may have to pay their travel and trucking costs, but if you make a smart choice, you’ll have the same trusted vendor on your team making sure your general session is consistently professional. Content is critical for most events, so choose wisely.

Have a specific question you want answered? Email me at: [email protected]

Next week: Content and presentations