Sound Advice From A Sound Guy
When was the last time you were at a seminar, exhibition or conference and you couldn’t hear properly or the sound was just awful? Wedding speeches are a classic example of this. In such a scenario you may sit on the edge of your seat trying to hear but, will most likely succumb to the temptation to give up and stop listening to the person speaking. Nobody wants to lose their audience.
Getting the sound right for any event you are running is very important and will help your audience to stay engaged.
As I’m sure you know that ‘PA’ stands for ‘Public Address’. This is the common term used for ‘sound reinforcement’ equipment used to address or communicate with a group of people. The principle being: there is a sound source, often someone’s voice, that you are trying to reinforce to enable it to be heard by everyone in the room, as naturally as possible.
If the sound is right at an event, people often won’t even notice it is being reinforced by a PA system, they will just be focused on what is being presented to them. The sound equipment is doing what it’s meant to do and not being a hindrance.
Here are 5 things I try to do to make sure the sound works at any event I am involved with:
Know your needs in advance
Work out the maximum amount of people speaking at the same time which includes any interviewing and decide if you need a roaming mic for Q&A sessions with you audience?
Decide whether you need to link the sound from a laptop or other device to the PA system?
Visit the venue in advance
Check the acoustics and size of the venue. If a venue has some natural reverb, (echo) any sound will travel around the room better. However, too much natural reverb can make things inaudible as the sound bounces continually around the room. The deader the sound in a room, the more amplification you need to enable the sound to travel but, it is more controllable. Tents or marques will soak up a lot of the sound and so you will need to take that in account. Open air events need even more amplification for sound to travel any distance.
Check where the power sockets are located in the room. Make sure power extensions are available, if needed, or bring your own. Check whether the venue provides all the sound equipment you need or whether you need to hire some extra kit in for your event.
For anything you want to connect to the sound system make sure you have the right leads e.g. if sound from a laptop is coming from an HDMI connection going to a projector you will need an AV splitter to separate the picture and the sound signals.
Give yourself lots of time to set up and sound check on the day to make sure everything is working. Remember it may need to be slightly louder once the room is full of people.
If applicable, check wireless mic batteries are fully charged.
Make sure all you speakers know how to use a microphone properly and get them to keep it close to their mouths and not hold it half way down their chest pointing outwards to the audience (this happens a lot more than you think and is a sound engineer’s nightmare).
Getting the sound right for any event is all about preparation. Hopefully, following the suggestions in this article will help make your event a resounding success.
By Michael Frye
Sound Mechanics recently provided and ran the audio-visuals for the Exe Factor event at Mercedes, Exeter.
If you would like help with your event please get in touch.