Managing the AV during a large conference with multiple rooms can be challenging for any Audio Visual company. Sometimes, breakout rooms are an afterthought and are not given the proper focus that they should. The team managing the event is always focused on the plenary sessions and making sure that the main room goes well, but the attendees spend as much, or more time in breakouts as they do in the plenary.
The breakout experience can have a huge impact on the experience of the attendees and an even bigger impact on the presenter experience. You are a good planner or organizer if your presenters are comfortable and when they have been given what they asked for and what they need. Often breakouts are set up with no proper equipment, or any technical support.
At FPE we have an electronic form that is completed by the presenters who will be using the breakout rooms and they fill in exactly what they need. We then ensure we are providing everything that may be needed. We take care of wireless mics, flip charts, projection, sound systems, etc. Inexperienced presenters may think that they don’t need a sound system but once the room is full of people it becomes obvious that it is hard for attendees near the back to hear. They may also think that their video can be heard from the tiny speaker in a projector, but a proper sound system is definitely required.
Having technical support available is also highly important. Just think, how many times do presenters show up in a meeting room and find a projector and a VGA cable and nothing else? Presenters don’t always travel with the adapters they need to connect the computer, nor do they mostly have the knowledge to connect their device to a projector. These days there are plenty of types of proprietary connections and connection adapters. It is important to have adequate technical staff in your team to help presenters get connected. If you have 6 rooms and one technician, then the chances are many of those presentations will experience a delayed start. A good rule of thumb is to have one technician for every 3-4 breakout rooms.
The success of managing multiple breakout rooms is possible when management does good planning. Ensure yourself to get the right info from presenters; do they need a projector, are they relying on having an internet connection, what is their level of expertise, do they have their own clicker or laser pointer, will your AV company provide those things on-hand if presenters don’t bring them? As conference organizers, you should pay attention to the details of your breakout room requirements and choose an AV supplier that is going to support them properly. You shouldn’t be chasing down the in-house AV tech who is working on another floor setting up equipment for another client. Dedicate the resources necessary and you won’t have to experience 15-20 minutes of panic every time the sessions start.