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The 10 Biggest Little Mistakes In Rental And Staging

As their vendor, AV rental customers not only want you to handle any problem that arises ? they expect you to prevent it in the first place. Anyone can make problems go away, but the art of mastering rental and staging jobs is in having the customer believe there won't be any mistakes.

6. Incomplete testing of equipment after setup or at the beginning of each day

Technicians often check equipment as they install it, but it's vital to review the workings of the entire system once everything is in place. When possible, have someone other than the technician who installed the equipment do the final checks. This will ensure the room is truly ready for use.

Meeting rooms often are used over several days. It is tempting to assume that if no one complains, then everything is in working order. A better practice is to return to check the setup at the end of each day in case any adjustments are needed. Return the next morning to make sure all units power up correctly, and that nothing has been altered, albeit accidentally, by overnight cleaning crews, security guards, or the clients themselves.

This reminds us how important it is for your customer to know how to reach you. Leave a business card or tent card, and their confidence in you rises exponentially.

7. Trusting the hotel spec sheet for vital information

Hotel and convention center brochures want to emphasize a room's size and capacity. Meeting room occupancy limits, while not inaccurate, probably don't leave any space for AV equipment. It's not unusual to find ceiling height specifications that refer to the highest point in the room, yet mention nothing about architectural elements, such as chandeliers or air wall tracks that hang several feet lower (photos 9 and 10).

Visit the job site before you confirm a plan; always submit proposals with a clause stating that the budget is “pending verification of venue requirements.” Take along a site survey kit that includes an electronic tape measure (photo 11), digital camera, and documentation form. With accurate information, you can work with your customers to meet their needs within space constraints.

8. Not checking the power for proper voltage and grounding

Always confirm that the temporary and permanent electrical service at the venue is wired correctly. Manufactured distribution systems and well-labeled power connections are not guarantees of proper wiring. Either request the house electrician to meter the power in front of you, or do it yourself. While most venues employ or contract reputable electricians, the consequences of improper wiring include seriously damaged equipment, costly delays, even injury.

To check for proper wiring of a standard AC outlet, first use a simple tester (photo 12) found at any hardware or electronics store. This will tell you whether or not the three wires are appropriately connected and that there is an Earth ground. Some testers also have a voltage readout. The safe range for most electronic equipment is 115VAC to 125VAC. If you're familiar with proper voltmeter use, tests for proper ground and correct voltage are easy.

9. Performing critical rigging functions yourself

When it comes to rigging, the health and safety of employees and bystanders can be compromised in a split second by a mental error or hardware failure. At minimum, AV companies should require a rigging safety course for any employee or contractor that comes in contact with rigged equipment. Persons responsible for hanging anything over peoples' heads should be supervised by a trained and — preferably —certified rigger. Learn more about certified riggers at

Fortunately, rigging safety importance is catching the attention of building owners who frequently work with outside rigging services providers to manage flown equipment. AV providers should welcome the opportunity to let someone else provide the expertise and assume responsibility for rigging. Insist that the provider inspect your rigged equipment and materials for safety defects, and work with them toward acceptable solutions.

10. Neglecting to verify and monitor recordings

The two biggest lies in AV are “the check is in the mail” and “the recording is for archive purposes only.” The Internet, digital audio, and computer editing have conspired to change recorded audio and video from a luxury to a necessity. More importantly, the average customer now expects broadcast quality.

The best defense is to establish high standards for recording, and stick to them (photo 13). Paying attention to meters is important, but inevitably useless if the signal is noisy or unbalanced. Regular (if not constant) monitoring of audio signals through high quality headphones should be a minimum. If the equipment won't let you to monitor the signal as it is recorded, rather than at the input, then make it a practice to run a test recording and play it back for verification. Then at each opportunity, reverify that the recorded signal is what you expect.

Video adds another dimension, but the standards are the same. Verify that what goes in is what is being recorded. There is no substitute for good engineering, but a good engineer knows that constant monitoring will catch problems as they occur.

Tom Stimson is president and principal consultant of The Stimson Group, a Dallas management consulting firm that specializes in AV. He is chairman of InfoComm's Rental & Staging Council, a member of the Entertainment Technician Certification Council, and a frequent contributor to industry publications. He can be reached at

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