Sound is King

When live event fundraising, what is the number one pain point donors experience at events? You might guess long boring speeches, or waiting in long lines. And those are big (and avoidable) ones – but not THE one…

Are you LISTENING!? (Hint. hint.) We’re talking about poor sound and AV. That’s right. The number one paint point experienced at live fundraising events is BAD SOUND and poorly executed audio visuals! Good sound, in conjunction with a fabulous Benefit Auctioneer Specialist, is the foundation of a great fundraising event. Successful fundraising is greatly influenced – positively or negatively – by the quality, distribution and volume of sound. If sound is garbled, unclear, distorted or improperly “EQed,” people don’t give to capacity because they can’t follow what’s going on. It really is that simple! Folks who can’t understand what’s happening either tune out and ignore the program, or worse, become irritated. And what, friends, do we continually teach you about donors? KEEP ‘EM HAPPY! 

Great AV companies are worth the investment every time, as crystal-clear sound pays you back (and then some!) in not only more money earned but also an improved donor experience.

Here are our top tips on ensuring crystal clear, high-quality, FUNDRAISING-WORTHY sound for more satisfied, generous supporters.

Invest in Pros + Maximize ROI

Great audio visual ain’t cheap. But cheap audio visual is never great – AND ends up costing you, due to poor donor experience and declines in giving as a result. Trust us – it’s never worth it to scrimp on AV – especially when earning top dollar is the goal. Hire pros who’ll provide a balanced fundraising-worthy sound system, with loudspeakers evenly spaced throughout the venue. This enhances sound and makes it more clear and enjoyable for guests. 

Professional AV companies are knowledgeable about the specific (and unique) requirements for live fundraisers. They’ll provide an event manager to masterfully handle all the technical details for the night as well as support staff on site during the ENTIRE event – any problems, they’ll quickly nip ‘em in the bud so you have nothing to worry about! 

Volume vs. Clarity

Let’s settle this next one once and for all. Yes, volume matters. But CLARITY – clarity even more so! Donors must be able to easily understand EVERY spoken word – clearly. Think about it. When participating in cocktail hour revenue streams, for example, what do folks need to know – at that moment – to make a buying decision? Things like, How much does it cost? What’s the prize? How do I participate? Where do I go to buy-in? And even more importantly – during live auctions, bidders are technically agreeing to binding verbal contracts each time they raise their paddle. Doesn’t it make sense they would want to know EXACTLY what they’re agreeing to? And let’s not forget your special appeal story. When it’s being presented, and every single spoken word makes an impact, don’t you want – or rather NEED – your donors to understand each word clearly? YES YOU DO!

Control is Key 

The pros will take care of all the things many of us would rather not think of or don’t know that we should be thinking of. How many guests are attending? Did you know that two loudspeakers per every 75-100 guests is ideal for fundraising? Speaking of speakers – are yours individually controlled, time and phase-aligned? Are they tuned specifically for the space they’re operating in? Are they evenly distributed throughout the venue, and louder than the ambient noise of the crowd? They need to be. True audio pros will calibrate the sound system properly, resulting in a clearer, better-sounding experience for all. 

Consider your living, breathing speakers – what works for one person, will not work for every presenter! A professional sound engineer will make on-the-spot adjustments on the mixing board, evening out variations between speakers’ volume levels and EQ-ing their voices, to deliver uniform levels of sound from presenter to presenter. These are problems your DJ, bartender moonlighting as a sound tech or worse yet – NOBODY AT THE HELM – cannot and do not address. Unacceptable! And totally avoidable. 

And please, keep your volunteer or novice tech person from blasting sound so loudly that guests cover their ears to protect their long-term hearing. While we’re at it, eliminate reverb so as not to vibrate your attendees’ eardrums. I mean, we want to tickle their fancy – just not their ear drums. Professional sound engineers will make magic happen during sound check, pre-event – and will make any necessary adjustments as needed – during the event – to keep everything perfect at all times. Lay persons never cut it. 

The Lowdown on Loudspeakers

Each loudspeaker should provide a minimum of 500 to 1,000 watts of power to ensure your event sound is robust and clear, sans delivering dreaded digital distortion. When loudspeakers are placed on either side of a stage, situate the horn (located on top of the loudspeaker) ABOVE the audience’s heads. For especially large venues, suspending the system from the ceiling or trussing may be the ticket. If this isn’t possible, a sound system with main speakers, front fills and a range of delays is often the only solution, so every component of that setup is well-optimized. If the sound folks you’re speaking with don’t know this stuff, they are not your people. 

A loudspeaker’s performance is greatly influenced by the acoustics of the event space. Challenging venues and improper loudspeaker placement interferes with achieving true speaker fidelity. Unfortunately, most live venues and environments were NOT designed to maximize the listening experience. Thus, it’s essential to recognize and proactively correct what the space does to distort sound, to optimize the listening experience for donors so they give more generously

When a sound system relies on one or two main speakers positioned at the front of the room to provide audio for the entire event space (we don’t recommend this!), the sound is overly loud up front and not nearly loud enough in the back. This is obviously NOT ideal for fundraising – so a well-placed delay sound system can extend the clarity of the entire system, throughout the space – definitely not a job for novices. Are you starting to see (hear) our point yet?

Technical Event Planners? Yes, please!

Experienced and skilled live event technical planners recommend – even insist upon – a pre-event walk-through. Walk-throughs reveal potential snafus – to be avoided – and they’ll help your AV team determine strategies for setup, load-in and load-out. They’ll tightly organize every phase of development and execution so no detail is left to chance! They’ll also provide room diagrams detailing production aspects, like the location of screens, lighting, loudspeakers, the FOH tech table and any other design element you request. Identifying your AV needs in advance helps manage your budget – avoiding costly last-minute extra equipment orders or rush labor charges.

Sound Check is ESSENTIAL

Some believe the pre-event sound check is simply a rehearsal for the people speaking – which it is. But it’s also a run through for your AV techs so they can enhance every part of the delivered program. A multitude of adjustments comprise sound checks and should happen long BEFORE the live program ever begins. Insist that ALL presenters sound check. It only takes a few minutes, and it makes a HUGE difference in the overall success of your event. 

Allow the experts to focus on sound, so YOU can focus on the million other details needed to ensure a fabulous event – like proper donor development, a successful seating plan, enticing revenue streams and righteous registration. Avoid succumbing to the myriad of things that can (and do) go terribly wrong at live events and never allow sound to be one of them!

You’ll likely never hear a word about it if the sound is great, but lousy sound is memorable in the WORST POSSIBLE WAY! Let us put you in touch with amazing professional sound partners who are reliable, proactive and truly joys to work with. Reach out! Let’s make some magic – together.

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