Your event is tomorrow and your images are not
showing up on the monitor. It’s late, you traveled all day, and the
AV tech is nowhere to be found. There are some simple things that
can make or break your next event that we should all know. From who
to call in the event your hardware is not working, to why the same
thing you successfully tested at the office is now not viewable at
the show. However, no one wants to ask what may appear to be an
We recently attended an AV training session with some of our
technicians where they shared key tips on how to ensure your AV
functions in your booth. Below are some of the tips I gleaned from
1. ALWAYS HAVE YOUR CONTENT READY WELL BEFORE THE
At a minimum, make sure to test it on the same
model of computer or TV that will be used at the show. If
your exhibit provider will be staging your booth in advance, send
them the content ahead of time so they can incorporate the AV into
the staging, if possible, and play your content at that time to
ensure there are no issues with incompatible file types. Bring all
the same cords you used to test the AV during staging to the show.
2. KNOW YOUR FILE TYPES.
Find out what file type(s) you have and
what file types your devices can play in advance, then communicate
with the exhibit provider, AV rental or installation technicians so
they know what kind of hardware you will need. Basic file types
include MOV, AVI, MPG (MPEG), WMV and MP4.
3. KNOW THE SIZE AND RATIO OF YOUR TV.
Determine whether or not the overall
outer width & height of the TV will obstruct any graphics on your
exhibit and if the size is compatible with the content you will be
playing. 4:3 was the standard height/width ratio used in old CRT
monitors and early flat screens, but today the standard for both TVs
and monitors is 16:9.
4. PLAN YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION WELL AHEAD OF TIME.
you choose WiFi, Ethernet wired access or install a hot-spot in your
booth you should have a backup. Also remember to evaluate costs
depending on your needs and have some standalone content or another
way to access or download data if the internet connection fails.
Cost varies widely from show to show and a wired connection is
often more expensive but may be worth it due to the issues that can
arise with other options, especially in a large show venue.
5. DO YOU NEED A COMPUTER, FLASH DRIVE OR ANOTHER
Content may be playable simply by
inserting a flash drive into the TV, but not all TVs have built-in
flash drive readers and not all content can be played this way. Find
out in advance if your TV and/or media will require a computer or
internet access. Mini computers can often be purchased at a
reasonable cost if you plan in advance.
6. TO LOOP A VIDEO OR SERIES OF PHOTOS, CHECK THE TV
sure the monitor you are using is capable of doing so and bring
instructions on how to do that if needed. Some TVs have a built-in
capability to loop a slideshow of images. Ensure yours does before
leaving for the show. In order to loop content, the monitor must be
in the appropriate setting. Some models must be in “Demo mode” while
others must be in “Home Use mode.”
7. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR EXHIBIT PROVIDER IS AWARE OF
WHO YOU ARE HIRING FOR AV
Many exhibit providers already have AV
rental or will arrange the setup with a preferred vendor if they
can’t do it themselves. Either way, you will want to ensure the AV
provider has all the appropriate tools and any necessary mounting
8. BRING AN EXTRA CONVERTER TO HOOK UP YOUR LAPTOP TO
Extra cords don’t cost a lot, don’t take
up a lot of room and won’t add a lot of weight to your bag… but they
can be life savers! When in doubt, throw in an extra HDMI cable, USB
cable and duct tape for wire management. While you are at it bring
extra flash drives with all your content and upload that content to
the cloud too.
9. KNOW YOUR CORDS.
I know, the sight of a jumble of cords makes me nauseous too. But
here are some invaluable cord facts:
HDMI – High Definition Multimedia Interface cords are the
standard for connecting high-definition equipment. It transmits
video, audio, and data. According to HDMI.org, virtually every
TV sold today has at least one HDMI connection. At long runs
(over 25’) an “active” HDMI Cord, a repeater or an amplifier
will be needed.
- USB –Universal Serial Bus is
a cable that provides charging and data connection to devices.
Depending on the device you use you may need a different type of
connector. There are 4 different types: Micro, Mini, Type A and
Type B. The most common ones for AV are the Mini or type A or
type A Flash drive. Make sure you double check what type of
plug is needed on your device.
- DVI – Digital Visual
Interface. Used for passing digital video signals from a
computer to a monitor.
- VGA – Video Graphics Array
15 pin connector. This is a technology that is on its way out
but is still used to transfer a signal from a computer to a TV.
Cable – Used
to connect to the high-speed wired internet.
Display IEEE 1394 ports (also known as Firewire® or
Thunderbolt™). Used for Apple products. Note that sizes vary
depending on the machine you are using.
Port. Used with computers and HD displays. Can also be used in
multi-display splitting. It can be converted to HDMI using an
external adapter if needed.
component cords or RCA connectors. On older projectors, DVD
players or older TVs, multi-channel connectors are still used,
so having a number of adapters is always your best bet.
From left to right: Mini B, B connector, A plug, B
For a great resource on everything you ever wanted to
know about cords and more. Check out the crutchfield.com site Home
10. CONSIDER WIRE MANAGEMENT.
You don’t want your clients tripping
over the connection between your laptop and the power source or the
TV, so make sure nothing is obstructing traffic. Ideally, make sure
cords are hidden and bring duct tape and zip ties just in case.
11. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ADEQUATE CASES TO PROTECT
ELECTRONICS FROM DAMAGE OR THEFT.
If you are bringing your own TVs, your
exhibit house should be able to rent or sell you crates if you need
them. At the very least, plan to have nondescript boxes with good
quality foam to protect your investment.
12. IF YOU WILL NOT BE ATTENDING THE SHOW, MAKE SURE
YOU DISCUSS YOUR CONTENT WITH STAFFERS IN ADVANCE.Share not only what content you will be
playing on any monitors or portable devices, but also provide them
with written instructions on how to connect and play everything,
just in case there are issues during the show. AV talent varies in
13. IF YOU ARE RENTING A MONITOR, TRY TO SPECIFY THE
MODEL OR FIND OUT WHICH MODEL YOU WILL GET.
We find that Samsung smart TVs work well
for our needs. Note that when you rent, the profile and weight of
monitors varies greatly depending on the type and model of monitor
you get. Be especially careful when incorporating touchscreens as
they can be extremely heavy. Inform your exhibit house ahead of
time if you are planning to use them. If at all possible use the
same hardware and software you plan to have at the show to test your
content. Sometimes the same TV model number can have a different
menu or interface depending on the year it was produced or the same
type of computer may not have the same software that was used for
testing if it is not the same machine.
14. IF YOU ARE HAVING ISSUES WITH YOUR TOUCHSCREEN,
TRY UNPLUGGING YOUR USB FIRST.
Unplug both the USB and the power cords
then plug them back in. Surprisingly, this often resolves the issue.
15. HAVE AN AV SPECIALIST ON SITE.
you are not a technical person, ensure you have either someone on
your team who will be there or who can remote into your laptop
during install. Better yet, hire a supplier who will have experts
on site. Ask for a copy of the written instructions provided to
your AV tech team if your supplier does not already provide them to
you as part of their service.
16. CONSIDER PURCHASING OR RENTING A PORTABLE MEDIA
This is especially important if you are
not sure what type of TV you will have at the show. Some of our
offices swear by Micca Speck
HD Portable Digital Media Player. It is a small (3” x 2.5”) box
that provides the ability to play photos, music and video formats on
a TV and includes a remote. This device will accept USBs and many
content formats. It will also connect to your TV using an HDMI
cable. There are other similar media players in the market such as
ZEN BOX, Western Digital, etc.
17. USING POWERPOINT?
your PowerPoint is not playing on your TV, try to export it as a
video file (either MP4 or MOV file) so it can be played on the TV
without the need for a computer.
18. MAKE SURE THAT IF YOU ARE USING POWERPOINT THAT
YOU KEEP THE CONTENT ON EACH SLIDE TO A MINIMUM.
Focus on communicating through visuals.
Check out this funny video by Don McMillan, Life
After Death by PowerPoint. You may want to consider having a
video produced by a professional instead. If you are concerned
about the cost, consider other ways video could be used throughout
your organization. This may allow for the opportunity to partner
with other groups or departments to help pay for the production
cost. Also, consider the lifespan of content. Single-use,
exhibit-specific content can be seen as far too expense for the
immediate ROI, however, if your content can be used on your website
and on social media then it will have a much greater impact and
return over time.
Thank you to Ted Spies from our Skyline
Exhibits and Graphics MidAmerica office,
James LaCour III from Skyline
Gulf Coast, Cathan Murray and Jason Gilmour from Skyline
many others for their great AV tips.