Corporate events are a waiting game.
There will be schedules and scripts, and then there will be revisions of schedules and scripts. About a day before the event, there will be the final revision of the schedule and the script.
When you turn up, realize that these details usually serve more as guidelines than rules set in stone.
The people formulating them often don’t know how long something in tech world takes, or they tend to discard the basic principles of physics, such as the fact that an act cannot magically appear on stage – there must be sufficient time allocated for them to get there and set up.
The “final final” version of the schedule and script will usually be made usually on the spot. Just be prepared to work under two different mindsets: waiting and rushing.
Audio is low on the priority list.
Corporate events are mainly visual affairs. They’re about logos, keynote addresses, lighting, video, catering, seating charts, wardrobe, banners, flowers, CEOs, invited guests, mingling, business, gossip… and then audio.
Be ready for questions that you may not hear otherwise: “Do we have to have these microphones here?” “Do these speakers really have to be in the room?” “Can you move the PA system between acts?” “Do you have smaller/white/transparent speakers because these are too visible?”
Particularly if you’re the audio provider for the event and not onboard as a freelancer, there are some measures you can take to be more in tune with the visual aspect of the event.
Fabric can be employed to tastefully drape loudspeakers and stands. There are stretchy fabric stand covers readily available or you can design and make your own (black and white options have top priority).
Select visually appealing (usually black) mic stands (in other words, ones that aren’t scratched, covered in tape, and/or rusty). The shoddier ones might be OK for a hi-hat mic but absolutely not for a CEO of a company that pays your fee.
If you have quality wireless mic systems, use them. The fewer cables the client sees, the better. However, be sure to do the homework on frequency coordination. And be very mindful of cable management; from the outset, make sure that cable runs are as “invisible” and neat as possible.
Dress for the occasion.
Corporate events are much more about appearances and the visual than club shows, festivals and even arena concerts. If at any point you must appear on stage and/or be in the audience, whether it be to bring out a mic or to mix from the seats, it’s best to blend in as much as you can.
It happens too often: classy show, crowd in fancy attire, some luminary on stage about to speak – and the tech adjusting the mic stand is wearing a Sex Pistols T-shirt, ripped jeans and worn-out sneakers. That’s a big no-no, and I’ve seen people lose work as a result.
The role at corporate events is that of a stealthy ninja – not noticed by anyone. An ironed black shirt, black pants, and black shoes are mandatory for anyone visible to the audience.
The upside of doing audio for corporate events can be long-term engagements, because clients and agencies like to work with the same team. If you’ve done a great job and they’re comfortable with you, they’re likely to ask you back. For the same reason, there’s a lot of competition in this marketplace, so hopefully these observations can help you gain a foothold in the market – and keep it.