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Shining A Spotlight On Event Communications

CTME talks to Pro AVL MEA about the importance of event communication for virtual to live events!

What grabs the most attention is not always what makes the show. Pro AVL MEA regularly talks about how good audio can easily get drowned out in a person’s consciousness when some flashy lights are placed in front of them as a distraction. And yet, if a speaker was to go down, expect to see lots of flustered techs darting frantically behind stage. The loss of a speaker would be tragic, but if the comms go down, then the entire event is ruined. It doesn’t matter how well everything else is working if technicians can’t talk to each other.

Handheld radios aren’t the sexiest tool in a production company’s inventory, but never-the-less are one of the most valuable. The lack of visibility makes these systems often very underappreciated by potential clients, and this is something that greatly irks Creative Technology Middle East’s integrated networks technical manager, Rob Turner.

Event communication have been a passion of his since he first entered the industry. Having joined the Creative Technology team in mid-2019, Turner saw a clear opportunity to take the conversation on comms in a serious direction, leading to the establishment of CTME’s new communications and networking division, headed up by himself.

As one of the region’s largest technical rental companies, a focus on providing state-of-the art event communication solutions would also be vital for CT in distinguishing the company from the local competition through increasing their full-service offerings. The global pandemic and slowdown in business across the board has given an additional impetus to get the new department up and running. “There were a lot of chats with Andy Reardon, who runs our Middle East office, over the summer,” recalls Turner. “I put together ideas of how I wanted the department to flow, with specific detail to the products and brands we wanted to purchase.”

Turner has amassed over a decade of experience working on comms to draw on from his time with audio production company, Delta Sound. “This gave me a great grounding of how I wanted to run things at CT and led me towards the choices I made, from the equipment to the type of individuals we wanted on the team.”

A decade-long working relationship is no easy thing to replace either, and so Turner was thrilled when many of his ex-colleagues expressed their desire to join this new division at CT.  “There’s four of us here in total that have moved over, but three solely handling communications. Sherin Dsouza will be focused on managing day-to-day operations for the communications solutions, everything from licensing to the chasing of smaller radio jobs. Jentry Sierra and I worked closely over the years he is familiar with all of the venues and is known by all of the venue staff and stage management teams. It’s always a big help if the show teams know and are familiar with the technical teams. Everything becomes so much easier.”

For CT, this comes as a serious shift away from the popular practice of bundling comms infrastructure up alongside the rest of the audio gear. Creative Technology are well known for their speciality in the video world, globally, but not many know they also offer full turn-key solutions. Turner explains, “We’ve always excelled on the video side, and this new division will help to further our growth. Increasing our presence in communication is another example of a bolt-on service that we can supply.”

“Up until now we’ve had a minimal Clear-Com wired inventory, and like many companies do in this part of the world, everything would get rolled into the audio. It kind of gets specced out and then forgotten about until everyone gets to site. It does the job, but that’s it. CT has an impressive inventory of world-class audiovisual equipment, and I wanted to be sure we were giving the comms side of things just as much love. I wanted to add that layer of professionalism that the company’s reputation rightly deserves.”

Turner’s desire for CT to become the go-to company for comms and technical staff in the region has led to the team gradually augmenting its wired Clear-com stock with new units from Riedel and ClearCom.

CT has been investing in the latest communications technology from two-way radios, event networks, signal distribution and much more. CT now house a variety of leading communication brands such as Riedel, ClearCom, Luminex, GlenSound and Motorola to name a few. Turner explains, “We wanted to ensure we invested in the best communication technology available in the market while also ensuring the equipment would work within the infrastructure of venues and event spaces around the MENA region.”

With a solid team of professionals manning the CT networking and comms department and a fleet of new equipment, for Turner, half the battle has already been won. But how do you persuade a client that may not have an awareness of the complexity of the systems they are using, why they should care about them and perhaps invest more in the future?

“It’s a slow process,” he admits. “When the team go out for client meetings, I insist that one of us from the comms department is present and that comms are considered right from the ground up. Often in this part of the world, it’s swept under the carpet until the last minute, and then an “it will do” system gets put in.”

The aspect is being placed front and centre in the messaging now. “CT has a great team of project managers who are all fully invested and can see the benefits this will add to our clients and the overall event. Certainly, with a number of the production companies doing the hire-in jobs, we’ve reached a point where they will submit individual RFP’s now just for comms – It’s slowly getting thought about more.”

Ironically, the recent shift to online and virtual events has only highlighted this importance. And as physical events start back up, the need to carefully management people’s movements has now properly entered public consciousness. “The lessons learned from the past few months and social distancing are going to play a part in the next year or so of live events, and I think that’s going to elevate everyone’s thought and requirements for comms” concludes Turner. “Comms will no longer be a last-minute thought.”