How are meeting and event professionals using audiovisual resources to enhance their events and increase audience engagement?

As part of CEAVCO’s new meetings and events interview series, CEAVCO president Matt Emerson recently asked chief events officer Sheila Fox (pictured to the left) to weigh in.

In what ways have audiovisual technology, services, and support helped you achieve your event goals? In what ways has problematic support hindered your ability to achieve those goals?

Nothing stresses me out more than when AV technology doesn’t work – a microphone, LCD projector, laptop, slide advancer …. If I have to track down a technician to help, it’s a big problem. The room is usually full of attendees with high expectations, the speaker gets anxious, and I’m left sweating. Let’s just say I have learned to troubleshoot a LOT of AV issues on the fly.

Working with the right AV partner is key. One of my clients, the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame, has a complex, two-hour ceremony that requires a lot of AV support. I rely heavily on the AV crew to switch cameras between the emcee and inductee at the appropriate times, ensure the lighting is great for everyone who will be onstage, and ensure the microphones work for people of all heights. I give the AV crew a rundown of the show beforehand, along with a copy of the program and the script. It’s important that everyone knows what to expect.

What innovative ways have you found to engage attendees at your events?

Exhibitors often talk about how difficult it is to get decision makers into their booths, so I added a community-service element to the vendor booths at a recent conference. Each exhibitor received a different type of school supply to distribute. Attendees visited each booth, collected school supplies, and filled backpacks for students in need. This strategy gave the vendors an opportunity to maximize their time with conference attendees, and both the attendees and vendors had the opportunity to give back to the community.

If cost weren’t a factor, what would you change about your events? What do you wish you were doing?

I would love to have more creative staging, amazing lighting, engaging video, and cool furniture. I would also love to have an emcee at one of my client’s three-day conferences, where attendees are required to get continuing education credits. Some of the sessions can get a bit dry, so I would love to have the funds to hire someone to tie it all together and liven things up between sessions. 

What have you seen others do at events that you’re considering adding to your events in the future?

I attend PCMA’s Convening Leaders conference to get ideas for my events. I’m a long-time member and really admire their willingness to test new ideas and concepts at their conference of 5,000+ business event professionals. I’m looking at offering shorter sessions and different seating options. For example, I’ve had a lot of requests for standing options from people who work at standing desks.

I also attended a conference this summer that used Catchbox, a foam microphone that can be thrown around the room for Q&A. It was a lot of fun!

What makes a good event production partnership? 

Let me first start with what makes a problematic partnership. No planner wants to see unexpected fees after the event is over. I also don’t like to see a service charge on equipment and labor, and I try to negotiate those charges out of my contracts if possible. Poor communication and follow-through also make events more stressful.

Clear, timely communication regarding the event is critically important. Both the planner and the production partner need to understand the goals and scope of the event, the audiovisual technology requirements, and budgetary concerns. When the partnership is working and the show runs smoothly, I look like a rock star!

Shelia Fox, CTA, is the Chief Events Officer at Event In Site, LLC, a meeting and event management studio based in Columbus, Ohio, that elevates associations, non-profits, and business clients ready to attract and engage a growing audience. Learn more at