Often overlooked or taken for granted, the audio/visual component of an event can be the difference between delight and dismay. Technology is constantly evolving, and the A/V services and team support at a convention center are vital to the success of any event, from a small team building exercise to a massive hybrid meeting with multiple speakers, on-screen video and graphics, and connected breakout rooms.
The A/V team at Monona Terrace has been at the forefront of state-of-the-art A/V services for events in Madison, Wisconsin for decades. Today the team is led by John Schwoerer, a 20 year “veteran” in the A/V industry. Starting out as a stagehand, his interests focused on the technology behind live theater and how lighting and sound could impact stage productions. John and his team are all about keeping up to date on the latest equipment and techniques, how to employ it for events, and delivering the best customer experience possible.
Does Monona Terrace have a full suite of technical services?
Monona Terrace provides the most comprehensive, high end A/V suite of services in the area and is dedicated to investing in the latest equipment and technical infrastructure available. This includes computerized lighting systems that can do eye-popping displays, a fleet of high-definition LCD screens on movable stands, a massive HD projector/screen combo that’s an incredible 45’x15′, and a long list of other offerings to ensure any event looks and sounds amazing.
One of the most important upgrades has been the wireless network. “We were given the flexibility to chart our own course and migrated from separate proprietary systems to everything running together over a network,” John says. This has practically eliminated the need for their team to run numerous, long cables across each room for lighting and sound, which is time-intensive, expensive, and presents tripping hazards. Now there are network jacks everywhere. Plug in a lighting or sound device, tell the network what it is, and it’s running. The Monona Terrace A/V team can now put sound mixers, lights, and speakers in more places without having to run a slew of cables, which provides more options for event planners.
What separates the Monona Terrace A/V operation from other convention and event centers?
“It’s our in-house team,” John proudly says. “We’re actual employees of Monona Terrace that have control over all aspects of the building. We’re more vested in the end product for our clients rather than a third-party contractor.” This extends to the other necessary services required for an event, such as food/beverages, security, and floor management of potentially hundreds of guests. Nothing is siloed, so each team works together harmoniously to ensure the success of an event.
Plus, the Monona Terrace team knows the space. There’s no learning curve that an outside vendor or contractor must go through because the in-house team handles it all. “If there’s a problem, we know how to handle it and have the redundancies in place so that backups are available just in case,” John points out.
What are the biggest changes the A/V team has faced?
“Hybrid events,” John says without a pause. Hybrid events were being done prior to the pandemic, but it was accelerated as a result and now it’s a prerequisite for events. “During Covid we set up a studio here as a proof-of-concept. Just like a television studio,” John recalls. “We now apply that high end studio concept to in-person events.” Two projectors were combined to broadcast a seamless image on their giant, behind-the-stage screen. This screen is a blank canvas that can do custom graphics, video, picture-in-picture, titles… just about anything you can imagine, the Monona Team can do it.
Thanks to hybrid events, people can attend events virtually from anywhere. And a client can also include other venues from across the country in real time, which turns their one location event into a nationwide mega event. This is where the Monona Terrace wireless infrastructure and flawless high-speed internet stand apart. Imagine all of this for one event:
- Custom graphics on the massive high-definition screen integrating an in-person keynote speaker with multiple other venues across the country.
- The speaker “bounces” around to each venue, where the video and sound must come through without a hitch, with picture-in-picture, on the big screen.
- Hundreds of on-site event attendees all connected with laptops, phones, and tablets.
- Multiple hybrid breakout rooms happening simultaneously with the ability to view and seamlessly speak to each other.
This is what Monona Terrace delivered recently for a national conference. The A/V team alone consisted of multiple camera operators, lighting and sound technicians, a teleprompter operator, video switcher, content director, and a dedicated stage manager.
John closes by saying, “for a hybrid event, clients want options – people attending from home, or going back to their hotel room to watch recorded breakout speakers from other sessions or linking up with other remote gatherings. Clients want to interact in ways they want.” And the Monona Terrace team delivers.
What sets the Monona Terrace A/V team apart from other venues?
It’s experience, attention to detail, and a personal touch. The A/V team is constantly checking the sound, video, the internet, and making sure the client understands the equipment and how to operate it. This is especially important if an event has multiple breakout sessions going on at the same time.
And what if things go sideways? “We have a house phone in each room,” points out John. “Our office is right here on the main floor. All a client has to do is press ‘zero’ and help is on the way.” Plus, the A/V staff has the personal skills to keep clients happy. “If you’re the best in the world but can’t talk to a client in ways they understand, you’re not being very helpful,” John says like he knows.
What’s the best part about being part of the Monona Terrace Team?
“The ever-changing environment,” John says. “You never know what’s going to happen.” “One day it’s mixing multiple bands on the rooftop. Then it’s coordinating with our catering team in the ballroom because of a balloon drop.” In addition, John points out, “there are great team members who have been working together for years and know how to deliver a wonderful event and experience for their clients. It all has to happen in harmony.”
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