10 Last-Minute Tips for Running Live Sound at Your Event

Your big event is finally here!

As an event planner, you’ve checked and double-checked everything on your event planning checklist, you’ve set up your microphone and PA systems, and your presenters are ready to roll.

Perhaps you’ve played it safe and hired a crew of audio technicians to operate your sound system. But maybe, like many event planners who operate on a strict budget, it’s up to you to run sound for your event.

Even if you’re familiar with the basics of operating a sound system, you may be wondering what other tricks and techniques audio technicians use to get great sound.

Here are 10 last-minute tips and tricks to help you run sound at your event like a professional audio technician:

1. Make Sure Your PA System Can Adjust to Changes

First things first: make sure your PA system is equipped to handle the size of your event.

Keep in mind that the operating volume of your PA system will likely change once your venue fills up with attendees.

Therefore, you’ll require more volume, so make sure your PA system is slightly bigger than what your venue requires to ensure that you’ll have plenty of headroom in case you need it.

2. Know Where Your Power Sources Are

Every event planner needs to get know their event’s venue.

Make sure you know where your power sources are, as well as the fuse box. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, this small point is often overlooked amid the frenzy of planning an event.

3. Keep Track of All Your Gear and Where It’s Plugged In

Setting up a sound system can be a complicated affair, so don’t make the rookie mistake of losing track of your equipment.

Make a written inventory of your gear so you know who’s responsible for what equipment.

Mark the gear itself, especially the cables, and color-code them at each end. You’ll be able to tell at a glance which microphone corresponds to which channel of the mixer.

Lastly, always make sure to keep your gear safe and secure during your event.

4. Test Your PA System — And Then Test It Again

Schedule time to set up and test your PA system as early as you can before your event.

Additionally, test the PA system an hour or two before your event even if it is under lock and key.

You’ll be surprised at how far your settings can wander, and how many cords will prove suddenly to be non-functional at an inopportune time.

5. Make Sure Your Frequencies Are Available

If your event is being held in a crowed urban area such as New York City, double-check that your wireless microphone frequencies are still available during the day of your event.

Never assume that your required frequencies will always be open.

6. Don’t Overload Your PA System

When operating your soundboard, start off at modest volumes and work your way from the bottom up.

Overloading your sound system can lead to abrasive feedback and distortion, which will likely irritate everyone at your event and send a message that you are both unprofessional and a poor planner.

7. Write Everything Down at the Mixing Board

Just as it’s important to keep a written inventory, it’s equally as important to document sound levels at the mixing board.

If you have multiple presenters at your event, it’s unlikely you’ll remember the audio levels and requirements for each presentation, especially if they are multimedia presentations.

A simple trick is to place a strip of light-colored tape next to each channel, and use color-coded marks to denote the levels that each presenter requires. Additionally, use a notebook to jot down any extra needs and requirements.

8. For Multimedia Presentations, a Little Volume Goes a Long Way

Pay extra attention to your PA system’s volume during multimedia presentations, including ones featuring music, sound effects and videos. Be sure you don’t get carried away with the volume and drown out the presenter during their presentation.

Before each presentation, ask your presenters if they have any unique requirements for their multimedia presentations, and you’ll avoid mishaps.

9. Remind Your Presenters to Mind Their Microphones

Some of your presenters may be seasoned speakers and will be aware of common microphone issues. However, some of your more novice presenters may not know the ins and outs of handling a microphone.

Make sure all potential microphone concerns are addressed to each of your presenters.

Tell your presenters not to wander too closely to the loudspeakers, especially if your stage has limited space.

If you’re using wireless, hands-free lavaliere or headband microphones, place them on your presenters in a position where their body won’t interfere with the sound’s transmission or clarity.

You can reduce excess noise from clothes rubbing against the microphone by placing a loose knot in the mic cord just below the mic, or by taping the cord onto their clothing in an unobtrusive location, leaving plenty of slack between the microphone and the tape.

Lastly, save yourself an unexpected cleaning bill by using tape that won’t leave a sticky residue. Beware of duct or electrical tape.

10. Make Sure Someone is Behind the Soundboard at All Times

Don’t presume your audio technician can simply set up the mixing board and let it run by itself.

Assign an assistant to take care of last-minute issues so that your technician will be free to pay attention to what’s happening on stage and make adjustments on the fly.

Do you have an upcoming event at which you’re running the sound system? Or have you done so in the past? Tell us how you handled it in the comment section below!