Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October
Back to Basics
By Steve LaManna
VOLTS, AMPS, PLUGS AND POWER
Most planners today need more than the average electrical
outlet to adequately wire an event
Shortly after Benjamin Franklin nearly electrocuted himself by
sending a kite up in a thunderstorm, scientists proclaimed the
first axiom of power: "It works better when you plug it in." The
realities of wiring an event, however, can be much more involved.
Today's equipment comes with all kinds of surprises, needs and, of
CALLING THE EXPERTS
Unless every piece of equipment being used for the meeting requires
a simple grounded 110-volt outlet (the kind you find in your home
to plug in the blender), you should enlist an A/V expert to help
figure out what your needs really are, because the jargon can be
Power requirements can range from single phase to three-phase
208 current. Once that requirement is determined, find out if you
will need 100-, 200- or 300-amp circuits.
How about connecting equipment to these circuits? Will you need
special plugs, like Camlocks or Hubble twists? And what wiring
gauge for lighting, audio or video? What type of grounding do you
have? And what if your ground is not bonded back at the
transformer? Good heavens, what then?If you are versed in such
jargon, stop reading this article at once and get a job with a
staging company. Otherwise, consider the following.
When dealing with your A/V company, one of the basic rules you
will need to grasp is: Let them handle the power requirements for
Depending on what you need, the juice might not come cheap.
Power costs range from the low hundreds to many thousands of
dollars. Requests for power beyond what you find access to on the
walls of the ballroom or on the exhibit hall floor almost always
are acquired by special order from the venue. When you need
additional power, or an unusual type of power, the venue will
supply a "drop," which is normally a cable with a box on the end of
it. This box is connected to a larger power supply, and it can give
you a variety of plugs, connections or currents, depending on your
Think of it as funneling water into your house. The line starts
out with a large-diameter pipe in the street. The water then is
piped into your home in smaller and smaller increments. You might
simply need to add additional "faucets" (outlets), so you have more
ways of tapping into the power.
To adequately plan and protect yourself, do the following when
considering a meeting site.
• State your needs. Ask the venue for a power
order form. Be sure to fill it out and include it when you submit
your RFP to the staging company.
• Get quotes. Ask the staging company to
include a power estimate in its bid.
• Discuss billing. Confirm whether charges are
flat fees or daily fees. Most venues charge a flat fee for power
consumption for each power drop.
• Beware of patch fees. These are charges by
the in-house A/V company for the privilege of plugging into its
audio system. Patch fees are not part of the A/V expenses, but
imposed by the venue. Your A/V vendor probably will not absorb
these costs. However, the vendor should not mark them up. Your best
protection is to have patch fees billed directly to your master
account rather than through the A/V vendor, so there is no
connection between the patch fees and the A/V company's
• Ask if it's outsourced. Realize that your
power might not actually be supplied by the hotel, but by a vendor,
just like A/V. For instance, you might be buying power from the
decorator, as these companies sometimes supply such services.Steve LaManna is regional sales manager for
AVI Creative Show Services in Orlando, Fla.
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