. VOLTS, AMPS, PLUGS AND POWER 10-1-2001 | Meetings & Conventions


Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October 2001 Current Issue
October 2001 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Steve LaManna


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 course, costs.

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 confusing.

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 you.

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 needs.

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 charges.

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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