Audio problems: How do I fix that squealing sound?

FeedbackOr: “What is feedback? And what can I do about it?”

Frequently in movies someone will walk up, tap a microphone and it squeals. That squealing sound is a miniature version of feedback.

Feedback is probably the most common event audio problem. It’s typically an extended, high pitched squeal or wail. Feedback is a loop: Sound goes into a microphone, it’s made louder and comes out a speaker, and then goes back into a microphone, made louder again, comes out the speaker, and so on.

What can you do about it quickly in a jam?

  • Move any microphones (and the presenters carrying them) away from speakers.
  • If it’s painfully loud you can turn the microphones off or turn the volume all the way down.

But the best way to deal with feedback is prevent it from ever happening. Your AV partner is key in making the appropriate arrangements well in advance.

  • The placement of speaker cabinets in relation to microphones can reduce feedback. Simplifying broadly, speakers should project away from where microphones will be.
  • The caliber of equipment makes a difference. Quality amplifiers, speakers and microphones will perform well when low quality equipment placed in exactly the same configuration will feed back.
  • An equalizer properly set up by a technician can help greatly in reducing trouble frequencies.

Have a question? Click here to ask!


AV 101: What is a distribution amp?

Distribution Amp

Or “Why do I need a DA?”

Suppose you’re having a meeting and displaying a powerpoint. What do you do when everyone can’t see the screen? You can try to make it bigger, or you can add a second screen. If you go with the latter option, you’ll need what’s called a distribution amplifier or DA. Maybe you’ve seen a line item like this on your bill and wondered what it is. Continue reading AV 101: What is a distribution amp?

Should I pay for HD or standard resolution?

Or “What is the difference between these formats?”

post it grid

My uncle used to talk about having an eight track player in his old van and how he would listen to some band I can’t remember the name of over and over. I was too young for that, but I remember when cars used to just have cassette players. Then they had CD players. Now they have connections for an MP3 player or bluetooth. The same procession of technology is happening with video displays and ever increasing quality.

When people use terms like standard resolution, HD, or 4k UHD they’re talking about the number of pixels in an image. A pixel is a single dot of color. Imagine if someone gave you a bunch of colored post-it notes and said “Arrange 25 of these to make a face”. It would look pretty crude. If they said “Arrange 100 of these to make a face” you could include a lot more detail. More pixels results in more detail. So when you’re planning meetings & events what are your options and how do you weigh value versus cost? Continue reading Should I pay for HD or standard resolution?

How do I make sure everyone can see the presentation?


Or “What size screen do I need?”

Have you ever been to an event where you couldn’t read the words on the screen? I recently went to a speech where the screen was so small only the first couple rows out of a few hundred people could be expected to see it. How do you prevent that from happening with your event? There’s a few things you can do: Continue reading How do I make sure everyone can see the presentation?

Should I include a budget range in my RFP?

Toothbrush anchor
The anchor is metaphorical.

The other day I went to the pharmacy and bought some replacement heads for an electric toothbrush. This was the first time I’d bought them myself, and they seemed a little pricey, so I went with the generic store brand. A few days later I thought to look them up on Amazon. They were so much cheaper! All of them, both the name brand and generic versions. This is an example of the power of anchoring.

When I went to the pharmacy, the store suggested a price (an anchor) which gave me a frame of reference for what was normal, even though I went with the lowest cost option they had. If I had looked up the prices online first, I would have had a different anchor, and thought the pharmacy prices were much too high. You can use the power of anchoring in your request for proposal by including a budget range. Continue reading Should I include a budget range in my RFP?

How much space do I need for the projector and screen?

Or: “What is throw distance?” “What is throw ratio?”

Screen head
Don’t let this be your attendee.

I was setting up for an internal hotel staff event and the sales manager came in: “Can you push the screen back? We need room for the dessert station.” The screen was set up for rear projection and unfortunately I needed at least 10 feet between the screen and projector, so the dessert station had to find a new home. The good news is it was a low stakes internal event and we had some flexibility. But you don’t want any surprises for your event. How do you plan to have the right amount of space? Continue reading How much space do I need for the projector and screen?

What is aspect ratio?

Or “What is the difference between 4:3 and 16:9?” “Why should I care about aspect ratio?”

A 4:3 image inside a 16:9 screen. Extra space could have been used for graphs!

Suppose you’re having a meeting for all your top executives and they’ve spent a lot of time putting together presentations with spreadsheets and charts and graphs. The day of the event the first executive loads her slide deck, but the image doesn’t fill the screen. There’s gaps along the edges. You’ve got pretty big screens but the actual presentation seems smaller. What’s the problem? The aspect ratio of the source material and displays don’t match.

Continue reading What is aspect ratio?

How do I save money on my AV bill?

Or: “How can I lower my AV costs?”

Gold podium
Tip: Ask if they have a podium that isn’t made of gold and encrusted with jewels

I had talked to a client about their event, this was the first time this particular meeting was being held. It was a few days, with a general session and four breakout rooms along with a special awards gala. I put together a proposal and sent it. I immediately heard back from them – “This is three times what I can spend!” This wasn’t the first time I had a conversation like this; maybe you’ve experienced it as well. Especially when you’re working with a constrained budget, what can you do to lower your AV bill? Continue reading How do I save money on my AV bill?