Behind the scenes

Audio Design for a Corporate Function

Audio for corporate functions can be simple.  It can also be complex.  Audio design for a corporate function should be much more than whacking up a couple of powered boxes and plugging a lectern in.  But unfortunately, that is often the approach AV companies make because it has been okay once.  Sound serves many purposes in a corporate function.  So it is appropriate to spend time on the design and make sure that you are delivering the audio that your client is expecting at their corporate function.

 

Purpose

Audio can serve a number of purposes at a corporate function.  It is the background music playing when the attendees enter and leave.  Sometimes, it is the soundtrack to video packages that might be introducing a new product.  Then it comprises of the big effect of a reveal.  And most importantly it can serve to reinforce the human voice.  And most specifically, it is the sound of the speaking human voice.  Not singing.

 

The first step in the audio design for corporate functions is to look at where the audience will be located.  Will they be seated?  Are they going to be standing around high bar tables and listening to a Sales Manager’s quick congratulations before getting into the fun part of an event?  Could they be moving around a venue or multiple venues, and will you need to keep them engaged and excited for an extended period?

Q and A
The focus of the presentation part of a corporate function

Voice in a Corporate Function

 

Audio design can either reinforce or take away from the attention of the event.  If there is one speaker presenting at a time, it might be fine to have the sound of the speaker’s voice coming at the patrons from the front, top, and sides of the audience area.  But if you have two speakers interacting, or a panel discussion, it is most appropriate to make the audio reinforce the centre of attention, and appear to have the panellists as the actual audio source.

When focusing on two people having a conversation, and the sound comes from a different location, it is offputting.  This is the intelligibility of the conversation.  Audio consultants will spend great amounts of time on the Speech Transmission Index of a specific room (http://www.embeddedacoustics.com/index.php/speech-transmission-index/9-intro/sti).  This is why the direction the delay speakers are pointing, as well as their delay calibration,  is of vital importance.  Delay speakers should subtly reinforce the main arrays, not be obvious in and of themselves.

Frequency Range

To further complicate it, the human voice uses a different part of its range when speaking as compared to singing (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4155173/).  When speaking, the intensity is much more consistent and the frequency range is much more constrained.  When singing, a performer will have a greater dynamic range. Then they may modulate the sound of their voice to express emotion or content.

This is made even more complex when comparing different types of music.  Folk singers don’t modulate their voices nearly as much as a jazz singer, or an opera singer would.  So in audio design for a corporate function, it is important to EQ a system paying attention to the speaking voice.  This is the ‘phone voice’ range.  It can be correlated to how the human ear perceives sound, dBA weighting (https://www.cirrusresearch.co.uk/library/documents/ebooks/noise-measurement-terminology-guide.pdf).

This can be further contrasted to the frequency range of the orchestra.

Singer vs. Orchestra in a Corporate Function
The frequency range of a singer compared to that of an orchestra

Music in a Corporate Function

This same approach to the voice can be utilized with music.  But with a simpler application.

 

Background music is fine to be the same level throughout the listening area.  But part of the corporate function can be for the attendees to communicate with each other, ie networking or mingling.  EQ should be changed to not compete with the sound of the spoken voice when it is.

Then…what do you do with a band in a corporate function.  We have three possible approaches to this question of audio design:

  • Strictly background
    • This is a live group that is there to supply a live band that is not the focus.
    • Approach like background music
  • Dancefloor band
    • This is normally an after-dinner party act.
    • You want the dancefloor to be loud enough that people can get up and dance (often embarrassingly). But people not on the dancefloor need to be able to converse without yelling.
  • Concert act
    • This is approached like a concert, and you will normally need to adhere to an act’s technical rider.
    • When they are on, all focus is on the band.

 

Hopefully, this will help you in laying out your speaker setup, delay zones and system matrix.

 

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