An Interview With Robin From On Tour Events, Discussing The Enquiry Process



Q&A With On Tour Events About How To Hire
Q&A With On Tour Events About How To Hire

Hi, and welcome to another blog post with On Tour Events. I am Jack, one of the managing directors at On Tour Events. Today, I'm going to have a conversation with one of the key members of our team, Robin, and she is the brains behind organizing all of the crew, logistics and basically all of the nuts and bolts, which make our business run.


Across the next few weeks, we're going to interview a number of members of staff here at On Tour Events, which hopefully gives you a little insight into how we work, the sorts of events that we produce and basically we're just trying to give our customers a real in-depth idea of how we work and what type of production company we run.


Jack:

So Robin, over to you, I guess. Do you like working here?


Robin:

Yes.


Jack:

That's good.


Robin:

It's a nice place to come to work and I've been doing it for a very long time. So I'm quite confident in what I am doing.


Jack:

How long you been working here?


Robin:

I have been working for On Tour Events for the last couple of years. But before that, I was working for a different company but in the same industry, doing this type of work for about 10 years, so quite a long time.


Jack:

That is why you are very good at your job, and we all pay attention and listen.


Robin:

Thank you. That's very nice. to hear!


Jack:

So, let's discuss one of the projects which you've just finished working on.


Robin:

Ok.


Jack:

I believe that we had an initial inquiry to produce a production package, including lighting, staging, LED screen, sound, and there were some bespoke sort of one-off items which needed to be made. And this was for a Christian music band.


Robin:

Yes.


Jack:

That took place at the LoveWorld UK venue in London right?.


Robin:

Yes, it did.


Jack:

Was it a large production?


Robin:

It was quite a big production for the space that we had available absolutely. It was a very interesting concept when the initial enquiry came through which was interesting wasn't it?


Robin:

Yes, and there was quite a lot of organizing and preparation involved with getting everything ready and designing the layout of the production in terms of lighting, to give the customer exactly what they wanted. There's a lot that goes on behind the scenes once the enquiry comes through the guys set to work with creative ideas and discussion into what would work best for that particular client.


Jack:

So let's start from the beginning. I guess the client emails or calls, and that nine times out of 10 goes via you or certainly via your desk at some point.


Robin:

Yes.


Jack:

So for potential customers or people reading this blog, this may help them when getting in contact with us to let them know what key bits of information we would need to know in order to be able to give them an accurate quote for their event. Somebody says we are looking for a production package. and we would like to hire some lighting for the event as well as an LED wall, staging, we need all the sound equipment, we need everything. How can you solve our problem?


Jack:

What are the questions which potential clients should be asking themselves? Or certainly what are the questions that you are asking initially to be able to quote? Although I've been a big part of a lot of these events over the years, I've taken a slight step back, so you are the point of contact initially what do you find is the most efficient way of dealing with enquiries?


Robin:

Well, quite a lot of the time, people come to us with an idea/ concept of the event they want to put on but perhaps do not have access to key information we would need to know for the quote process. So it is my job to ask the right questions so that we get the information we need to move forward with an accurate cost. A lot of it comes down to where it's taking place, whether it's an inside event, an outdoor event, how many people they will have in attendance, what sort of production they require, is it all aspects or just a part such as lighting.


Jack:

So what typically, if you don't mind me asking for an indoor event or an outdoor event, what are most common key bits of information you would be asking them.


Robin:

So the generic questions that I would ask when someone has come to us and they've laid out just some bare information where it is and the date, for example, and they want certain aspects, whether it's lighting or video screen are things such as how many people they've got attending, how big the room is, if it's a marquee or if it's a conference room or wherever the event is being held a rough understanding of size. I will also ask about power, without power nothing will happen so that is quite an important aspect.


Do they have any visuals that they've seen online that they can refer us to that we can have a look at to give us an idea as to what they're looking for. production wise. What are the event times, do they require someone on site to assist throughout the event or are they just after set up and de rig. Having said that most of what we do requires one of our technicians and crew to assist with rigging/ de rigging.


Jack:

Ok. so you mentioned power.


Robin:

Yes.


Jack:

Now I know why that's important but people may not understand why that is such a key question, and why should they, we are the professionals so we should offer some advice and clarity on requirements before any booking is made. I'm assuming that you're asking that question because if a client wants to hire a large LED screen for a conference in a hotel, you can't just plug into a standard wall socket. There is a minimum requirement generally of 32 amp three phase supply or something like this. So I'm guessing that that's why those questions are being asked?


Robin:

Yes, definitely. Most people, unless they're in the events industry, are not aware of the power draw the LED screen takes. A lot of our enquiries revolve around LED video screen so for this and particularly the larger productions which require sound and lighting in addition it is really important the client is made aware of the power requirements before we get too far down the line a booking is made and then we find out the power available is not enough.


That is not fair on the client to then have to try and resolve the power issue which would end up probably costing them more money getting it resolved. So we like to be straight and honest giving them helpful information from the start which they can then take to their venue if it is an event inside or to a power company for outdoor events.


Jack:

Yes and to be fair, they shouldn't have to know that. They venue should really be guiding them to let them know that if they are bringing in an external production company to supply screen or lighting or sound equipment, then they should be saying, by the way, this room isn't suitable for X, Y, or Z. But nevertheless, you are checking this anyway that's a good thing.


Robin:

I think so.


Jack:

One thing which I have certainly experienced issues with and you have been asked a lot from us guys is access into a venue. Regardless whether it is a hotel in London, a field in the middle of nowhere or it could be a house in Surrey, with a marquee in the garden. It doesn't matter we always have to enquire about the access in and out., We have turned up to some amazing labyrinth type places which boggle the mind as to how we are expected to load in with flight cases of heavy LED video screen, sound equipment, lighting and other production items. We have turned up to lots of cars in the driveway, no direct access to the marquee, steps on the way in or flights of stairs!


We eradicate those issues now by explaining to the client we need to understand the access into the area we are setting up. are there any steps, is there a loading bay, are there any height or width restrictions for vehicles etc. I know that this is one of your areas of expertise because when we do turn up now, it is like a map that we get from you. When to load in, what times?


And again, just so clients are aware of why is this important? If somebody is asking to hire, let's say a large 80 inch TV for a conference in London in one of the flagship London hotels. Why would one hotel be a cost of X and another hotel down the road be a cost of Y when they are a mile apart? One has four flights of stairs and one is flat and level. Why does that make a difference?


Robin:

There is a huge difference, I don't think people anticipate the weight of those 80" LED screens. They are very heavy and if one venue has flat level access his would make it a lot easier for the crew to get in and out- which means less crew required against the other hotel which has flights of stairs to tackle. The hotel with stairs and perhaps without an accessible lift will require more crew to help get the screens to the room in use. So generally for the larger screens that we send out, it's normally a two man job anyway, which we always cost out for properly.


Jack:

So when you say a large screen, what do you define as a large screen?


Robin:

Like an 80 inch screen. They are heavy, and so we have to cost appropriately for the crew members that are involved in getting that screen or screens into the room. So it may be an easy, accessible loading area, straight into the venue, straight into the room without any steps or doors or narrow passageways. And then that would just need two people.


Jack:

Fine. So typically any screen, unless it is 55 inch would require two members of staff.


Robin:

Yes.


Jack:

But if there is no lift at the hotel or venue, and the TV screen has to go up four or five flights of stairs, what I can take from this is that you're going back to the customer straight away and just saying, by the way, this venue has poor access, and we need to book in an additional two or four crew members to get the equipment up.


Robin:

Yes that is correct. This may sound a lot for a couple of screens but that's far from the case. We want to do the job properly to be in and out efficiently and the screens, like I said before, they are really heavy so it becomes a safety matter.


Jack:

Okay. Interesting. So you've asked about power. You've asked about access. What's third on the list?


Robin:

Ok, once we have got past the initial questions of how big the room/ venue is, how many people they've got attending/ area size, access and understand what they are requesting to get a cost for, whether it is just lighting for a corporate function, sound with lighting for a festival event, staging for a wedding or a full production package for a photo shoot we do ask if they have any visuals perhaps they've seen somewhere that they like the look of which they'd like to incorporate that into their event.


Jack:

So when you say visuals, I take it you mean visual examples that they can give us as opposed to visuals for like a video screen?


Robin:

Oh yes, sorry. So I mean pictures of other events that they've seen online or perhaps they have broswed thought our Instagram page where they've looked at some of our previous events and they like the look of something particular on there which stands out to them.


Jack:

Okay.


Robin:

That's really helpful because then it gives us an idea straight away as to sort of the key areas that they're after. They vision and concept for how they want their lighting production to turn out, what level of production they are expecting. How they want their LED screen hung/ rigged, what sort of staging system they require for their wedding or a particular outdoor stage they have seen that they would like a cost for.


Jack:

So do you find that out of 10 customers, do half of our customers come to us and say, by the way, I've seen this picture of a production you have produced in London. I really like the way the lighting looks. I love the tiered stage. Or do they say, a friend has recommended you because you were the suppliers for their live band at the wedding. Or is 50/50?


Robin:

I think a bit of both. We're definitely recommended from different suppliers through friends or corporate businesses speaking to one another. And we definitely do have people coming to us saying, we've seen your website, we've looked at your Instagram page and we like the look of XYZ. Yes, definitely. We can take it from there we can do it exactly as it is in the picture or we can make it bespoke but referencing to the set up they have earmarked online.. It's very much up to the client, what their budget is and what their expectations are. This is something that we like to speak to them directly about, so after the initial enquiry one of the guys normally gives them a call to go over the quote over the phone.


Jack:

And what are they speaking to them about? Are they just following up?


Robin:

They're following up but they're also asking other technical questions..


Jack:

What happens if the client comes to us without any idea on the power, what questions they need to ask us to get a cost and are a novice to event planning. Would you say that at that point we are assessing whether we do a site visit?


Robin:

I was just about to say that. We do offer site visits for clients as well if that helps them gain confidence in our understanding of their event or to visually understand where things are going to be placed and we can run through how we see the set up being laid out, where the power is, what the access is like which we can then revise the quote accordingly if this is required. This service is offered once we have established a good understanding of the event and any potential budgets before we do a site visit.


Jack:

Okay. So typically how far in advance does a customer look to book a conference? And I guess this must change whether somebody is booking a conference or a festival or a wedding.


Robin:

You would be surprised on the amount of last minute enquiries we get. Having said that a lot of people like to be pre-planned and they book ahead, specifically for outdoor events, festivals and weddings. Corporate works tends to be within, I don't know, say a month of the event happening, but sometimes it can be a last minute inquiry that comes through and we do try and be as helpful as possible with regards to finding out what their requirements are, whether that is a pair of LED screens, speakers or staging, whatever it is they want within their corporate environment. And then we take it from there, but I would say anywhere between, I don't know, like a couple of weeks to a year in advance. Depends on the event, it depends what they're after.


Jack:

I have been on many events over the years where we've had phone calls and emails the day before where maybe another supplier in London has let them down. I think it's more common in our industry than some realize, and when you have booked a hotel, you've booked a stage, you think you've got the sound technician turning up with all of the speakers and lighting equipment, to be told that unfortunately they can't supply the equipment within 24 hours notice must be stressful. We have thought managed to turn around events within 24 hours, there is a limit to what can be done, but we have pulled off some fantastic last minute events..


Jack:

So I guess in the final note then is with all of that information you've now gathered, we now know whether they just need to hire maybe a tiered stage for a wedding, or they need a stage for a conference covered in black and white carpet. Or is it that they just need a lectern, microphone, a pair of speakers, a sound engineer, and it's a few hours, that's it. Or, as we both are aware, it could be on the other scale and it could be a truck full of video screen, loads of staging, loads of lighting, rigging, etc. What enquiries / events do you feel that you enjoy the most? Is it a wedding? Do you like talking to a bride and talking about maybe some of the production ideas that we have, or discussing the best solutions so they get the right lighting at the wedding. Or is it when you see the pictures of the dance floors with their monogram initials all over it.? Or do you sit back and you look at maybe a conference where it's for a blue chip company or a well-known brand. Do you think this gives me a little bit of pride, or are they all the same?


Robin:

To be honest, I think it's pretty much the same across the board because we get so many varieties of inquiries. The inquiries that come through, they're not all necessarily the same. So every job that we quote for is slightly different. There's generic sort of packages that we put together to help people out, to give people a good indication of cost quickly, so we can turn it around quickly. I don't have a particular favorite event planning process.


I enjoy assisting people get to the right solution for them, whether it is a small intimate outdoor festival, large corporate function across a few days, a Christian outdoor event with staging, sound and large LED screens or a plush London based wedding with carpeted staging, LED dance floor, bespoke custom lighting and white speakers, I do not have a preference!


Jack:

Okay. Well, thank you very much for your time.


Robin:

No problem.


Jack:

It's appreciated. And I guess next time I'm going to speak with one of the other guys here to discuss one of the services we provide in a bit more depth. Apart from that, Robin, thank you very much for your time.


Robin:

Thank you.


Jack:

And if you're interested in finding out more about the event services we offer here at On Tour Events, please check out the website, which is www.ontourevents.co.uk. We have three locations across the UK, one in London, one in Surrey, and a smaller warehouse in Manchester. Our services are available right across the UK, so if you need to hire any event equipment, give us a shout.


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