Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Meetings & Events supplement to USA Today.

Picture two events: One in a half-darkened room with a sleepy audience bored by a presenter they can’t hear and fuzzy slides they can’t make out from a dim projector.

The other has music pumping before it even starts, drawing in an excited audience that immediately engages with the dynamic lighting. The presenter splices his talk with video clips that play on bright LED displays.

The difference between the two events is two letters: AV.

Audio visual, or AV, is an essential event component that can make all the difference in driving your message home to attendees by creating an emotional connection with them. Good AV is the difference between attending an event and experiencing it.

“AV establishes an emotional connection through sight and sound,” says Steve Wildemann, president of Rental and Staging Network and president and owner of Advanced Staging Productions. “This connection completely changes people’s attitudes toward a meeting or event. Making them feel part of an incredible live experience is something that cannot be duplicated with a webcast or video feed. Creating this emotional link also drives retention of information. Attendees want to tell stories about it. The emotional connection is the forgotten piece of most events these days.”

AV should provide an immersive feeling where the audience feels like they are enveloped by your message and they become part of it. Or as Mark Miller, president and CEO of EPN member Markey’s Rental and Staging puts it, “It’s like being on a conference call and you are the only one on the phone, and you can feel that isolation and lack of connection. Even with today’s broadcasting and streaming technology, it’s not the same. At the live event, you build off one another for a deeper, more enriching understanding through a shared experience.”

Being in the room at a live event stimulates all the senses—from sight, sounds and tastes—and that captivates audiences. Except it doesn’t when they can hear the presenter or read what’s on the screen. On the other hand, properly executed AV is entrancing and it can make audiences forget to check their cellphones. “AV ties all of the elements together for a cohesive event,” says Miller.

That cohesiveness is something that isn’t necessarily something the audience can articulate, but it is something they notice, at least on an unconscious level. You can measure it in your audience’s rapt faces, the comments you hear when they exit and talk amongst each about what a great event they were in, and most importantly, in the number of people who come back for your next event.

AV is the glue that holds your event together and holds your audience’s attention on your message. AV facilitates the immersive experience that excites audiences and drives your message home.

The Rental and Staging Network (EPN) is a network of top-tier audiovisual production companies throughout North America. Founded in 2007, EPN has members across the United States, Canada and Mexico providing state-of-the-art expertise in corporate meetings, conventions, live concerts and special events. EPN membership is by invitation-only and limited to the most qualified AV production companies. All members are vetted based on stringent criteria for quality equipment, breadth of knowledge in audio, video and lighting production and sound business practices. For more information, visit