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Old August 13th, 2015, 06:25 PM   #1
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I want to shoot seminars. Where do I find clients?

My business's focus is primarily live switched stage events. Multi-camera recitals, concerts, plays, and the like. Doing this, there are times of the year that I am very busy, and times that I am not so busy.

I would like to fill the times I am not so busy by shooting seminars. In addition to my live switched multi-camera system, I also have a mid-range PA system, projector, and screen. I can take a feed from the projector into my video switcher and use that as a video source along with the cameras. Also, I have done a fair amount of live streaming, so I am very comfortable with different types of streaming servers and services.

I am confident that my crew and I can do an excellent job when it comes to seminar/conference video production. The only problem is that I am not sure how to find clients for this kind of work. Any suggestions?
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Old August 13th, 2015, 08:21 PM   #2
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Re: I want to shoot seminars. Where do I find clients?

You're going to be in competition with more than just video guys.
Around here (Chicago) there are 3 major AV companies that handle the vast majority of seminars, large and small. They supply the gear and the manpower. I ran camera and also worked as a V1 for all of them over the years. Some of the shows (seminars were so large that it was almost a Hollywood production). What I liked about freelancing for them was simply, I had no headaches. Load in, set up, fax it out, run camera or operate as the video engineer, strike the show, load out, collect my check. No headaches at all.
Now by the same token, I had a few clients that I handled the entire seminar. Some were very small, some not. In the very small cases I might be the lead tech, camera op, V1, A1, laborer and everything else. The others, I hired a crew of people I knew and trusted and rented the gear. I did seminars with 1 camera and a small PA and seminars (conventions) with 4 camera and a sound system that would have made U2 proud. How did I find the clients? Same way I found every other client I ever had in the 30+ years I was in the business. I pounded the streets, knocked on doors, made phone calls, joined the Chamber and just about every other business networking organization I could find.
No easy way to do it. Go to the hotels and conference centers in your area and find out who they are using, if anyone, for their AV work. Have a package ready for them to include a business card, letter of introduction with some of your background and experience.
IE; I have been in the video business for 10 years doing the following...(list out recitals, plays, concerts, multi camera work etc). I never put out a pricing list EXCEPT for basic hourly/daily rate for one person and a basic camera package which for me was 1 camera, on camera light, tripod and 1 wireless mic.
Once in the door and talking with the decision maker you've got something to leave them. These people are busy and running around the hotel (if they're anything like the people here in Chicago) so it wouldn't be unusual if you have to go back 2 or 3 or more times but make sure you get their card and phone number as well as the email address. Then of course you've got to sell yourself to them. They don't like to change because once they've got someone they trust, it's hard to get them to try someone else.

Quick story....Once upon a time about 10 or 12 years ago, I was running camera at a seminar of about 500 people. Again I was hired by the AV company for the 2 days, no set up or strike, they had a separate crew for that, YAY! Anyway I was the A camera on a riser at the back of the room and there was another camera on a tripod with dolly wheels towards the to get audience reaction shots. I was using a Sony DXC50 with a Canon 40X lens which was a set up I had used many many time before. No problem. Now some of the speakers were stationary and some were rabbits. They walked all over the stage and some stopped suddenly and turned or didn't. Really a PITA. What do you do then? Widen out a little bit and stay awake. During the lunch break on the first day I was back stage talking to the V1 and director and had mentioned to them that I had done a fair share of NASCAR races. Shooting the robotic cameras. The ones placed on the walls of the track. Usually turn #3. Anyway we talked about that for a few minutes then turned our attention to another subject. A few minutes later, I stepped outside to have a smoke and when I came back in about 10 minutes before the afternoon session the crew chief for the AV company was there. He's the one who hired me for the job and I knew him well. He was in a discussion with the actual client rep. A woman who had no idea whatsoever as to what she was doing which we all discovered earlier in the day and he called me over to join the discussion. He said that she wanted to know why he would send a guy who shot auto racing to run camera at HER seminar. I looked at her and then at him with my mouth wide open. He was looking at me the same way. So was the director who happened to come by and got involved. The crew chief from the AV company looked at the lady and said "Lady, if he can cover a single car in a pak of 43 at 200 miles an hour going around a corner, I think he can cover your speakers as they walk across the stage". With that he walked away and called here boss and the next day she was gone.
Moral of the story....You never know what kind of people you're going to end up working for at a seminar or conference.
Have fun and good luck to you.
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Old August 13th, 2015, 08:58 PM   #3
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Re: I want to shoot seminars. Where do I find clients?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
You're going to be in competition with more than just video guys.
Around here (Chicago) there are 3 major AV companies that handle the vast majority of seminars, large and small. They supply the gear and the manpower. I ran camera and also worked as a V1 for all of them over the years. Some of the shows (seminars were so large that it was almost a Hollywood production). What I liked about freelancing for them was simply, I had no headaches. Load in, set up, fax it out, run camera or operate as the video engineer, strike the show, load out, collect my check. No headaches at all.
Now by the same token, I had a few clients that I handled the entire seminar. Some were very small, some not. In the very small cases I might be the lead tech, camera op, V1, A1, laborer and everything else. The others, I hired a crew of people I knew and trusted and rented the gear. I did seminars with 1 camera and a small PA and seminars (conventions) with 4 camera and a sound system that would have made U2 proud. How did I find the clients? Same way I found every other client I ever had in the 30+ years I was in the business. I pounded the streets, knocked on doors, made phone calls, joined the Chamber and just about every other business networking organization I could find.
No easy way to do it. Go to the hotels and conference centers in your area and find out who they are using, if anyone, for their AV work. Have a package ready for them to include a business card, letter of introduction with some of your background and experience.
IE; I have been in the video business for 10 years doing the following...(list out recitals, plays, concerts, multi camera work etc). I never put out a pricing list EXCEPT for basic hourly/daily rate for one person and a basic camera package which for me was 1 camera, on camera light, tripod and 1 wireless mic.
Once in the door and talking with the decision maker you've got something to leave them. These people are busy and running around the hotel (if they're anything like the people here in Chicago) so it wouldn't be unusual if you have to go back 2 or 3 or more times but make sure you get their card and phone number as well as the email address. Then of course you've got to sell yourself to them. They don't like to change because once they've got someone they trust, it's hard to get them to try someone else.

Quick story....Once upon a time about 10 or 12 years ago, I was running camera at a seminar of about 500 people. Again I was hired by the AV company for the 2 days, no set up or strike, they had a separate crew for that, YAY! Anyway I was the A camera on a riser at the back of the room and there was another camera on a tripod with dolly wheels towards the to get audience reaction shots. I was using a Sony DXC50 with a Canon 40X lens which was a set up I had used many many time before. No problem. Now some of the speakers were stationary and some were rabbits. They walked all over the stage and some stopped suddenly and turned or didn't. Really a PITA. What do you do then? Widen out a little bit and stay awake. During the lunch break on the first day I was back stage talking to the V1 and director and had mentioned to them that I had done a fair share of NASCAR races. Shooting the robotic cameras. The ones placed on the walls of the track. Usually turn #3. Anyway we talked about that for a few minutes then turned our attention to another subject. A few minutes later, I stepped outside to have a smoke and when I came back in about 10 minutes before the afternoon session the crew chief for the AV company was there. He's the one who hired me for the job and I knew him well. He was in a discussion with the actual client rep. A woman who had no idea whatsoever as to what she was doing which we all discovered earlier in the day and he called me over to join the discussion. He said that she wanted to know why he would send a guy who shot auto racing to run camera at HER seminar. I looked at her and then at him with my mouth wide open. He was looking at me the same way. So was the director who happened to come by and got involved. The crew chief from the AV company looked at the lady and said "Lady, if he can cover a single car in a pak of 43 at 200 miles an hour going around a corner, I think he can cover your speakers as they walk across the stage". With that he walked away and called here boss and the next day she was gone.
Moral of the story....You never know what kind of people you're going to end up working for at a seminar or conference.
Have fun and good luck to you.
Thanks Don! You kind of reinforced what I was thinking anyway. Sounds like the approach is the same that I took with recitals and concerts- Talk to people, introductory letters, and business cards.

I'm curious- When it comes to hiring an AV company for a seminar, who actually does the hiring? Is it the venue, a promoter, someone else? I don't want to waste my time trying to get my business card in the hands of people who don't have anything to do with the hiring decision.
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Old August 14th, 2015, 12:19 AM   #4
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Re: I want to shoot seminars. Where do I find clients?

Each conference has a producer, which in my estimation, is difficult to track down for a thousand different organizations.

I'd buddy up with the guys who rent out hotel ballrooms, amphitheaters, conference centers, chambers of commerce, etc.

I agree with what Don said, with one addition. He's right that the hotel guys buddy up with someone they trust and work with them for years. But every once in a while, they get in a spat with that guy and end up working with them again anyhow, and then they make up. But if you call every month for a year (or send a plate of cookies, or whatever), you will eventually call the day after the existing guy puts a hole in the drywall with his boom, and... you're the new guy.
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Old August 14th, 2015, 05:01 AM   #5
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Re: I want to shoot seminars. Where do I find clients?

It's my experience that the client (the group putting on the seminar or conference) set's it up with the hotel. They block out rooms, arrange food, banquets or buffets etc. At the same time they talk to the head of AV and tell them what they want for the main session and any breakouts. The AV guy does his thing, figures out the number of people needed, the gear required etc. Sometimes they have enough in their own "closets" sometimes they need to rent additional crew and gear. I made a healthy living for many years "renting" myself out like that. The head of AV at the venue and the "crew chief" of the AV company are both great contact but I found that most times the AV guy at the hotel was the one to know.
One thing though...it's a very small community and these folks do move around a lot. That's good and bad.
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What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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