One of the problems we planners face is having to deal with the technology we find in meeting venues. Which is rarely how we wish it would be.
1. Technology is not an ‘extra’
With this article, I would like to convey to venue managers the importance of technology at events, as well as the need for us organisers to tackle the problem in a conscious and up-to-date way.
In a nutshell: nowadays, technology plays an essential role at events, completely different from the one that it played only few years back.
Inadequate technological equipment can constitute a severe obstacle when choosing a venue. Technology changes quickly, which means that setting up quality basic equipment isn’t enough anymore; the equipment needs to be updated and revised continuously, as planners always want the latest technologies at their disposal.
2. You never know what to expect
Every venue behaves in its own way, going from “I’m giving you nothing, you gotta bring everything” to “we have everything, but if you don’t like it, call my suppliers”. Out of the two, the first option is definitely better. Especially because their “everything” is often obsolete.
3. In an ideal world
Event technology is made up of three elements:
- Internet connection, electric power and wiring;
- audio/video/lighting equipment;
In an ideal world (for us planners), things should go like this:
- Internet connection, power (that can be easily increased if necessary) and wiring provided by venues;
- freedom of choice between renting the equipment from a local service that already knows the location, or using a trusted supplier;
- technical staff chosen by the planner or the company. If the event is small, the venue’s staff can be okay too, subject to verification.
Even when accepting to use the suggested local service, planners must be the free to integrate their basic equipment with other, more sophisticated tools, that must be supervised by the company’s trusted technicians.
If all three players (venue, service, technicians) do their job well, the event usually goes smoothly.
4. Advantages for venues
This way, venues would only have to deal with arrangements and a few other things, avoiding investments in equipment that would become obsolete in a couple of years. But they must provide to the best of their abilities:
- a fast wi-fi connection (at least 100mb download speed);
- at least 50-100 kw electric power that can be quickly increased when necessary;
- fiber optic cables (not the old bcn copper cables) serving all rooms;
- adjustable heating and air conditioning.
Except for the basic equipment provided by most meeting venues (es. rings, loudspeakers, lighting…), everything else has to be rented. Local suppliers are the best choice, as long as they offer quality services (at the company’s discretion). Suppliers suggested by the venue could work too, but the choice must be free, non-binding and possibly integrable.
NO to service and staff imposed by the venue.
5. Who does what
It’s the company that chooses suppliers and technicians, as it saves time, stress and abuse.
Other than this, the venue’s event manager must be ready to answer every question or request by the agency and its technicians.
In an ideal world, the staff of an event should be made up of:
- one person from the venue, who knows what to do and where everything is;
- one or two local suppliers, who are familiar with the equipment;
- the company’s trusted technicians, who know the way they work and understand them at first glance.
6. There are venues and venues
Obviously, in terms of equipment, there is a big difference between a convention centre (where I expect to find everything I want and more), a historic farm or a hotel by the sea, where I’m not expecting to find anything. However, the task allocation should be the same for every meeting venue.
The venues that we planners love (where we’ll try to return and that we’ll likely recommend to our colleagues) are those that give us the maximum freedom of choice of equipment and staff, giving us less things to worry about – we have enough already ☺ Venues that can host larger meetings (sports buildings, convention centres) should always have a stage to prop up the service equipment, all tested and up to standard.
7. Understanding and cooperation
Venues’ managers should be aware that nowadays technology changes and evolves at the speed of light, and that planners’ need for up-to-date equipment is not a whim, but an essential element to our professional reputation and for the meetings’ success. Which means that what I need today might not be needed in two years’ time. The venues should helpfully grant the planners’ requests, as it’s in their interest too.
The keywords for all meeting venues should be: evergreen ARRANGEMENTS.
Plus: clear, accurate and professional INFORMATION on what the venue provides, with data sheets, floor plans, wiring routes, and everything else that can facilitate the planners’ job.
And please, NO SURPRISES on costs, extra charges and overtimes, so all those details that mess up budgets.
Finally, the event manager should be constantly AVAILABLE (even at night, if necessary) and informed, as to not force us to worry about every little detail.
Venues like this will definitely be chosen by professional companies and planners.
8. A couple of bad examples
Just to explain myself better, here are some examples of what we planners would never want to find (but that happened to me):
- A client asked us to book a venue that he’d already tried before. At the site inspection, it turned out that we would have to hire suppliers chosen by the venue: too bad that the quote they offered was 50% higher than the market average.
- We booked a venue and agreed to bring our own service. But then we found out that if we wanted to move some equipment, or simply not use it, we had to put it back after the event and pay for it anyway. It would be like asking a guest to make the bed and clean the bathroom before leaving!
- We agreed to use hire suppliers chosen by the venue: technicians arrived late, they were badly dressed, tattooed, and disappeared during breaks without any warning. Unkempt savages, basically. The client was an important English investment fund company, and appearances were of extreme importance to them. Final result: embarrassment, tension, scolding.
- We asked for 50 kw electric power for lights and audio (which should be the standard), but the venue couldn’t provide that amount. There was no space for a portable generator, and an upgrade cost 200% more. Final result: exceeded budget.
Some will say that it isn’t like this everywhere. True. There are some virtuous examples. But we planners would like that to be the norm, because the first marketing rule says that a product or service has to meet the client’s needs, not the supplier’s.
And we are the client.