The Value of Event Technology
By: Matt Bradford
It may not be a planner's first consideration, or even an attendee's most memorable element, but a venue's technology can be the deciding factor between run-of-the-mill events and those that make an impression.
“If the technology available to you isn't up to par for what you're trying to accomplish, then your event is going to fall flat,” agrees Jeff Dixon, Vice President of Sales at Scotiabank Convention Centre.
Gone are the days of dusting off a projector and setting up a mic. Today's presentations demand internet-enabled equipment, mobile technologies, high-definition screens, and crystal clear audio.
“You'd be surprised how much the quality of your audio and visual can set the tone for a presentation,” Dixon adds. “Having those clean lines, bright lighting, and sharp displays really sets a professional impression and enhances the message your presenters are trying to deliver.”
That's why Scotiabank Convention Centre relies on its audio and video service partner, Freeman Audio Visual, to ensure planners are paired with seasoned A/V experts who are equipped with cutting-edge equipment and always on-hand to address any issues.
“Having qualified techs present both during the planning stages and the event is vital to its success,” says Jay Chung with Freeman AV. “The ability to personalize your event is far greater than it was even five years ago, and those who are not up to date on the technical side of this industry might not even be aware of some of the possibilities we can offer, like custom projection mapping and VR-based 3D renderings.”
Today's presentations are also increasingly reliant on online elements such as streaming video, social media integration, and online audience interaction. As such, venues must provide virtual networks that can manage presentation content, often at simultaneous times.
“Providing a strong virtual network is essential; especially for larger events where our clients need to load everything on to one location – or 'hub' – and push that content out to other breakout spaces,” says Matt Ford, IT professional with Scotiabank Convention Centre.
Strong networks are also essential for resources like conference apps, which grant attendees access to event schedules, presentation notes, and speaker information directly from their smartphones or tablets.
Still, says Ford, “Planners are getting on board with conference apps, but some don't consider the infrastructure the venue or delegate may need, such as a wi-fi network that can handle the significant strain of a large event.”
There is a difference between free wi-fi and reliable wi-fi that can handle the high-volume demands of a typical convention. To provide the latter, venues must constantly update their systems, install new equipment, and ensure they have the right staff to manage any network hiccups.
Providing this may come at a fee, but Dixon says that charge is crucial to a venue's ability to provide consistent and reliable service: “We do offer a basic and free connection, which works well for smaller public spaces with fewer people, but you need something stronger if you want something that can handle hundreds – or even a thousand – of people using it at the same time, and often on multiple devices. That takes continual investments on our part to make sure our wi-fi network is running optimally no matter what our events can throw at it.”
To make the most of a venue's wi-fi services, Ford advises planners to request a usage report after their event outlining, in detail, where and when wi-fi was used most. This can be then be used to gauge wi-fi needs at future events.
“We offer that report with every package, it's just a matter of asking for it afterward,” notes Ford.
Add in mobile charging stations, interactive displays, and customized event-specific apps, and it's clear technology plays a large role in an event's success. The options and considerations can, however, be overwhelming. Herein, Carrie Paolone, Scotiabank Convention Centre's Director of Events, says consultations are key: “One of the first things we do is gauge our client's requirements and figure out how we can go above and beyond those needs with technology and services they might not have even considered. Then, we like to connect them directly to the experts who can deliver on their goals.”