In today’s wired world, technology goes hand in hand with effective gatherings. In fact, nine out of 10 events at Monona Terrace require some kind of technical support, says John Klingelhoets, an audio/visual technician with Monona Terrace. “Technology, requirements and equipment change so rapidly nowadays that it’s not just nice to have audio/visual support—it’s imperative,” he says.
But not every convention center is as equipped as it should be. And not every venue has on-site experts at the ready. To ensure that your event runs smoothly, insist on these five technological must-haves when selecting your location.
Must-Have #1: Reliable WiFi.
It used to be a pleasant surprise, but now WiFi in public spaces is more common—and quite expected. With restaurant chains and retailers advertising it to their patrons, anticipate that your guests will want WiFi at your event’s venue too. During your site visit, test the connection to check its speed and reliability from inside the building and its outdoor spaces. If you’re satisfied, your attendees probably will be as well.
Must-Have #2: Bright high-definition (HD) projectors and big screens.
Bigger and brighter is always better, says Klingelhoets. He explains that a widescreen format (16:9) is the new standard, replacing the 4:3 format. Likewise, older projectors aren’t compatible with today’s laptops, which no longer have VGA outputs, but HDMI/digital connectors instead. Make sure your venue can accommodate today’s standards.
Must-Have #3: Reliable and updated infrastructure.
Off-site meetings are all about the experience. So make sure that the building offers clear in-room sound systems and lighting controls. Monona Terrace, for example, features an in-house speaker system for every room. Larger sound systems accommodate bigger events and concerts like the Dane Dances, which attract as many as 5,000 people in a single evening.
In addition to sound systems, the lighting also needs to meet your expectations. Matthew Bittorf, audio/visual technician at Monona Terrace, suggests that you speak with your venue’s representative to discover the capabilities of the lighting systems, such as whether or not they can be controlled with custom presets. For example, Monona Terrace uses an architectural lighting system to adjust, control and manage 7,000+ lighting fixtures, which include meeting room down-lights and ceiling-hung theatrical fixtures. “Your A/V technician should be able to walk you through all of your possibilities and explain them in a way that makes sense,” he says.
Bittorf also recommends that you ask how the venue’s energy efficiency ratings support any of your organization’s sustainability requirements.
Must-Have #4: Pre-event communication.
Surprisingly few meeting planners take advantage of technical discussions with the venue’s A/V experts before their events, reveals Klingelhoets. But those conversations are usually fruitful. “We love it when our clients put all their ideas on the table. They may think they’re unrealistic, but sometimes we can make them happen with just a few modifications. Most A/V people like to be problem solvers—I know our team thrives on it,” he says.
Klingelhoets recalls the recent Governor’s Ball as one such opportunity. “The planners wanted to bring the social media world into the ‘real’ world with a live Twitter feed projected onto 5’ by 50’ custom-sized screens,” he explains. “No off-the-shelf solution met the planner’s very detailed specifications. So we used custom scripts and software, combined with varied hardware and multiple projectors to create the live-crawl effect they were looking for,” he states.
He also recommends rehearsals before the big day to minimize any technical issues and allow the A/V staff to smooth out any rough edges. Rehearsals also help meeting planners feel more confident that their event will run the way they envisioned it.
Must-Have #5: On-site A/V staff during your event.
Make sure you know how many technical specialists will be on site during your event and what they’re qualified to do. “There’s no second chance with live presentations,” offers Bittorf, “so you’ll want experienced technicians backing you up.”
Before your event, find out if the A/V staff is qualified to handle special requests, such as supporting embedded multimedia in presentations, for example. Don’t take anything for granted.
Then ensure that your A/V team will check in with you or your presenters before sessions and during breaks to ensure that everything is working well. “That’s why were here—so use us to your benefit,” offers Bittorf.