Every experienced event planner knows that reliable & high-performance technology is critical to the overall event experience. With the proliferation of digital, mobile, and event collaboration technologies, these meeting planners are finding that they need to partner with a small army of technicians so that they don’t miss a thing.
We’ve put together a basic checklist of seven essential audiovisual and networking elements that you should partner with your venue’s tech specialists to get right:
WiFi has become just as important as great coffee and clean bathrooms when keeping your event participants happy. Slowdowns and outages often derail your most important event in seconds. Unfortunately, venues vary in their maximum available bandwidth capacity, and may not have backup network plans in case of issues. As you prepare for your next event with a venue partner, it’s important to consider the following:
What type of event is this? Will there be a large number of participants who will be logging into the WiFi network? Will the presenters be sharing video content? Will the event be live-streamed? Will there be other simultaneous events using the same network that day? (All of these factors will require greater bandwidth to support your event needs)
Is the cost of WiFi included, or is there an up-charge? (Unfortunately, most venues charge based on bandwidth speed and number of total connections that your participants need.)
What backup plans are available in case the network crashes? (Yes, major internet outages happen at least once a year, and often out of the venue’s control. Good venues should offer a redundant network in case the primary network is not working)
Are there dead zones in the venue? (This is also inevitable, and good venues should provide WiFi zone extenders)
Chances are that one of your presenters will want to share visual content, and won’t want to deal with complicated connection procedures once the program begins. Look for venues with user-friendly technology that can easily plug-and-share with your laptop, or provide one for you that’s software and hardware friendly. Ensure ahead of time that your venue has the kind of display needed (i.e., large screens vs small, monitors vs. projector screens) for any special presentation needs. Be sure to also factor in the number of attendees and how they are seated as well. Good venues should offer up display equipment and orientation options on at least two sides of the room to accommodate for natural lighting, stages, panels, filming, and sound.
Important display technology questions to ask:
What kind of monitors, projectors, built-in LCD displays or screens are available, and are they an additional cost?
How easy is it for participants to connect their own devices and share if needed?
Will the venue accommodate all participants to view the content?
This sounds obvious, but much like WiFi, there are often audio dead zones as well. Microphones and podiums typically require a channel mixer if you need more than a few of them. In-room speakers need to have a volume consistent enough to be heard in the far left corner, and room doors need to be insulated well enough to muffle the sounds outside.
Important audio tech questions to ask:
Does the room/s have built-in speakers and does it cover the room/s evenly?
What kind of microphones are available, how many do you have on-site, and do you also provide a channel mixer?
What are the additional costs associated with renting the sound equipment?
Video sharing, whether through live stream, video conference or webinar, is a huge value add for your presenters and their audience, especially those members who can’t attend in person. However, because the technology options are plentiful and rapidly evolving, standards, features and customization opportunities are creating a lot of ‘wands’ with very few ‘wizards’ who have mastered them. When choosing a venue, not only establish that their software and hardware is up to date, but also make sure that there is a support staff (or technology partner) who have enough experience to run and troubleshoot these great tools.
Important video technology questions to ask:
What kind of live streaming or video conferencing do you offer at your venue?
Do you offer support to broadcast our content to a remote team or to help with drop-offs or connectivity problems?
Will the venue’s bandwidth support these video-conferencing needs?
How much will video sharing cost?
Whether or not you opt for live video sharing, most event planners typically request a recording of event sessions and presentations for later use. Additionally, companies may want to integrate these videos into future trainings or events.
Important filming and recording questions to ask:
Does your venue have built-in equipment to record both audio and video?
If not, does your venue partner with a reliable, quality videographer?
At what cost does the venue offer for filming and recording services?
Do we need to provide our own person to man the recording devices?
Not only is it important to ask if the venue has all of the equipment you need, you’ll also need understand to how that technology is integrated with the venue space, and how seamless and intuitive the technology experience will be for attendees. If they don’t have the equipment, then you’ll have to partner with another company, which means more complexity and increased costs.
Regardless, the levels of technological expertise needed for your event will always vary, so one of the most important things on this checklist is to make sure your partner/s have knowledgeable, approachable, readily available staff member(s) on-site who can patiently coach meeting planners and their participants through any of their technology challenges (and there are always tech challenges!).
Important support team questions to ask:
What type of on-site technology support exists at the venue?
Will the tech staff provide me with advice on what else I may need to consider for my event?
Will the tech staff be readily available and supportive to me and my attendees?
Will the staff be there to help me through a dry-run of the equipment and test to make sure everything is working before the event starts?
As the conference technology stack continues to grow, venues will differentiate themselves by how they price and what they include as part of their service package. Before you sign on for expensive technologies you don’t need or don’t work well with your event, use checklists like this one to establish your baseline and value added options. Then go through each line item with the venue or partner prior to signing the contract. The more details you provide, the better the venue and its technology staff can work with you to provide options with fair and transparent pricing.
Important technology pricing questions to ask:
Can you provide an itemized list of technology needs based on my event or program and how much each of them will cost me?
Are basic tech necessities like WiFi, screen displays or built-in audio included in the venue pricing, or are they added costs?
Are there any variable costs to the technology that increase as my participant size potentially grows?
Are there any other common costs regarding technology or staffing that are in addition to we have discussed but we have not discussed yet?
Does the technology support staff have mandatory lunch breaks or rest breaks during my program that I should know about?