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How President Obama’s Travel and Tourism Initiative Benefits the Meeting Industry
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Jan 30, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

Travel & TourismOn January 19th, President Obama signed an Executive Order pinpointed to increase international travel to the United States from 3 primary countries: China, Brazil, and India. What does this initiative mean for the event meeting services industry? Here is a breakdown of the Order and how it will translate into benefits for meeting planners and suppliers.

Currently, the U.S. travel and tourism industry represents 7.5 million jobs of which 1.2 million of those positions support international travel. It is expected that through the implementation of this strategy, 1.3 million more jobs will be created and $860 billion will be added to the economy over the next 10 years. 

John Bryson, Secretary of Commerce and Kenneth Salazar, Secretary of Interior are going to co-lead a task force to develop a National Travel & Tourism Strategy. This task force will focus on promoting our national parks, wildlife refuges, and historical sites as travel destinations. In addition, eco-tourism and outdoor recreation will be a part of their focus.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State and Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security are in charge of:

  • Increasing non-immigrant visa processing in China and Brazil by 40% this year by ensuring that 80% of these visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receiving their application. Currently, the average wait time for interviews is 11 weeks.
  • Expansion of the Visa Waiver program to Taiwan, which allows travelers to undergo background checks while in their home country and then breeze through customs because they don’t require a visa. These stays must be for under 90 days.

John Bryson, Secretary of Commerce will be establishing and maintaining a publicly available website with key information to assist travelers in understanding the visa process and entry time into the United States. 

Lastly, the President has appointed 32 private sector CEOs to the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board for 2012-14.  Their task is to address and make recommendations about:

  • Travel Facilitation
  • Visa Policy
  • Improving the International Travel Experience
  • Aviation Security
  • Energy Security and
  • Crisis Communications

What will this mean for the event meeting services industry?

  • More Jobs in Every Sector. More jobs in the CVB, hospitality, and supplier market — including event audio visual rentals
  • More Money Infused in the Local Economy. The average Chinese tourist spends $6,000 on their US trip while the average Brazilian spends $5,000, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Think about that impact times 200 or 2,000 nationals in our country from an international conference.
  • Our National Parks will get economic boost they need. With the focus internationally on our national parks, many of the hotels and lodges on location will receive the dollars they need to keep the parks prestine and beautiful for all to enjoy. In addition, the parks make great locations for small to medium sized events.
  • CVBs and DMOs can start to focus their attention on China, Brazil, and India. Nationals from these countries contributed $15 billion and thousands of jobs to the U.S. economy in 2010. With visa processing improvements, CVBs and DMOs should spend time in these countries marketing the US over Europe as a meeting destination.

Are you event planning in California? AV Event Solutions is ready and willing to help you with any of your audio visual needs. Give them a call today at 888.249.4903!

5 Ways to Find More Meeting and Event Clients
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Jan 27, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

customersIn Ronald Brown’s book "Anticipate. The Architecture of Small Team Innovation and Product Success", he spells out the steps that we should go through in finding more customers. Many individuals think this process is a mystery, but Brown is quick to point out that customer discovery requires the 5 steps listed below. He also states as long as you are methodical in your approach, you will be successful. 

Here are the steps with an added bent toward the event meeting services industry. 

1. Market Segmentation

As the saying goes, "If you are everything to everyone, you are nothing to nobody." Understanding how your event services company aligns with the segments you wish to serve is important and essential to keeping your doors open. 

In our industry, planners usually fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Corporate
  • Association
  • Non-Profit
  • Wedding or
  • Party

But most great planners cannot service all these segments, usually just 1 or 2. The important thing is to figure out which markets you have the most competitive offerings AND will lead you to long-term financial gains. 

2. Test Your Hypothesis

How do you know that your product or service is desired by the client? You need to identify the customer’s urgent and important "pain points" in order to create a competitive advantage.  Here are some ways to identify your client’s problems:

  • Study the competition’s offerings and determine how they are fairing;
  • Set up personal meetings with senior executives;
  • Hire a consulting firm to conduct one-on-one interviews with all your clients;
  • Conduct focus groups and;
  • Talk to your suppliers, like the hotel and conference services managers, as well as, event audio visual rental companies

According to Brown, from all of this data you should be able to determine a meaningful competitive edge and the essential service features you must add to your offerings. 

3. Step Into The Client’s Shoes

Look at your service offering through the lens of the client by spending a significant amount of time with them as they use your services. Procter & Gamble, uses a program called "Living It", where company employees live with consumers for a period of time to learn what they need. This goes way beyond talking, it starts to embrace their way of life to see their pain points first hand. 

4. Get Testimonials in the Form of Stories

Everyone has testimonials, but the really good ones are delivered in the form of a story. An example might be how an interactive technology tool rental company took their client’s annual meeting from a real snoozer with low attendance to a vibrant event with interactivity and buzz. Stories sell, testimonials don’t. 

5. See if it will Stick

Rather than spending a lot of time and money on a new product or service offering, send the prototype to the client. Get feedback, improve, and send it back to them. Asking clients and prospects to be part of your service development team makes them feel special and appreciated. They will take the time to give you honest feedback if they see you are making changes in the offering. 

Are you event planning in California? Contact AV Event Solutions for state-of-the-art interactive technology tool rentals including iPads, audience polling units, and interactive kiosks

How to Fire Up Your Sales Team, Especially in Tough Times
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Jan 25, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

salesAs the saying goes, "It’s tough out there." This can be especially true when it comes to morale of sales professionals who are experiencing a higher than normal rejection ratio. Many salespeople are also nervous about the job security, especially if 2011 wasn’t a particularly spectacular year.

As sales managers prepare to talk to the troops, here are some simple things they can do with the presentation, room setting, and environment, especially with event audio visual rental equipment, that will leave the staff motivated to succeed.  

When preparing the PowerPoint presentation, here are some ideas for consideration:

  • Have a clear message and takeaway. If you want each sales person to sell 10% more, gain 5 new customers, and have a 85% retention rate with clients, then SAY THAT. Don’t give salespeople vague expectations for the year, because then you are setting yourself up for vague results. Be crystal clear on what you want and why you need it.
  • Be optimistic. Yes, there are many obstacles to closing the deal, but let your sales staff know it is important to remain positive, both in the office and at client locations. Let them know you are available to help them brainstorm solutions and make calls with them. Ask them what resources they would need to make their job easier and then follow through on the tools that make sense. 
  • Focus on customer service. Let them know you expect them to do everything in their power to keep the customer happy. Lay out a plan to resolve customer issues expediently and let the sales staff know you are always available to help. 
  • Inspire, inspire, and inspire some more. As you close out the meeting, tell them about success stories, best practices, and/or motivational quotes. Let the salespeople know they are the lifeblood of the organization and you really appreciate what they are doing for the organization.

The room setting and seating should have the following:

  • Make the room warm with the right sound and lighting rental units. Before the meeting, play music. During the meeting, keep the lighting soft and inviting. 
  • Watch the temperature. A room that is too hot or cold can take the focus off the message and be very distracting.
  • Remove the tables and have everyone in a circle. This environment says, "We are all equal." It also encourages peer-to-peer discussion. 

When renting audio visual equipment:

  • Request state-of-the-art presentation services audio visuals. High lumen LCD projectors displayed on Plasma TVs, exhibit more warmth, color, and higher resolution photos and videos than older LCD equipment. 
  • Record the session. Renting a recorder can allow easy transfer to a jump drive or website so you can utilize what was discussed as a jumping off point in future meetings throughout the year. 
  • Provide plenty of time for set up and testing. Giving the AV team time to set up, test, and review the equipment with you. This will create positive energy when the sales team arrives because there will be no need to hurry up and set everything up. 

AV Event Solutions is a California event equipment provider for sales meetings. Give them a call today or check out their 4-hour express quote page!

Are Your Training Sessions a Waste of Time? 5 Smart Ways to Fix Them
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Jan 23, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan
training

Training Seminars are often viewed as energy and time vacuums. Most people don’t want to sit through the latest HR policy changes, software updates, or necessary prep for a product launching event. Employees would rather be doing their work at their desk or out of the office networking and prospecting. Anything but training.

Of course, training is necessary in order for employees to learn and make certain they know what they are talking about, especially when speaking with prospects and customers.

Here are 5 simple ways you make your next training session exciting and interesting: 

Training Tip #1: Put Value on the Meeting

Let the attendees know, right from the start, that their time is very valuable and they need to view this time together as an investment in their productivity. Tailor the meeting objectives to their needs, not yours. 

Training Tip #2: State a Desired Outcome

Let employees know what you are training them on and why it is important they learn this information. It can simply be stated — We expect you, by the end of this meeting to…

…Take action
…Know how to hire or fire employees
…Choose a supplier
…Fund a project or
…Conduct a product launching event

When you bring employees together it should be because products, services, or policies change and they need to know how these changes impact them. Measure the attendees knowledge by asking questions and giving them wireless audience response systems to instantly assess if the training is successful or elements of it need to be repeated. 

Training Tip #3: Limit Topics and Slides

Most employees don’t want to sit in a conference room for a whole day and most employers cannot afford this type of opportunity cost. So it is best if topics and PowerPoint slides are limited to the "old" way vs. the "new" way of doing business. Employees don’t need to know the entire history of a HR policy on hiring and firing, just the changes from the current policy. Powerpoint presentation equipment should be set up well in advance of the training and tested by the trainer at least an hour before the attendees arrive in the room.  

Training Tip #4: Start and End On Time

If you say the training starts at 8 am and ends at noon, respect both ends of that schedule. This says two things about your organization; 1) You respect your employee’s time and 2) You value your trainer. If you see the meeting veering way off topic, bring it to back on topic quickly and succinctly. 

Training Tip #5: Remember the Wrap-Up Summary

Use the old adage: "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them." Make certain every employee understands the process or program. Review what the next step is for the attendee. If time allots, answer any questions that remain. 

AV Event Solutions, a California meeting equipment supplier, can provide your next training seminar with LCD projector and screen rentals, laptops, iPads, and ARS units. Give them a call today or request an Express Quote

How Annual Meetings are Ch-Ch-Changing
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Jan 20, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

Association MeetingIn 2009, when the recession came into full tilt, many associations and corporations saw a significant drop in their annual meeting attendance. Some organizations, including the Newspaper Association of America even canceled their meeting that year. Others, like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) saw an attendance reduction of 40 percent. 

As a result, many associations knew they had to add innovation and change into their program in order to survive. At PCMA‘s Annual Meeting last week, Lisa Block, Vice President of Meetings and Conferences at SHRM, and Don Neal, President of 360 Live Media presented their case study detailing ideas to bring the Annual Meeting back to life. Here is a synopsis of their thoughts:

  • Look at the physical location. What sort of energy does the venue provide? Is it open and cold or intimate and friendly? Is it in a scenic area? Will attendees be excited to go there?
  • Offer wellness options. Blood-pressure testing, a massage station, gaming options, along with healthy food choices and exercise options can go a long way to making the attendee feel relaxed and refreshed at the conference. 

  • Examine the physiological components. What do the guest rooms look like? Are the beds comfortable? Are you feeding attendees healthy food that will increase their stamina?
  • Analyze your speakers. Do the speakers appeal to the intellectual and emotional makeup of your audience?  What is their speaking style? There are many unique ways they can utilize their PowerPoint presentation equipment and style, including TED, Ignite, or Pecha Kucha (read 7 trends to make your message stand out)
  • Improve the promotional message. Try different methods of getting participants excited and involved in your conference, including advertising, public relations, social media, email, and direct mail. 
  • Make everyone responsible for the success of the conference. Crowdsourcing the agenda and letting everyone vote on speakers, topics, and networking ideas will allow members to be more involved in the conference. They are more likely to be excited and come to the event.
  • Keep it fresh. Just because something works this year, doesn’t mean it will next. Looking for continual innovation and trying to bring in unique conference equipment rentals that will contribute to attendee engagement and enjoyment will be instrumental to your success. 

If you are event planning in California, look to AV Event Solutions to provide your association with state-of-the-art interactive technology tool rentals that will help bring your annual meeting to life! Click or call today for more information!

Want to Rent iPads for Your Next Conference? Overcome the 4 Major Obstacles
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Jan 18, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

iPad rentalIt seems as if tablet technology is everywhere, but for some reason, it isn’t integrated into your meetings yet. So, what is holding you back? Below are common obstacles most meeting planners face when considering ipads and tablets, and here are some creative ways to overcome them.

Obstacle #1: "I don’t have it in the budget."

This is the most common reason planners don’t rent tablet PCs. Here are some ways to justify the cost, without experiencing significant cost overruns. Here they are:

  • Research the rental and application cost. It is best to rent iPads, rather than trying to retrofit your application onto the technology an attendee would bring to the conference (i.e. smartphone, laptop, or other type of tablet). Having a homogeneous platform will keep your costs down.
  • Look at the total cost of printing, assembling, and shipping binders to the conference. Remember to include your time and any staff members time in the assembly process.
  • Once you know your total cost differential, consider obtaining 1 or more sponsors to cover the additional cost.

Obstacle #2: "I don’t have the time to develop and load the applications."

There are many meeting applications already written for the industry and don’t require a lot of tailoring for your meeting. Here are 3 websites I would recommend to look at to determine how much time and effort will be required to customize the application.

Regarding the loading of the applications, many times the event audio visual rental company will preload the applications onto the tablet so they are ready to go as the conference starts. 

Obstacle #3: "I don’t have any tablet experience." 

That’s okay if you don’t own a tablet or plan to own one. However, if you put together a technology committee with some Millennials and/or sponsors to help with attendee training and application recommendations, you will find your fears will be diminished. 

Tablet technology is highly intuitive and easy to navigate. Once you use it a few times, you will wonder how you got along without the technology for so long.

Obstacle #4: "My attendees are not tech-savvy."

I have heard a lot of planners say this is the reason they are unwilling to complete the 3 steps listed above. However, the reality is, how much do we really know about our attendee’s habits and their willingness to learn? Planners won’t know how tech-savvy their participants are until they implement the technology. Getting excited about the technology yourself, having a good volunteer support staff to train the attendee on the apps, and hiring the right AV team for support, will definately help. 

Don’t be held back by budget or experience! Contact AV Event Solutions for 1st and 2nd generation iPad rentals. Their tech and project management support staff is available to help you all along the way. 

The 5 Biggest Fears of Event Planners and How to Overcome Them (Part 2)
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Jan 13, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

fearOn Wednesday, Fears Part 1, we tackled attendance fears (both no people or too many) and keeping the networking interesting and fresh.

Today, we will help you understand how to keep your attendees there until the end of the conference and why hiring a quality event audio visual rental company is an important factor to your meeting. 

FEAR: Attendees will take off early. 

Every event organizers desires to keep the attendee excited and engaged until the bitter end. But it seems more and more that the first day has 100% attendance, the second about 75%, and the 3rd day you are lucky to be at 50%. 

FIX: Keep them engaged, interested, and motivated. 

By allowing for maximum interactivity with conference attendees, right from the start, will create an environment to keep attendees engaged. Rent Tablet PCs with meeting applications preloaded onto the mobile device and make certain your Wi-Fi access is robust and fast, which may require renting a Wi-Fi Network Array. Keep the attendees motivated to stay until the end by having engaging speakers to open and close your conference. And if you really want them to stay, offer to raffle something of great interest to the attendee such as an iPad or vacation trip. 

FEAR: The Audio Visual and/or Wi-Fi equipment will malfunction. 

Since AV equipment and Wi-Fi connectivity are so integral to the success of any meeting or event, having the equipment or network go down is an event planner’s greatest nightmare. And having support to fix the problem via the telephone only or in a building miles away,  only compounds the issue.

FIX: When renting audio visual equipment, hire only the best and have them onsite. 

Hiring a quality AV firm that can provide you with state-of-the-art equipment and Wi-Fi network arrays will give you peace of mind because you will not need to go through multiple firms for your event needs. Having qualified AV technicians and project managers onsite will also provide you with the resources at hand if something does go awry at the last minute. These professionals are trained to resolve any problem quickly. 

Are you event planning in California? Look no further than AV Event Solutions to provide you with 1st and 2nd generation iPads, Wi-Fi Network Arrays, and AV technicians and project managers. Give them a call today at 888-249-4903!

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