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5 Ways to Blow Your Meeting Budget and How to Prevent it From Happening
Jun 29, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

budget

You are in the process of planning a series of meetings over the next 3 years and have just received an email from your boss indicating that there will be no more budget overruns. She also stated that in evaluating your last 10 meetings, it looked like there were many unexpected expenses and you went over budget by 5-15% on each event. 

Below are the 5 things that can inflate your budget and what you can do to prevent them:


Budget Blower #1: You plan your meeting too late.

The closer you are to the product launching event, sales meeting, or executive retreat, the less available  and more pricey things will become — from hotel rooms to renting audio visual equipment. 

Solution: Get as much lead time as possible. 

It is not uncommon to have a 3 year lead time for a large convention; but even small to medium sized meetings should be planned out at least a 6 to 12 months. The longer the lead time, the more opportunity you have to negotiate good contracts, lock in availability, and make sure nothing falls through the cracks. 

Budget Blower #2: You have no budget. 

Having no budget is like planning an event without objectives, agenda, or targeted attendees. You are setting yourself up for failure because there is no monetary checks and balances to determine your level of success.

Solution: Get a budget, review it often, and make adjustments as needed. 

Putting together a budget with a general idea on how much you want to spend on accommodations, meeting space, food and beverage, and event audio visual rentals will help keep budget overruns from happening. Reviewing it weekly can help move monies from one line item to another. Obtain last year's expenses to get you started on the process. 

Budget Blower #3: You are inflexible on the dates and time of year for your event. 

Scheduling a meeting during a hotel's prime season is going to keep your costs high due to demand and availability. Hotels tend to be busiest mid-week, which can also raise rates. 

Solution: Be flexible about everything. 

When talking to the conference services and hotel staff, try and identify their slow season and slow days of the week. Do the same with your vendors. Determining their slow periods can provide a "win-win" for both of you and help you obtain discount pricing that isn't possible during the high season. 

Budget Blower #4: Don't ask anyone for anything. 

By all means, don't let any of your professional colleagues know you are planning a conference in a strange city where you have no connections. 

Solution: Ask for recommendations and use your connections. 

Calling, emailing or asking for recommendations via online communities like LinkedIn Groups, provides planners a way to receive recommendations for speakers, hotels, and caterers. Let them know your budget parameters, right up front. Look to other online communities for reviews of hotel properties, such as TripAdvisor, Yelp or Google Review. 

Budget Blower #5: Never send out a Request For Proposal (RFP). 

You work with the same vendors and facility year after year — why change now?

Solution: Send out RFPs, when they make sense.

RFPs are meant to "level the playing field" among vendors and even though it isn't a perfect process, comparing proposals can help you understand if you are getting a fair price for the service you are engaging. However, ethically it is wrong to send out RFPs to leverage existing vendors. If you are sending them out, you need to be 100% okay with leaving your current supplier. 

AV Event Solutions, a California meeting equipment supplier, would be happy to work with you to make certain your budget is kept in tact! Contact them today for more information or fill out their quick express quote form to get the ball rolling! 

6 Strong Reasons Why the “Replace Paper with iPad” Strategy is a Good One
image
Jun 27, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

ipad rentalYou and your team are being pressured by attendees to "go mobile" at your next meeting. You know intuitively it probably makes sense, but you need justification for your team's decision.

Here are 6 compelling reasons why iPads are being used by associations, corporations, and individuals planning meetings across the country. 
 

  1. iPads are a great way to keep in contact with everyone at the conference, disseminate information, and network.

    By creating an online community that allows attendees to see who is coming to the conference and when they arrived, helps connect them to each other. Because the iPad will be with the attendee all the time, event organizers can push out announcements and changes on a real-time basis. Using an app such as Sonar, can allow individuals to network easily and in a way that creates buzz for the organization. 
     

  2. The iPad allows for a homogeneous environment.

    By investing in one platform, and one platform only, you will save yourself a lot of time and money. All tablets are not created equal and what most individuals don't understand is that a 7" tablet doesn't have the same app support as a 10" one. Or even a smartphone. The only way you are certain the app will work is if you stick with one type of tablet. 
     

  3. Thousands of applications are written for the iPad.

    Are you concerned you will need to invest a ton of money into an app for your conference? Chances are,  there already is an app written for what you want or it can be tailored to your needs. With over 200,000 applications already on the market — and growing — Apple dominates the tablet marketplace in this arena. 
     

  4. You can get rid of the conference binder and be green, all in one fell swoop. 

    By loading applications that make sense for your meeting on the iPad, you are allowing attendees the freedom from carrying around a 5 pound bulky binder. iPads can run for about 10 hours before requiring a charge and you are not killing any trees by using them. They emit about 30% of the heat of a laptop — thus consuming even less energy when they are in the charging station. 
     

  5. Rent iPads because buying them is just too expensive. 

    You have a conference twice a year, one large and one medium sized. Buying iPads is just too much of a financial burden on your organization and since you are only meeting twice a year, hiring a conference services rental company to provide the mobile devices makes the most financial sense. 
     

  6. Hiring a conference equipment rental company to bring the iPads onsite, test and maintain them, replace any defective ones, and provide support will make your life much easier. 

    When renting audio visual equipment, hiring a partner that can provide all the items listed above will help you save a lot of time and make your event run much smoother.  

No matter what the quantity of iPads needed, AV Event Solutions can deliver them to your meeting, trade show, or event! An Account Executive will be your single source of contact for your entire rental experience and handle every detail for you! Contact them today for more information. 

4 Ways To Make Your Meeting Planning Process More Productive
12-highly-productive-people
Jun 25, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

productiveAre you saddled with more responsibility and have less time to accomplish each task? Or are you planning more meetings but with the same amount of staff? Do you wish there was a way to make things simpler and more productive? Read on…because there is!

One of the reasons planning and coordinating meetings takes so much time is because we are not asking enough questions from the start. Choosing the right partners and establishing the correct meeting parameters can make the difference between an "amazing" or "awful" event for the attendee.

Here are some simple, yet very important, things to look for when planning your next meeting or conference:

  1. Is the venue serious about booking your business?

    Are they returning your calls and emails promptly? Answering your RFP on time? Providing you with anything you need to move forward with contract signature? If your phone calls or emails are not returned within 1-2 business days and the venue is not answering your RFP or follow up questions promptly, they are not serious about your business. Work with someone who is responsive and professional.
     

  2. Is the space distraction-free? 

    Even though a venue has several meeting rooms, that doesn't mean the rooms are sound proof. If you are running an education session in one room and there is an awards ceremony in the next, your attendees will become distracted by the noise level and your speaker will be agitated they are left to compete with clapping hands. Although, you cannot stop the facility from booking business next to your room, you can put in the contract that the meeting must be "of similar design". 
     

  3. On the site visit, check out every little detail regarding the meeting space.

    How much natural light comes into the room? Are there any distractions attendees will see while looking out the windows, such as construction or an outdoor pool with lots of people in it? Natural light is important but having a serene setting to look at is also vital. 

    Are there any visual obstructions, such as pillars? Having a clear line of sight to the speaker will keep the attendee focused. 

    Are the chairs comfortable? Ask for ergonomic chairs if you anticipate participants sitting for a long period of time. 

    Do you have your own thermostat in the room and can you control it? Setting the room to 70 degrees when you arrive onsite is optimal. Individuals have a hard time learning when the room is too cold or too hot. Sharing a thermostat with an adjacent room is not the answer either, since your attendees may require a different setting than theirs. 
     

  4. When renting audio visual equipment, make certain you understand what you are renting and the partner providing it. 

    Is the PowerPoint presentation equipment up-to-date and fully maintained? What about other interactive technology tool rentals? Are they state-of-the-art? Since AV is the heart of most presentations, having certified and reliable AV technicians that work for a sound organization is going to be key to your meeting success.

Are you event planning in California? Look no further than AV Event Solutions to provide you with all your conference services needs. They have state-of-the-art equipment, technicians and project managers to make certain every event is very productive and successful for you!

How to Stay Calm, Cool and Collected When Things Go Wrong at Your Meeting
cool-calm2
Jun 22, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

cool, calm, collected

Imagine this: You have hired a fantastic speaker and he is 20 minutes into his presentation. You could hear a pin drop in the meeting room full of 300+ attendees. People are leaning in, attentive and fully engaged.

And then it happens. The PowerPoint presentation equipment acts up. The screen freezes or the bulb dies. The mic goes in and out. The speaker becomes distracted and starts to choke. 

This fabulous and expensive presenter is having a meltdown right before your eyes. The audience is now disengaged and you are running around like a chicken with its head cut off. As you become more upset, so does everyone else in the room, including the attendees.

After the chaos dies down, you vow to never let this happen again. So what can you do to make certain it doesn't? Here are 5 tips to help prepare you for the worst and keep you calm during any presentation problem situation. 

Tip #1: Give the AV rental company plenty of time to set up, test and work with the presenter before the talk begins. 

Having the AV set up and tested 2 to 3 hours before the talk and then requiring the speaker to be there to test and run through everything at least 1 hour before, should be written into every contract. Too many of these problems can be avoided by simply testing and making certain the speaker and event meeting services organization know what to do and who to turn to — quickly —  if there is a problem. 

Tip #2: Have an onsite support system in place. 

Having an AV technician in the room will allow any problem to be handled effectively and efficiently. If there are several breakout sessions at the same time, hiring an AV Project Manager to work with you on the needs of the entire conference is highly prudent. The key is to have a communication process to solve issues quickly and with minimum session disruption. 

Tip #3: Have a back up for your back up. 

When renting audio visual equipment, ask your partner to have back up equipment and supplies onsite, in case of equipment failure. However, sometimes on those very rare occasions, the back up system will fail, so having a hard copy of all the presentations or alternative backup systems is wise.

Tip #4: Ask the speaker to number their slides and know them inside and out. 

Hiring a speaker that knows their presentation "cold", is a great benefit if the audience wants to know something 20 slides into the talk or something happens to the presentation services audio visual equipment. By knowing the presentation and what slide the information is on, allows the speaker to easily move to where the audience is, especially if the AV technician is advancing the slides. 

Tip #5: Learn from your mistakes and close calls. 

Have a post-con with your AV team after the meeting is concluded to find out what happened, how to avoid it next time, or what could be improved upon for the next meeting is instrumental to keeping you calm and collected in the future.  

Are you event planning in California? Call AV Event Solutions for state-of-the-art interactive technology tool rentals and experienced AV technicians and project managers!

Why Video Walls are all the Rage for Meetings and Events
Videowall
Jun 20, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

video wall rental

"What is a video wall and how will it help make my event more memorable?" you might be asking yourself. In an age of 3-D technology and HD devices — video wall rentals — are what attendees expect to see at a large conference or convention. 

A video wall is a series of High Definition LCD monitors positioned together to act as one contiguous large viewing area or, if you desire, separate images can be used on each panel. They can display video, photos, and be connected to PowerPoint presentation equipment, replacing standard screen rentals. 

HOW DOES A WALL WORK?

All video walls are custom, from as small as 2' x 2' to as large as 10' x 10'. These LCD monitors have ultra narrow bezels allowing the screens to look like a seamless wall, especially from a distance. TileMatrix technology enables you to see one large image across multiple screens while Edge Comp technology corrects and levels the brightness across multiple screens, creating a beautiful, uniform display. 

An AV Technician can quickly install and configure the video wall and then upload the content. Due to enhancements in technology, almost any size or format file can be displayed. AV Event Solutions provides qualified, in-house programmers that will remain onsite in case there are any last minute changes or corrections. 

WHAT ARE GREAT APPLICATIONS FOR A VIDEO WALL?

Video Walls can be utilized in the following settings:

  • Trade show booth: Display your products, services, logo and/or video testimonials continuously, even when you are talking with a prospect or client. 
     
  • Hybrid event: Where you are gathering a large number of individuals remotely to view an educational meeting, attend a product launching event or obtain important company news, a video wall can make them "feel" like they are onsite and part of the crowd.
     
  • Digital Signage: Especially at a large conference or convention, being able to direct individuals to the proper breakout rooms or the ability to see the layout of the trade show floor is very impactful. 
     
  • Giving attendees a "Theater" feeling, especially if it is enhanced with sound and lighting rentals, allows any planner to make over a large meeting space in a hotel or convention center. 

Revolutionize your view with a video wall at your next meeting or event! Get the technology and service you deserve from a hassle-free rental organization…AV Event Solutions! Contact them for a Video Wall Rental Quote today! 

4 Meeting Trends that Will Dominate the Second Half of 2012
crystalball
Jun 18, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

Crystal ball

Can you believe it? 2012 is almost half over and most meeting planners have had a good start in the new year. Meetings are up. Hotel occupancy is on the rise. And for the first time in a long time, planners aren't afraid to be optimistic about the future. So, what is the future going to look like? Plan Your Meetings magazine recently released what they believe will be the trends for the rest of the year and beyond.

Here are 4 Meeting Trends along with how interactive technology tools can help you achieve them. 

Trend #1: Meeting and Education/Training Departments are Going to Merge.

Nearly 10 years ago, many organizations decided to separate the two departments in an attempt to streamline the budget process. And quite frankly, for a lot of those years, meeting planners focused exclusively on "rates and dates", leaving content to others in the organization. Corporations and associations can no longer afford to do this. They need to treat meetings as a total package: dates, rates and content. 

Trend #2: No more lectures.

Attendees are demanding a better conference experience and that means addressing their wants and needs. The key is to hire flexible, dynamic, knowledge-level experts that are willing to go where the audience goes. 

What technology tools can help? Rent iPads to allow real-time interaction with the presenter to ask questions or make comments via an online community or social media channel. Providing attendees with wireless audience response systems can position presenters to ask a series of questions during the talk and gain feedback from attendees. Wireless microphones placed throughout the room allow the audience to ask questions that everyone can hear. 

Trend #3: Flexibility rules.

Meeting planners are going to experience major changes in scheduling, program time shifts, and even presenters. The ones that will survive will be the most flexible and "roll with it." We may even get to a point in the near future, where content is developed on the spot, speakers are chosen from attendees, and time is expanded and contracted based on when the audience wants to get up and go.

What technology tools can help? Video walls can display any changes to schedule, room, or speakers. Because they are large enough, attendees can see the information from several feet away. Rent Tablet PCs to inform attendees of any changes via Twitter, email or an online community. Computer Kiosks can also provide up-to-the-minute changes in schedules.  

Trend #4: Living Room environments at the Meeting Venue.

Having comfy couches and a cozy environment where 4 to 8 people can collaborate and innovate is all the rave. Conference centers and hotels don't have to knock out walls or renovate, all they have to do is turn useless corners and alcoves into meeting areas by adding furniture, lighting, and technology. 

What technology tools can help? Whiteboards on the wall can help attendees capture thoughts. Rent iPads with note taking or mind map apps for brainstorming options. A gaming app can also start the process going. 

Are you event planning in California? Look no further than AV Event Solutions for all your interactive technology tool needs!

How to Incorporate Wellness Into Your Next Conference
wellness
Jun 15, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

wellness

There is a lot of pressure to be healthy nowadays. Smoking is not tolerated, restaurants are sharing their caloric information on menus, and companies are receiving significant discounts if individuals enroll and attend a gym, go to weight loss meetings and walk during their lunch hour.

So what about meetings and conferences? Can event meeting services organizations transfer these type of incentives to a 2 or 3 day conference? Absolutely! Here are some tips and techniques to keep everyone healthy when they are away from the office — even you!

HOTEL

When investigating a meeting location, determine what exercise options they have onsite.

  • Do they have an exercise facility and pool?
  • Do they offer group exercise classes?
  • Can you rent bikes onsite or close by?
  • Are there running or walking trails? Will the hotel staff lead a walk?
  • Are there a lot of things to do or see within walking distance of the property? 

PLANNING THE MENU

It is important to understand what your attendee needs are well before the conference and then, work with the chef on options that will taste good and be healthy. Emailing the chef several weeks in advance your aggregate attendee food and drink requirements and then, testing the food at the site visit will make your conference go smoothly and keep attendees happy and full. Here are some thoughts:

  • Ask for smaller plates. Your attendees will eat less and think they are fuller. It will also cut down on your food costs.   
  • Ask attendees if they like or need the following food options:

    • Gluten-free 
    • Vegan or Vegetarian 
    • Low cholesterol, such as egg whites and oatmeal
    • Whole grains, such as whole wheat pasta
    • Soy products
  • Provide water instead of soft drinks.
  • Consider sourcing your food from a local farmers market.
  • During the breaks, provide the following instead of brownies or cookies:

    • Fruit or fruit salad 
    • Yogurt
    • Veggie trays
    • Hummus and pita chips

MEETING ROOMS

When checking out the various meeting rooms, look at:

  • How much natural lighting comes into the room.  When renting audio visual equipment, you will want to have your AV project manager or technician provide you with the best light equipment rentals — accenting the lighting that already exists. 
  • Adding mood music before and after each session. 
  • What about ergonomic chairs? If they don't have them, see if you can get the most comfortable chairs the facility offers. 

MEETING LOGISTICS AND SPEAKING IDEAS

Rent iPads so attendees don't have to carry their laptop and lug a large conference binder around the meeting facility. Having a wellness app on the iPad will help attendees stay focused on living healthy while at the meeting. Because the iPad weighs less than 1 pound, it is easy to use while sitting, standing or walking. 

Consider hiring speakers that can address the following topics:

  • Stress Management
  • Time Management
  • Emotional Eating — What it is and how to avoid it
  • How to sneak exercise in at work
  • Weight-Loss Success Story: Someone who has lost significant weight (i.e. Jared from Subway) and what they do to keep it off

During the breaks offer:

  • Chair massages
  • Tai Chi 
  • Chair Yoga
  • Stretching
  • Walking option — either in place walking or a 30-minute group walk

AV Event Solutions, a conference services provider, has iPads and Wi-Fi network arrays available to rent anywhere in California. Check out their express quote page for a quick response to your next meeting, event or trade show requirements.   

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