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Is Your Meeting on Autopilot? How Sameness will Sabotage Your Event Every Time
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Mar 29, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

Have you ever driven home and not remembered the trip? Been in a meeting and not remembered the presenter's name or topic? Or worse, come back from a three-day conference chalked full of education, only to remember a few tidbits? Why can't we remember the details when asked to recall them?  

According to Gregory Berns' blog post titled "Neuroscience Sheds New Light on Creativity", the brain is lazy and ultimately our past experiences have a dramatic affect on our current ones. Here is an example — because we attended a couple of meetings in a large ballroom set in theater-style with low lighting that were boring — we think that all meetings set in this type of environment are…well…boring.  

Dr. Kathie F. Nunley, an educational psychologist, cites that we need to attend to the physical needs of the attendee first, then create novelty at the meeting and third, allow for self-made choices. Here are some of her insights as well as a few of my own. 

PHYSICAL NEED

The attendee has to have their basic needs met at the meeting. Is the room set at the right temperature? Are the seats comfortable and is there plenty of personal space available for the attendee to put their personal belongings? Are you providing enough and the right type of food and beverage? Can the attendee see and hear the presentation? 

funNOVELTY

Nunley stated in her blog post, "The mind seems to gravitate toward novelty. Not only does a novel experience seem to capture our attention, it appears to be an essential need of the mind." Capture the interest of the attendee and make your meeting unpredictable. 

Put the keynote speaker in the middle of the conference agenda. Rent iPads instead of producing conference binders. Start with the Q and A and finish with the presentation. Stage the meeting room in a large circle instead of theater or classroom setting. Decorate the room like a party instead of a training session. Change the city, venue or time of day you meet. Have a meeting where everyone stands. Do anything and everything to "shake it up" so attendees do not say, "been there, done that". 

SELF-MADE CHOICES

Nunley believes attendee-centered meetings in an open learning environment allow participants to set their own pace, learn as they wish, when they wish and move on when a concept is mastered.

So how will this functionality transfer to a large meeting with thousands of attendees? Creating a Twitter hashtag for each meeting and asking attendees to submit questions and comments will help the event organizer and speaker to make changes on a real-time basis. Encourage presenters to go where the audience is, not what they want to present. Livestream the presentation so it can be viewed on an attendee's mobile device and a video wall display rental unit if the participant is called out of the room. 

If you are event planning in California, check out AV Event Solutions as a state-of-the-art provider in Total Technology Solutions! With offices throughout California, they are only minutes away to service your event with additional inventory, technical support and staff. 

The Changing Pace and Space of Meetings
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Mar 27, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

relax

In the 20+ years I have been a meeting planner, it used to be all you needed for your meeting to be successful was to secure a speaker and room, LCD projector and screen rental, podium and microphone. Set up the room theater or classroom style. And if the meeting was long enough, provide some food and beverage. It usually took all of one hour or less to schedule and after it was over, you repeated the process for the next meeting. Oh how things have changed! 

Nowadays, the need for Wi-Fi connectivity, fast Internet speed, and collaboration of ideas both locally and virtually are what attendees need and the job of planners is becoming both more complex and interesting. How should planners accommodate to this new genre of attendees? In a recent Maritz Research poll of meeting planners, hoteliers and attendees the following items were revealed. They want: 

  • Smaller, less formal and more flexible space
  • Wi-Fi connectivity and display screens (such as Plasma Displays
  • Enough bandwidth to allow for fast, robust connections
  • Convenient and various food and beverage choices
  • Natural lighting and a
  • Concierge with IT skills

"Technology has changed everything," said Rick Garlick, Ph.D., Senior Director of Consulting and Strategic Implementation at Maritz Research. 

So how can venues and suppliers deliver what attendees want? According to Jay MacDonald from Elite Meetings International, venues need to provide the following:

  • A relaxing, secure environment that is more like a living room/kitchen set up. Think of stiff office chair meets Laz-y-boy. Formal restaurant meets food truck. 
    The intent is to mimic the home environment by having comfortable chairs, fast and secure Wi-Fi connectivity in every space, the ability for attendees to get food when and where they want it and the feeling they can speak openly about the topics at hand. 
     
  • Universal device connectivity. 
    No matter what devices the attendee brings to the meeting or what interactive technology tool rentals you provide, they can all connect to the Internet. 
     
  • Natural light or lighting to mirror the time of day. 
    So even if your attendees are in a windowless convention center, they are interested in having light equipment rentals that will mimic the sunlight of the day. 
     
  • Smaller meeting spaces for regional meetings. 
    "Now that meetings have become mobile, we see…much more regional meetings that feed into global companies," said Garlick. 

AV Event Solutions, now part of the SmartSource Rentals family, wants to provide you with right tools to make your meeting feel more interesting and distinctive! From sound and lighting rentals to iPads and Wi-Fi network arrays, they will do what it takes to make your next meeting special! Give them a call at 888.249.4903 to get the process started. 

Good Grief! A Roundup of This Month’s Governmental Meeting Initiatives
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Mar 25, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

DCOver the last three weeks, Washington has been busy with the government sequester, GSA's Meetings Management Program, and Senate Amendment 67. All these initiatives will have some impact on travel and the meetings industry. Below is a summary of each initiative, what impact it will have, plus how corporate meeting planners can create a strategy and have a voice in the process.

GOVERNMENT SEQUESTRATION

Failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reach agreement on $1.2 trillion in cuts to federal spending has triggered automatic cuts known as sequestration. Those cuts went into effect March 1, 2013 after Congress and the President failed to reach agreement on a plan to stop them.

Agencies are now going to more carefully scrutinize the need for travel and sometimes denying travel in favor of a webinar or no training at all. Attendees can expect airline flight delays and longer lines at security checkpoints due to this measure. 

Roger Dow, President and CEO at Travel Industry Association aptly put the impact of the cuts this way, "Travel has the very potential of becoming the face of the March 1 sequester cuts." Karen Kotowski, Chief Executive Officer at Convention Industry Council added, " Saving money at the cost of employee education and professional development is not really a cost savings at all and can end up hindering an organization's growth and competitiveness in the long run." 
 
Planner Position: While travel is going to be hard to justify, it will not be impossible. Here are four ways to help federal employees justify the expense: 1) Make certain your agenda is filled with great content and fantastic speakers at the right price point. 2) Have a flyer and email template on your website available to attendees to tailor and send to their boss and senior management outlining the benefits of the conference and justifying the expense. 3) Rather than holding one large conference, consider hosting a series of regional meetings. 4) Look into alternative modes of transportation that will not cause potential delays such as, car, bus, train and subway. 
 
GSA's MEETINGS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM (MMP) 
 
General Service Administration (GSA) is looking into MMP for itself which is meant to save money, mitigate risk and improve the meeting experience overall. If you recall, the GSA came under attack for a 2010 report detailing excess spending on a conference they held in Las Vegas. The negative publicity caused them to cancel many meetings and conferences. 
 
According to MPI research, less than 5% of all meetings are measured for business value. Jessie States from MPI said, "The next time taxpayers question a GSA event's necessity, the agency will have the facts it needs to present a business case." 
 
Planner Position: The meetings industry, whether governmental, association or corporate should always be looking for ways to measure business value. Setting concrete goals and objectives is a start, but surveying attendees with wireless Audience Response Systems during the conference and then taking action based on the feedback is the best way to continue to add value and enhance your conference. 
 
SENATE AMENDMENT 67
 
This amendment would limit federal agencies from sending no more than 25 employees to any domestic meeting, whether it be governmental or private. PCMA and ASAE are urging members to contact their Senators and remind them that public-private collaboration works best when there is a face-to-face exchange of knowledge and ideas. 
 
Planner Position: Contact your respective Senator and first convey the value of face-to-face meetings to the US economy and then share with your governmental official the reasons you oppose Coburn Amendment #67. If possible, try to schedule a face-to-face meeting. 
 
Are you event planning in California? AV Event Solutions is your interactive technology tool rental provider! 
Can Face-to-Face Meetings Morph to be On-Demand?
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Mar 22, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

on demand

It used to be that the term "On-Demand" applied only to movie and TV shows. It is a great concept — individuals viewing the shows they want, when and where they want to. All they need is a computer or TV and credit card. But now, on-demand is transferring to other elements of our lives including meetings and events. 

Due to technological advances, we are becoming a "no wait" society. According to the New York Times, Google engineers have discovered that, if we have to wait for longer than a blink of an eye for a page to open, it is considered too long. 

Jackie Mulligan, Director of Enterprise and Principal Lecturer from the International Centre at Leeds University, shared in a recent MPI publication, that society's "on-demand" mentality is catching many event organizers flat-footed and they need to manage or exceed the expectations of their attendees. 

So how can planners prepare to deliver "on-demand" at their meetings? Mulligan suggests the following: 

  1. Make sure your Wi-Fi is lightning fast. 

    The truth of the matter is many venues are not prepared to handle the Wi-Fi load hundreds, if not thousands, of attendees bring to bear.  And when more devices are on the bandwidth than expected, it can slow down or even crash the Internet. Check out the Wi-Fi access in advance and make the proper preparations. One option may be a Wi-Fi network array rental. There is no question that slow Wi-Fi will affect the perceived value of your event. 
     

  2. Provide charging stations. 

    Having charging stations at your meeting and trade show allow attendees to stay connected to your meeting and the outside world all day long. They no longer need to worry about the battery life impact of their mobile device if they download videos or intensive apps. 
     

  3. Remember: Attendees may have up to three devices at your event.

    Even if you rent iPads for your attendees, they may still bring their laptop and smartphone AND try to gain access of the Wi-Fi on all three devices at the same time. Try to survey your attendees beforehand to understand what they may be bringing to the conference and what type of apps they will be running. Millennials are more likely to have multiple devices and use on-demand functionality — more than any other demographic segment. 

According to Mulligan, on-demand means providing multiple formats, platforms and experiences of the same meeting at one time. It could mean attendees viewing the keynote speaker from their hotel room via their mobile device, taking a call outside the meeting room and viewing the session on a video wall rental unit or watching the session at 2 am from the comfort of their home. 

Mulligan also cites that attendees will have meetings when they have the urge to do so. Whether it be in the hotel bar or an alcove within the conference center, attendees will generate on-demand meetings and call together who they need to be there at that moment, whether it be F2F or remotely. 

AV Event Solutions, now part of the SmartSource Rental family, is your Total Technology Solutions provider! With 22 locations across the country, they can provide you with Wi-Fi network arrays, charging stations, iPads and much more! 

Research Says the Right Audiovisual Equipment Will Make Your Meeting More Memorable
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Mar 20, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

brain

With all the sights, sounds and visual stimulation we are bombarded with everyday, have you ever wondered what the most effective method is for retention of your conference information?  You aren't the only one — and a recent PCMA article by Barbara Palmer titled "Audio/Visual Neurological" identifies the best ways attendees learn and retain information. 

Andrea Sullivan, Organizational Performance Consultant for BrainStrength Systems aptly put it this way, "With meetings and events, there is a big question: How do we actually go to these things and retain anything? Knowing what we know now about how the brain processes information and how we experience events, AV really needs to be a part of a learning design and a strategy."

But how do you go about renting audio visual equipment that will be effective?
 
Sullivan went onto share the following, "We are taking in about 1 million bits of information every second, but we can be conscious of only 16 to 40 bits. We are taking in all this information through our senses, but sensory memory is really short and information — if it is not rehearsed — is lost after 30 seconds."
 
In the study titled "Audiovisual Technologies and Adult Learning in Meetings", the following information was presented regarding learning and retention: 
 
Human Learning and Retention
  • 83% of learning occurs visually
  • 17% of learning happens through sound, smell, taste and touch combined

Retention and Visual Imagery

  • 65% of attendees retain the speaker's message when it is combined with their words and visual imagery
  • 10% of attendees retain the speaker's message when it is words only

Learning and AV — The ways to learn from best to worst:

  • Hearing and graphics
  • Graphics alone
  • Reading and graphics
  • Hearing, reading and graphics
  • Hearing and reading
  • Reading text
  • Hearing the spoken word

Here are three additional takeaways from the research: 

  • Even though sight is the most dominate sense, do not throw away your PowerPoint presentation equipment! According to Sullivan, PowerPoint is used improperly because it has too much text on each slide. Sullivan states, "Our brains process text by first translating it into spoken words, but images don't go through that step." Bottom line: Less text and more images
     
  • Music in your meeting helps set the mood. According to Sullivan, one form of audio sensory input that starts nearly every region of our brain is music. If it ties into the message on the slides or is integrated into the video presentation, it can be very effective because it triggers an emotional response. Bottom line: Music matters.
     
  • Color influences our mood, too. Sullivan states, "Warm colors, such as reds and oranges, produce animated states while blue creates a quiet, inward focus. If I am doing brainstorming or strategic planning, I will definitely bring in blue. I do project management trainings…I will use red." Bottom line: Color counts. 

AV Event Solutions, a California meeting equipment provider, can help you with all your AV rental needs to make your meeting more impactful with your attendees. From presentation services audio visual equipment to sound and lighting rentals, they have it all! Give them a call at 888.249.4903 to get the process started! 

How 6-second Video Clips Can Make Your Event More Engaging
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Mar 18, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

vine

There is a new social channel on the block and it is called Vine. Accessed through an iPhone or iTouch, users create short looping videos that are very easy to make. Videos you post to Vine will appear on your Vine profile and the timelines of your followers. You can also share your video posts to Twitter and/or Facebook.

Vine is all of one-month old but because of its simplicity and shortness, it is considered the hot new backchannel to promote your meeting or event. You can quickly find people you know on Vine through your device's address book and people you follow on Twitter. You can also search for people or invite them via a text message or email

How might planners use this tool for meetings and events? Here are seven possible uses, but more will probably surface as the product matures. 

PRE-EVENT PROMOTION

  • Event organizers can give attendees a chance to see the conference center, hotel, city and attractions in short, fun snippets. They can then post those videos under the event's hashtag and Facebook Fan Page.
     
  • Promote your agenda and speakers in short, creative ways that will not be tiring to the attendees.
     
  • Create videos about your organization, event and sponsors that include logos to build brand awareness about each entity. 

TELL THE EVENT'S STORY 

  • By encouraging attendees to download Vine on their iPhones or bring their iTouchs to the meeting, these vids can be viewed on a video wall rental unit where participants can gather to see the clips throughout the day. 
     
  • Ask attendees to post their videos on Twitter and include the hashtag for the conference. 
     
  • Create a contest for the best video clip. Let attendees vote at the end of each conference day via Audience Response rentals and post the results on a video wall or digital signage
     
  • Ask attendees and partners to create videos from different points of views. For example, speakers can video from the stage, hoteliers from the front desk and AV technicians from the sound room. 

Are you event planning in California? AV Event Solutions, now part of the SmartSource Rentals family, can provide you with video wall, digital signage and Wi-Fi network array rentals to make certain your conference experiences no video buffering because it will be fast, secure and robust!  Give them a call today at 888.249.4903 to get started with the process! 

Want Better Quality RFP Responses? Give Suppliers Enough Time
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Mar 15, 2013 by DeDe Mulligan

RFP Process

Planning your next meeting or conference and need to send out a series of RFPs from the food and beverage to renting audio visual equipment? You are not alone! Meeting planners, no matter the size of the meeting, desire to obtain high quality responses so they can move forward to the next part of the logistical process.

What is the best way to make this happen? Here are four steps that should make it easier for your vendors to respond and give you better quality quotes in the process. 

  1. Provide a complete RFP.

    Give yourself enough time to develop a complete spec sheet of what you are looking for. Have multiple people from your team review it to make certain you have left "no stone unturned." 

    If you are new to the RFP process, check out the CIC APEX form. You can download it for free from the website. To get started: http://www.conventionindustry.org/StandardsPractices/APEX/RFPWorkbook.aspx
     

  2. Give your vendors enough time to provide you with a well thought, quality response. 

    To obtain a professional response, you need to give your suppliers enough time to complete the RFP. If the request is simple, 1-3 business days should be enough but if the request is complex, give potential partners more time to prepare a creative and complete quote. Many vendors put your RFP in the trash because they are not given enough time to give a thorough response. Several days to weeks may be the right amount of time to allow for this process. 
     

  3. Be aware of the canned response. 

    If your give your suppliers enough time to respond and they still give you an "also ran" proposal, this may be an indicator of a company you do not want to do business with. They are reading your request at a surface level, pulling up their last response and just changing the information to include your name and telephone number. 

    In addition, be leery of an organization that asks no questions or very few. They are either in the business of cranking out RFPs or they just do not want to take the time to get to know more about your event business.  
     

  4. Encourage conversation. 

    The best RFP process allows vendors to ask questions and provide creative responses. Remember that one question may lead to several others so it is best to leave time for adequate dialog back and forth. This will also help your vendor put their best foot forward and respond accordingly. So much information can be cleared up in a simple telephone call or meeting. 

AV Event Solutions wants to provide you with the best RFP response! Based in California and now part of SmartSource Rentals, a national Total Technology firm, they can offer your organization creative AV solutions. Get the process started with their express quote form today! 

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