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10 Solid Steps to Make Your Holiday Party Stand Out
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Oct 29, 2015 by DeDe Mulligan

We talked about holiday party justification in Part 1 and balancing the proper budget in Part 2, now it is time to put the planning wheels in motion with discussion and ideas about the smaller, often overlooked items in the party planning process.

Remember, you and your co-workers are coming together to recognize this year’s achievements and set the tone for new and exciting things next year.

Unfortunately, a poorly planned and executed event sends a signal that you don’t care. A bad event is worse than no event at all. So use the planning techniques listed below and everyone will have a wonderful time at this year’s holiday event!

10 Steps to Make Your Party Sizzle

 

Theme Your Event

Theming allows attendees to quickly transition from the business meeting to the party environment. Having a consistent theme that is carried through with the dress, colors, decorations, music and even lighting rentals can make your holiday party really festive.

Here are three party ideas:

  1. Ugly holiday sweater – Ask everyone to wear their worst holiday sweater. Give a prize for the ugliest one.
  2. Holiday Fiesta — Ask people to dress in their most festive wear. Offer a prize to the most festively dressed person.
  3. Mad Men Cocktail Hour – bring everyone back to the 1960s and ask them to dress accordingly. Serve the food and drinks common at holiday parties during that time period.

Have Great Food Options

Whether it is dinner, lunch, appetizers and/or desserts, offer employees a large variety of seasonal options they may not normally get this time of year.

Drink & Be Merry (But Not Too Merry)

If you decide to have alcohol at your event, be sure to take the following precautions to protect yourself and your organization against potential liability issues. Here are a few great ideas:

  • Offer special seasonal drinks that do not contain alcohol. Examples may be eggnog, hot tea or hot apple cider.
  • Give employees only two drink tickets. After that, turn to a cash bar or offer them a non-alcoholic alternative.
  • Set up a cash bar for alcohol but provide non-alcoholic drinks for free.
  • If you have alcohol at your event, have Uber or a taxi service on standby to take employees home if they have gotten too merry.

Provide Entertainment

Depending on your budget, music is a wonderful addition to any holiday party. Hiring a band can get everyone up and moving, but it can also be loud and halt most conversations. Hiring a DJ or having background music, such as a pianist or harpist, might be a better option if you are looking to create a festive mood but networking is your ultimate objective.

Set Up a Photography Station

Put together a themed backdrop and use an Apple iPad rental to snap photos of your employees and/or their guests. Print off each photo after the event and send it along with a thank you holiday note to every employee.

Start with an Icebreaker

Play “Guess Who I Am?” Ask everyone to submit their baby picture and 4 obscure facts about themselves most people would not know well before the party. Display each biopic slide via a LCD Projector rental unit. Give each guest a slip of paper and a pen to write down their guesses. The person with the most correct guesses wins a prize.

Give Out Party Favors

Giving everyone a bag of cookies as they leave is another way you show that you care.

Raffle Off Door Prizes

Use part of your budget to purchase a variety of door prizes. Examples are a:

  • $5 Starbucks Card
  • iPod
  • Wii or PlayStation
  • Flat screen TV

Raffle these items off during the evening festivities. Give each employee two to five tickets as they arrive.

Provide Babysitting Services

Offer onsite child care during the party so employees with small children can attend.

 

Hire SmartSource Rentals

With 21 locations nationwide, SmartSource Rentals can help make your holiday party something employees will buzz about for months to come! Get them into the holiday spirit with great lighting, sound and mobile technology options. Give us a call today at 800.888.8686 for more information!

 

Is Your Event Technology Scaring Potential Customers Away?
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Oct 27, 2015 by Karen Daniels

Boo! As we approach Halloween 2015, it’s a good time for your company to take stock of what you did right at past events, and what you can improve on.

We know that in today’s technology driven society, finding and using the right event technology in creative and effective ways can be the key to achieving the results you’re looking for.

Event technology can help increase event attendance 20%, increase productivity 27%, and decrease costs 20-30%. -Frost & Sullivan

EVENT TECHNOLOGY – A TRICK OR TREAT?

If one of the primary purposes of exhibiting at events is to increase your customer base, and you ended up with lackluster results in past years, you must ask yourself…

Did potential customers find your event technology to be a treat? Or did it feel more like a trick?

EVENT TECHNOLOGY BENEFITS

Event technology done poorly not only scares potential customers away, it can even damage how people view your brand. On the flip side, event technology, done properly, creates countless positive benefits. Some of these benefits include:

  • Making you stand out and drawing attention to your company
  • Providing that valuable WOW factor
  • Making it easier to gather customer information
  • Informing potential customers of your value
  • Inviting potential customers to become part of your brand experience
  • Converting potential customers into actual customers
  • Supporting your event staff so that they can spend more time forming relationships with potential customers
  • Enhancing how customers experience your brand
  • Demonstrating that your company is cutting edge

HOW TO KEEP YOUR EVENT TECHNOLOGY FROM BEING FRIGHTFUL

There are several key factors to focus on so that your technology works effectively for you rather than becoming a frightful mess.

  1. Your technology needs to keep working.

This seems basic, yet you’re certainly experienced being at an event where something went wrong with the technology. The only thing worse than no interactive technology at an event is technology that doesn’t work at all, or doesn’t work as expected or as needed. Not only should you make sure all your tech equipment is up-to-date and running, you need someone on site to keep it that way. If you don’t have the staff or expertise to do this, hire someone who does or rent your event technology from SmartSource to guarantee that everything goes as planned.

2.  You must have fast and reliable WiFi. Period.

Almost 60% of event planners ranked on-site technology as high in importance, with internet connection (wireless or wired) as the technology most needed for a successful meeting.  Source: Destination Hotels & Resorts

There is no getting around this one. If the event venue or host can not guarantee that you will have reliable WiFi when you need it, then rent your own WiFi router.

       3.  Your chosen technology needs to support your event goals.

Any technology you use needs to support your goals and also be engaging to potential customers. Use custom programming so that you get exactly what you want and come up with creative ways for your equipment to enhance your brand message in ways customers enjoy. For example, 59% of exhibition attendees want to see product demonstrations, and 58% like to have hands-on product interaction.   Source: Event Marketing Stats

SmartSource Rentals – Your Solution for Friendly Technology

There is no point in having technology for any event that does not serve a distinctive purpose such as drawing customers in, creating friendly interaction, and enhancing your brand messaging while selling goods or services.

And the last thing you want to do is invest the time and money in an event that isn’t successful for your company. So for your next event don’t let your technology scare potential customers away. Use SmartSource Rentals to guarantee you have the equipment and expertise you need. Call us at 800.888.8686 or request a quote today.  

Happy Halloween from SmartSource Rentals!

Holiday Party Budgeting Can Be Trickier Than You Think
budget, holiday party, Smart Source Rentals
Oct 22, 2015 by DeDe Mulligan

You and your staff are tasked with planning this year’s holiday party; the first one your organization has had in a few years. While your staff is excited about this, you know there is some risk. Spend too little on the event and the organization will look cheap. Spend too much and the company will look extravagant.

The key is to establish and follow a budget that will make employees feel their hard work is being rewarded with this special event.

As mentioned in Part 1 of this 3-part series, 76% of Human Resource professionals said their budget will be the same this year as in previous years, which can be a real challenge as products and services continue to rise.

Here are 16 basic budget tips that can help you with this process.

Overall Budget

  1. Before establishing a budget, determine how many individuals you think will attend.
    This does not have to be completely accurate, but if your existing budget cannot accommodate significant others and families, you will need to ask for an increase in dollars or cap attendance at employees only.
  2. Look at day of the week and time of the year.
    The most expensive day to hold a holiday party will be Saturday. The least expensive time of the year will be after the holidays, say in January or February.
  3. Review last year’s budget and aim to add 10-20% to it.
    As mentioned earlier, products and services are not at the same price they were 2-5 years ago, therefore if you have not had a party in years, you need to bump your budget.
  4. Start with a total budget and break down estimated costs in the following areas:
    1. Meeting venue
    2. Food
    3. Beverage
    4. Entertainment
    5. Goody Bag
    6. Audio Visual Equipment Rentals

Provide your vendors the budget guidelines. Ask if you pay within 10 days of the event and with a check, if you can receive a discount.

  1. Be sure to get an accurate head count.
    This cannot be overstated – when you know exactly how many people are coming to your event, you can plan the right amount of food, beverages and have the right meeting space. Don’t assume that every employee will attend; ask. The formula is 30/15/7/3 – at least 30 to 3 days before your event to remind people about it and give them at least 4 chances to say yes or no.
  2. Review your budget often to determine if there are any overruns.
    Catching overruns early can help you plan for cuts in other areas and/or help you justify an increase.

On-Site vs. Off-Site

No question about it, having the holiday gathering on company premises will save money. However, most parties (71%) will be off-site this year.

  1. If you are holding it at the company, be sure to have the party away from the desks and work areas.
  2. If you are holding the party at a meeting venue, hold a work related meeting and then have the party.
    If you are at a hotel and can use the same meeting space, projector and screen rental and sound system, you will only pay once for two distinct purposes. In addition, most of these line items can be charged to a specific department, thus helping to keep your overall budget intact.

Food

  1. If you are holding a sit-down lunch or dinner off-site, limit the menu choices to two or three items.
    Have the restaurant prepare a special menu flyer to be placed on each place setting. Be sure to include a vegetarian and gluten-free choice.
  2. Rather than sit-down, go with a buffet option.
  3. Choose lunch over dinner – or just go with heavy appetizers or desserts.
    If your event is on-site or off, lunch will always be the less expensive option. Heavy appetizers can also be a good alternative.

Beverage

  1. Decide whether you will have alcohol or not.
    Alcohol can take up to 25-50% of your budget, and as we will discuss in Part 3 of this series, can be a concern.
  2. If you decide to go off-site with alcohol, issue drink tickets or have a cash bar.
    1-2 drink tickets per guest or a cash bar will slow down the drinking process.

Entertainment

Rather than hiring a band, hook up your iPad to the sound system and play holiday music. Background music can be effective for setting the holiday mood.

Goody Bag

  1. If you decide on having goody bags, here are some suggestions:
    • Votive candle with holder
    • Tickets to a local holiday event
    • Starbucks gift card
  2. Ditch the goody bag altogether, and donate what’s left of the budget to a local cause.

SmartSource Rentals is Your Technology Partner for Holiday Gatherings

 

SmartSource has an assortment of audio visual rentals perfect for your holiday event. We have 21 locations nationwide with the team and tools you need to create an impressive holiday environment. Obtain a quick quote today to get the process (and party) started!

Discover 5 Questions to Evaluate Renting Audio Visual Equipment vs. Buying
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Oct 21, 2015 by DeDe Mulligan

scale

When does it make sense for your organization to rent audio visual equipment versus buying it? Many organizations are wrestling with this very prospect.

Here is what you need to consider:

Are you in the audio visual business or in the business of making money for your organization?

Let’s explore five questions that can help you better evaluate this:

  • Does your staff have the time to research, purchase, get trained on, maintain and store your technology?
  • What is the total cost of ownership? On top of the purchase price, you need to factor in accessories, supplies and insurance. For example, the average cost of a replacement projector bulb is hundreds of dollars.
  • What about the cost of crating, shipping to and from various locations across the country?
  • How will you retire your old equipment?
  • What are the benefits of renting?

If you decide renting is for you, examine the 14 things you need to look at when picking an audio visual partner.

Still not sure? Download our latest article titled “Rent vs. Buy Audio Visual Equipment” for more reasons why renting makes sense and how to choose a reputable AV partner!

Need more information about interactive technology tool rentals? SmartSource Rentals is the largest Total Technology Solutions provider in the United States with 21 locations to serve you!  Give them a call at 888-249-4903 to learn more about how they can help you be successful with your next event!

12 Tips for Better Holiday Social Media
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Oct 20, 2015 by Karen Daniels

The 2015 Holiday Season is upon us, a time of festivities and special events and a time when consumers spend more money. It follows that so businesses and brands have one of the best opportunities to connect with customers and potential customers through the use of technology.

This season, why not use the latest trends in social media to add extra pizazz to your communications and growth to your bottom line?

Whether you’re attending or exhibiting at an event, or looking for ways to add sparkle to your online social media this season, here are some tips to boost effectiveness and spread holiday cheer.

1. Highlight Local Events and Programs
When you’re attending an event, especially during the holidays, use your social media channels to let your readers know about local holiday activities. We all know that the number of activities available gets ramped up during the holiday season. So do your research and know what’s going on around you so you can pass that information on through social media, even if you’re going to be attending an event in an unfamiliar city.

2. Don’t Focus on Advertising
We’re all exposed to too many ads, especially during the holidays. So go out of your way to increase holiday cheer by being helpful and informative without too much overt selling. Twitter suggests that 80% of your Tweets should focus on creating interaction and only 20% should lead back to products or promotions.

3. Run Holiday Specials Designed to Create Interaction

Your customers and fans can be your best selling point. If you’re exhibiting at an event create a holiday giveaway or deep discount that requires your readers to interact to be eligible. This will help generate buzz and promote conversations.

4. Customize Content for Each Social Media Channel
Even if you’re going to push out the same campaign or promotion to all your social media channels, it will boost the effectiveness if you tailor the content to fit the audience on each of the channels you use. In general, the customers who use Twitter are not the same ones who use Facebook or Instagram.

5. Plan Your Social Media Calendar Ahead of Time
Whether you’re going to be exhibiting at an event or operating strictly online, you want your social media campaigns to be well thought out and scheduled appropriately.

6. Give Customers a Taste of what They can Expect in the Coming Year
We habitually think about the upcoming year when the holiday season begins. That means this is an excellent time to get your brand, products, and services, in front of your customers now so they start to see what you offer as a good solution for them in the new year.

7. Be Aware of Customer Holiday Stress

Be sensitive to the fact that the level of stress for many rises during the holidays. This can translate to more disgruntled customers and complaints. Take advantage of being able to respond in real time to customers through social media and have someone on your staff or at the event deal right away with customer comments, requests, and complaints.

8. Highlight Your Favorite Charity or Cause
Holiday time is a time of giving. If your company already has a charity or cause that it supports, highlight what you’ve done in the previous year. If you do not already have a favorite charity, then find one (or some) and start including that in your social media. Send out information to your readers on how they, too, can donate to that cause.

9. Make Sure Your Website is Holiday Ready
Since online traffic and buying increases during the holidays, make doubly sure your website is on point and consistent with the social media messages you’re posting.

10. Utilize Our Love of Listing
People love lists. You can capitalize on this love of lists during the holidays by starting social media conversations which encourage people to add to a list. For instance, ask your readers to respond to a question such as, “What’s your favorite way to give back during the holidays?” This gives everyone a chance to feel good about themselves, gives readers new ideas how they can give back, and helps promote holiday giving. Win, win win.

11. Use Special Holiday Hashtags
Include special hashtags in your posts during the season that makes people want to repost them. For example, #CompanyNameHolidayGiveaway. You can build on these hashtags year after year.

12. Track Your Holiday Social Media Results
Don’t forget to measure your successes so you can adjust your campaigns or messaging for even greater effectiveness the following year.

SmartSource Rentals provides a variety of technology and equipment for your office, holiday events, or tradeshows. We have state-of-the-art equipment rentals and the staff to back it, from timely delivery and pickup to 24/7 technical support of all our equipment. Call 800.888.8686 for a quote today.

Best Practices: Prove ROI for Tech Initiatives Before a Capital Outlay
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Oct 19, 2015 by Cynthia Corona

Proving return-on-investment for a technology initiative can be daunting, especially when decision makers have only a rudimentary understanding of new technology, or when the initiative requires a significant investment in hardware.

AV Network Magazine tackled this topic recently in an article titled “Defining Success with Metric for Digital Signage.” In it, the author advocates running a pilot program on a scale that can provide statistically valuable metrics. Luckily, the emerging “Sharing Economy” makes it easier than ever to create a temporary infrastructure for pilot programs at a low cost, without long-term obligations.

Here are 3 ways to make a pilot program successful:

  • Define C-Suite friendly metrics – Let’s face it, if it were up to us we’d have the most awesome tech program the world has seen! Fortunately for most, you are part of a larger team, a whole organization in fact, and that means things must be prioritized. If you are at a level in an organization where instituting a new tech initiative is part of your job, then you know decision makers need to see how the program aligns with c-suite objectives before it can be approved. Attach dollars to performance by connecting the dots between performance, sales and revenue. Yes, there is a difference between sales and revenue. Understanding that difference could make the difference between having your initiative approved or not.
  • Use Technology Rentals – Technology is evolving faster than the applications run on them. This means it may be that you don’t need a top-of-the-line workstation with a 4k display, or it might mean that you do. By renting IT equipment you can test a spectrum of technology to find the perfect ratio between price-point and performance for your initiative. Perhaps the metrics will show that the 4k display is absolutely necessary! (Wink, nudge.)
  • Use Temporary Staff – A big cost associated with any initiative is staff, so getting the workflow right and translating it into numbers is essential. One bright spot for businesses coming out of the recession has been the evolution of temporary staffing agencies. Today specialized staffing agencies like Robert Half, which places creative services staff for all aspects of content development and experts in Technology & IT, are playing a meaningful role in the recovering economy by offering low-cost staffing solution for business on the rebound.

Bottom-line: Relying on temporary solutions like equipment rentals and temporary staffing agencies can clear the way for a pilot program that collects the ROI metrics necessary to gain c-suite approval for a new tech initiative.

Battling Wildfires In Real-Time with Technology
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Oct 16, 2015 by Tom Joanes

This year has seen an unprecedented number of wildfires burning in the Pacific Northwest.  In fact, by summer’s end the National Interagency Fire Center, the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting, estimated that wildfires had burned 11 million acres in the U.S. That is an area larger than the size of the state of Maryland.

To battle these blazes the US Forest service relies on its National Incident Management Organization (NIMO), which dispatches incident management teams to set-up and operate command centers at the most formidable wildfires, those that can rage out of control for weeks at a time. Incident command centers are the key to conquering behemoth blazes because they employ the latest information technology to manage hundreds, sometimes thousands, of firefighters at base camp and in the field; and they serve as the hub for tactical planning and real-time decision making.

Establishing an incident command center is no simple task. It requires a small army of highly skilled and experienced command staff and vendors who can construct a base of operations at frequently remote locations within 24 hours of getting the order to do so. Think about that for a minute. Twenty-four hours is not a long time. Imagine you are the onsite guy who runs payroll for firefighters at a wildfire. It is 2:00pm on a Friday afternoon and you are gearing up for a relaxing weekend with the family when the call comes in to dispatch to a fire 300 miles away. By 5:00pm the next afternoon you are logging onto a computer set-up at the base of forest where 12 hours earlier the only light in the area came from the moon and a few fireflies!

This year at several incident command center locations across a half dozen states in the West, members of the National Wildland Incident Management Teams worked from laptops that were custom-imaged with the apps they need to decipher danger, opportunity and success in their battle against the raging fires. They tracked the fire using a series of apps that included GIS mapping, fire prediction tools and scientific calculators. Incident commanders whose duties require mobility worked from iPad Airs, ruggedized in LifeProof cases, as they surveyed the field and recorded their impressions. The data collected on the tablet was then transferred wirelessly to the command center where fire analysts use the information to update plans on-the-fly.

Without computers, printers, copiers, iPads and networking equipment in the wildfire incident command center, the threat to life and property in a record year for wildfires, like this one, would be all but untenable.  An incident command center outfitted with the latest office technology and tablets:

  • Allows the emergency command center to track and support firefighters and equipment digitally.
  • Provides a seamless network of communication between the command center and firefighters in the field.
  • Facilitates informed decision making on-the-fly by providing real-time analysis of conditions in the field.

Command Center Construction: Creating Something from Nothing

As mentioned earlier, construction of a wildfire incident command center would be exponentially more difficult, if not impossible, without a team of private industry vendors who supply the infrastructure at remote locations. There are the guys who bring in electricity, the guys who set up satellite communication and we are proud to be the guys who outfit the command center with the latest IT technology. For nearly two decades the Phoenix, Arizona office of SmartSource Rentals has worked tirelessly to support the National Wildland Incident Management Teams during wildfire season. We consider ourselves an extension of the US Forest Service’s IT team, going above and beyond standard operations to meet or exceed the high level of reliability and service NIMO demands.

During wildfire season, or whenever NIMO requires, SmartSource Rentals adjusts operations to:

  • Field telephone orders from the National Wildland Incident Management Teams 24 hours a day.
  • Custom package equipment for shipping according to the strict shipping requirements of NIMO.
  • Devise logistical plans that get the technology to the command post, no matter how remote, within 24 hours, 90 percent of the time.

A unique advantage SmartSource Rentals has in servicing the US Forest Service, aside from its top-notch team of technology and logistic experts, is ownership of the largest rental inventory available. We are able to leverage inventory across 23 field offices to fulfill NIMO orders without compromising inventory for our standard customers. Put another way, we’ve earned the trust of our Firefighter and Emergency Response clients simply because our team will always find a way to make things happen. We operate like an extension of their IT team. When they go all in, we go all in!

For more information, please contact the author at tjoanes@smartsourcerentals.com

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