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Hackathons 101: The New Way to Meet
hackathon, SmartSource Rentals, event planning
Mar 29, 2016 by DeDe Mulligan

Computers and Collaboration Produce Results

 

What is a hackathon? Historically, it has been an event where computer programmers, graphic designers, and project managers collaborate intensively for 24-48 hours straight on a software project. Think of it as Red Bull meets computer geeks with the outcome of a new software offering or update. Often times, there is a significant dollar prize associated with the best team design.

In the last eighteen months, hackathons have gone mainstream and are now multiplying into a new way to bring interactive learning to conferences and meetings.

Listed below is the who, when, where and why associated with hackathons that you may wish to take advantage of at your next meeting or conference.

Components of a Successful Hackathon

 

Who might participate in a hackathon?

While most hackathons have been very technical in nature, many of the most recent successful ones (i.e. Happiness Hackathon) have included the following types of participants:

  • High School & College students
  • Software Developers
  • Computer Programmers
  • Scientists
  • Engineers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Policy Experts
  • Executives
  • Vendors
  • Customers

In essence, the individuals that participate don’t necessarily need to be technical in nature but they do need to be vested in the outcome.

When should you hold it?

Most hackathons occur on a Friday or Saturday. However, it should be held when most of your vital attendees can be there. If it is part of the conference, you want to hold a mini-hackathon or give attendees enough time to sleep before they have to board a plane or get behind the wheel of a car.

Where is a good location?

While it may not seem like the norm, many hackathons occur in the following locations:

  • Museums
  • Retail establishments, typically large coffee shops
  • Libraries
  • Hotels and conference centers
  • Colleges

The keys are to have space for everyone to comfortably congregate in teams, provide individuals with high-speed, secure Internet connections and tablet or laptops rentals for those who do not have their own devices.

Why Hold a Hackathon?

According to Inc. Magazine, from a business prospective there are three major benefits. A hackathon:

  1. Bonds attendees and increases morale because individuals are together for 24-48 hours at a stretch.
  2. Enforces the right values because individuals are working hard, fast and toward a common goal.
  3. Leaves lasting ideas and products because a clear goal is conveyed at the onset; a new product, service or idea that wasn’t considered before will come out of the process.

In addition, PCMA Convene identified two others:

  1. Experts from different areas share content, feedback and help to define and solve specific problems in a group setting.
  2. Attendees who are not comfortable with technology can learn more about it from the experts in the room.

 

In summary, hackathons allow creative, smart people the ability to come together for a period of time and do amazing things because they are driven by innovation, incentives or improvements in the current product or service offerings. Although I have never personally participated in this type of event, I look forward to coordinating or participating in one in the future.

 

SmartSource Rentals Can Help with Your Next Hackathon

With fully-staffed and equipped branch offices in 22 major metro markets, SmartSource Rentals has the largest national footprint in the computer and audio visual rental space. Give us a call at 800.888.8686 to learn about ways we can help you!

Industry News: Museums Turn To Technology for Immersive Experience, Raise Engagement
RadicalMedia-March
Mar 23, 2016 by Cynthia Corona

Earlier this month at the SXSW Interactive Media Festival, experiential marketing pros gathered to discuss the changing landscape for museums. AV Network, a leading industry publication, covered the seminar titled “Tomorrow’s Museum: Designing Engaging Experiences,” where case studies were shared and hypotheses about the future were discussed. Read about it here.

We have experience in this space, having worked with Radical Media on a breakout museum installation called the Museum of Feelings, which happened last year in New York’s Battery Park. Over 60,000 people attended the pop-up museum that ran for three weeks. If you have a similar project and are interested in learning how we can help, please contact our expert on museum technology, Andrew Bassin, of our Manhattan office at 718-361-4542, Ext 3608.

RadicalMediaDisplays

How the FCC Rulings Can Help Planners Get A Better Deal on WiFi
Mar , 2016 by Milko Figueroa

Late last year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a ruling on a controversial practice of some hotels and in-house convention center Internet service providers. Jamming the signal of a mobile hot spot or personal wireless device is apparently a no no in the eyes of the government. While the ruling is considered a win for exhibitors and hotel guests, it also paves the way for event planners to have more choices and negotiating power when it comes to venue-wide wireless access.

The FCC was pretty clear in its decision stating, ”No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi‑Fi network.  Such action is illegal, and violations could lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties.”

So, now that a clear precedent has been established for third-party providers of Internet access—the MiFi users and the companies that sell or rent hot spot equipment—there is little (legally) standing in the way for planners to entertain proposals for venue-wide wireless Internet access from outsourced and independent providers of temporary event WiFi. In fact, there are some very good reasons why they could benefit substantially from doing so.

FREEDOM OF CHOICE

The first, and most obvious, benefit of being able to work with a third-party wireless WiFi engineering firm is the ability to source competitive bids for the service. For so long, planners had only two choices for wireless Internet access:  to use the in-house provider or forego offering wireless Internet access to exhibitors and attendees. That has changed. Planners may now openly (as far as the government is concerned) choose from among several companies, which enhances their bargaining power with the prospective providers and the venue.

That’s good news for planners because outsourced WiFi engineering companies can often deliver capabilities that many in-house providers can’t:

Pricing consistency. There is no consistent WiFi pricing model for hotels and convention centers. Some charge event planners based on data consumption. Others charge based on the number of devices or number of users at the event. One outsourced provider used consistently across multiple events and venues (more on that below) can bring organizers a level of pricing consistency that is predictable and manageable.

Service customization. Every event is different. Many require various levels of customized access—for example, separate subnets for production teams, attendees, and event management. Others need more sophisticated local area networks to support activities such as webcasting or live streaming. Experienced third-party providers can configure network access to accommodate very specific requirements.

Location flexibility. For the most part, venues have fixed infrastructures of hardwired routers and access points.  Premium WiFi architecture teams, on the other hand, bring their own arsenal of WiFi equipment to a project in order to enhance or expand on existing WiFi infrastructure or to distribute a fresh source of Internet bandwidth, like Microwave, as a job requires.

Backup.  Many hotels have only one source of Internet service from outside the building. If that source becomes suddenly unavailable or congested, the event can suffer. Third-party WiFi architect teams typically have multiple sources for Internet bandwidth at their disposal, so that if one external network goes down, they can switch to a backup provider seamlessly and instantly, without interruption of service.

Advanced technology.  Wireless technology moves fast. Convention centers—even those that partner with large companies to provide fixed infrastructure in exchange for a profit share of revenue—find it difficult to keep pace with advances in wireless technology. Third-party WiFi architects, however, upgrade equipment often and stay at the forefront of WiFi best practices to stay competitive in the marketplace. For meeting planners,  this can bring peace of mind, when stable and secure WiFi is mission critical to an event.

GOING ONE BETTER

There is another aspect to this growing freedom of choice. Event organizers with a regular portfolio of events, even if the events move to different cities, can rely on a single third-party wireless architect to support all of their events year round. That capability comes with its own set of perks:

Institutional knowledge. Having to reinvent the wheel every time an event locates in a new venue is burdensome for the planner. Working with one company who knows the requirements, participant profile, and Internet usage habits of a group’s exhibitors and attendees reduces the workload and can lead to better service for the event participants.

Analytics. Most venues can provide usage analytics to event planner customers. Many outsourced companies though can take analytics a step further and benchmark usage metrics against other clients or even against the group’s other events. They can also customize reports based on a client’s preferences.

Advocacy. In-house providers, while accountable indirectly to exhibitors, attendees, and event organizers, work primarily on behalf of the venue. Third-party wireless engineering companies are retained directly by the event organizer and are accountable directly to him or her. When organizers work consistently with one partner company, it deepens the relationship, as does the service provider’s ability to anticipate the needs of the planner.

Economies of scale. Another benefit of working with a single partner is package pricing. Even though every event is configured differently, multiple events often qualify for pricing and/or service concessions so that overall costs are reduced.

What started out as the necessary need for exhibitors and hotel guests to take Internet access into their own hands has paved the way for free market competition and elevated service capabilities. The FCC filing confirmed what many third-party WiFi engineering companies already knew. Convention centers and hotels may not override an individual’s or an organization’s ability to choose its own mode of Internet access. In a seller’s market, it’s nice to finally see planners getting a break.

To learn more about how WiFi can be used to optimize your next indoor or outdoor event, please click on the link to our podcast featuring myself and April Moore, a former planner and leading special event account manager here at SmartSource Rentals.

PodCast


About the Author

Milko

With more than 20 years of event technology experience under his belt, Milko Figueroa is more than a tech geek. He’s a tech geek with personality. He also has a deep understanding of customer needs and a library worth of real-life knowledge of how to execute technology in complex and sometimes unorthodox situations. Milko is the expert on WiFi technology at SmartSource Rentals and leads a team of seasoned WiFi engineers who have produced events at indoor and outdoor venues across the country for Fortune 100 companies.  He can be reached at mfigueroa@smartsourcerentals.com

The Sharing Economy: Leveraging Short-Term Technology Solutions to Drive Business
March-SharingEconomy
Mar , 2016 by B. Maitland

There has been a time-tested recipe for business growth.  By making cash-intensive investments, businesses have sought a defensible market position by leveraging anything proprietary they can develop or buy.

It has worked this way:

  1. Identify a market need
  2. Innovate or acquire
  3. Invest in the technology and capacity to produce the product
  4. Serve the market profitably, as only you or few others can

It was an approach that worked for a few decades, until the recession that began in 2007.  That period spurred an innovation in the way we do business, in our personal and professional lives, that is now commonly known as the sharing economy, or collaborative consumption.

It has changed the way we use transportation (see Uber). It has changed the way we live and vacation (see AirBNB). And now it has changed our approach to conducting business.

The sharing economy was first introduced to the business world through what is now known as cloud computing. Cloud computing is a new software model where software is available as a service (SAAS). It has been instrumental in allowing businesses to innovative rapidly with significantly lower upfront costs, compared to proprietary software solutions.

While computer software drove the first wave of this paradigm shift to collaborative consumption in business, a trend toward the same for computer hardware and office equipment is rapidly emerging.

It makes sense. Computer technologies are the perfect assets to rent versus buy. They depreciate quickly, there is a high upfront cost, and they require specialized labor to perform and maintain.

Renting hardware also enables entirely new business model opportunities – in the same way renting software does.

Just as the sharing economy reset the way people work and play, collaborative consumption enables organizations to innovate. Workforces that under traditional business models have been stuck in fixed office space are rapidly being replaced by remote deployment models of staffing, especially in the instances of product training or short-term project work.

Additionally, more and more we are seeing businesses deploy staff to remote locations for execution of services or assessment of market opportunities.

In instances like these, having consistency of equipment performance and equipment configuration, not to mention security, is essential. A professional temporary technology solutions company can fulfill this need by making access to the latest technology and software easy, consistent, and affordable.

Renting depreciating assets is simply too effective a strategy to ignore, and the applications are diverse.

Post-recession history is proof that once a market becomes sharable, it is unlikely to revert to the old paradigm. We can only anticipate the same will be true when it comes to computer and office technology as more companies move to leverage the advantages of the sharing economy by renting, and not buying, computer hardware and services, leaving only one question:

With scalable computer and office technology, accessible on demand anywhere, anyplace, without the typical up-front investment, what exciting new business opportunities will your company explore?

Follow These Strategies to Better Engage Event Attendees
engage attendees, SmartSource Rentals, polling attendees, Audience Response Systems rentals
Mar 22, 2016 by DeDe Mulligan

Interaction + Fun = Participation

 

Every conference I have ever attended strived to be the best, better than last years and better than the competition. Even though the conferences had great motivational speakers, the message was many times lost – even just a few days after the event. Why? Because they were not speaking to me about my work challenges, I could not apply anything concrete from their advice.

What can you do to make sure this doesn’t happen at your next conference? For starters, attendees need to feel they can bring the meeting messages back to the workplace and implement fresh ideas immediately. While they crave knowledge, it has to be relevant. Oh, and by the way, the delivery of the message has to be entertaining, too.

Here are six tips as identified by Meeting Professionals International, along with my own suggestions about ways technology can aid in the learning process.

 

Prep Your Attendees for the Message

Before the presenter comes out, spend several minutes creating curiosity and buy-in about the message. Many times attendees don’t know what the presenter is all about until the 2-minute introduction by the event emcee. Prepping the audience can help attendees ask better questions and direct the speaker’s dialog to what attendees want to hear.

Keep the Speaker’s Content Simple

Complex content with over-scripted PowerPoint slides is out of style. Determine what is absolutely critical and, if necessary, give your presenters a template to follow that limits the number of words on a slide and the number of slides in a deck.

Learn from Each Other

Rather than having the presenter do all the talking, let learning occur between meeting participants. It is estimated that 70% of a person’s job is learned from their peers, so it is a natural extension for meeting attendees to both teach and learn from each other.

Switch Things Up

Hire storytellers, show a video and/or review a case study and discuss the salient points. All of these activities can potentially evoke emotions and spur conversation to help attendees grow.

Poll often

Whether you use a polling application on a mobile device or an Audience Response System (ARS) rental, it is important to ask relevant questions throughout the meeting so content can change based on the request and input of others.

Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate

Whether your meeting is large or small, live or virtual, collaborating around a large Smart TV rental makes a lot of sense. You can pull in documents, add comments, video conference with experts around the world and create an action plan that can be sharable, instantaneously, on the cloud.

SmartSource Rentals Helps Engage Attendees

SmartSource Rentals is dedicated to making your attendees’ meeting experience as memorable as possible. Simply request a quote or initiate a chat and one of our experienced Account Executives will help provide the best technology rentals for you from our depth and breadth of inventory.

Are Your Events Lacking Innovation? Try These 10 Tricks
c2 Montreal, BizBash, Innovative tips, Microsoft Ignite, SmartSource Rentals
Mar 17, 2016 by DeDe Mulligan

From The Top 4 Meeting Innovators

 

Every year BizBash Magazine identifies the 15 most innovative meetings of the year. I always enjoy reading this article for two reasons: 1) To learn how far event organizers will push the envelope; and 2) To understand how technology improves the meeting experience.

Today’s blog post will focus on the top four events and the creative ways they engage attendees.

 

C2 Montreal

 

This 3-day Canadian conference has established itself as a laboratory of innovation. With over 5,000 attendees, their motto is “Attendees need to live it rather than just listen to it”.

Here is what they offered:

  1. In small groups of 4 attendees and one facilitator, they suspended individuals 18 feet in the air (sitting on chairs with netting below) to force them out of their comfort zone. The facilitator asked them a series of questions they needed to answer before they could be grounded.
  2. They booked celebrity speakers like Chelsea Clinton and Andre Agassi. This along with live entertainment and a theme park atmosphere made this conference entertainment focused with an educational twist.

Social Good Summit

 

This two-day event had 1,600 attendees and over 700 bloggers and journalists in attendance. It was held in New York City.

Here is what they did:

  1. Rather than going it alone, Mashable partnered with the United Nations Development Program, United Nations Foundation and 92|Y to create an event that would help determine how technology can help address world-wide issues such as poverty and climate change.
  2. They held this event during the week of the United Nations General Assembly, thus gaining momentum with individuals who would already be in NYC and talking about the issues the general assembly is wrestling with.
  3. Using online streaming, conference organizers could translate the content into 7 languages. They also encouraged social sharing with the hashtag #2030NOW and MeetUp events where groups could get together, in small groups, all over the world to discuss the issues after viewing the content.
  4. By incorporating a digital media lounge, reporters and blogger could view live content on a large video wall rental.

Collision

This 3-day conference attracted 7,500 attendees last year (an increase of 6,000 individuals) with a slogan of “Where the Tech World Meets”. How did they do it?

  1. They brought a mix of investors, start-up entrepreneurs and developers together for three days of networking, they heard from industry leaders and pitched their products and services.
  2. In order to make the most of the conference, event organizers completed data-based matchmaking, suggesting to investors the 10 most relevant start-ups. Then the organizers created a “speed dating” environment where each start-up and investor had 15 minutes to meet. At the end of this session, event organizers told the start-ups which investors were most interested in hearing more about their innovation.

 

Microsoft Ignite

This 5-day conference had one overarching goal: Show developers and IT staff the breadth and depth of the entire Microsoft product line.

  1. Rather than having several shorter silo conferences, Microsoft decided to expand the length of this conference to encompass all their specialties at one event. On their landing page, they created a “Why you should attend this event” video and even an email template to send to your boss for justification!
  2. Event organizers encouraged cross-talk between IT and developers by offering different sessions, trade show activities and networking options. The Microsoft Ignite team held receptions, ask-the-expert presentations, and mash-ups

SmartSource Rentals is Your Home for Conference Innovation

 

SmartSource Rentals is dedicated to making your summit very successful. Request a quote and one of our experienced Account Executives will turn around a quick response to you.

Creating a Product Launch to Remember
Product Launch Technology
Mar 14, 2016 by Anonymous

A product launch is a critical time for any business. These sensitive events are the big reveal after months or—more likely—YEARS of research and development. Not only is a product launch the debut of an item, offering, or service, but these events are deeply intertwined with a company’s image and branding. The company speaks about the product, but the product also speaks volumes about the company, while—ideally—vast numbers of your target audience are watching, listening, and learning.

Needless to say, it is vitally important that a product launch accomplishes the following goals:

  1. It defines your product. Customers must understand what your business is offering and why they need it.
  2. It distinguishes the product from any competitors. In a perfect world, your product is so groundbreaking that it HAS no competition. In the real world, your product launch will clearly present your offering’s advantages ahead of its competitors.
  3. It positions your brand as an industry leader with innovative ideas, follow-through, and a strong future—a brand that is constantly developing, adapting, and ahead of the game.
  4. It will reach your target audience. The product was developed with a specific customer in mind. The product launch needs to reach out and connect with as many of those customers as possible.

Successful Product Launches Depend upon TECHNOLOGY

If your product launch begins with a “voice,” technology is the amplifier. The right combination of technology rentals will increase and enhance your brand’s message—delivering the compelling high-quality content that will inform your audience about the product and jump-start sales! Start the conversation by using technology such as video walls, lighting, staging, and interactive tech rentals that can become a talking point in their own right! Consider the following technology options:

1. Digital Signage – Use digital signage to ensure that your product and brand are presented with perfection and consistency, while accommodating multiple content formats and allowing for minute-by-minute edits and adaptations.

2. Touch Screens – Use interactive displays to connect guests to videos, surveys, e-literature, social media, games, contests, contact information, QR codes, and all the product information they could possibly want. Options include: digital walls, LCD touch screens, iPads, tablets, and interactive touch screen kiosks.

3. LCD Projectors and Screens – Use projectors and screens to present visual or written material, as well as backgrounds and logos!

4. Video Walls – There’s no better way to present a captivating visual display to a large audience. A video wall presents your images in eye-popping dimensions!

5. Charging Station Kiosks – Charging stations offer a useful service to your guests and increase the time spent at your event. Guests spend an average of 7 to 10 minutes at charging stations—during which the units’ built-in screen is offering product videos, a call-to-action, or additional content.

6. MacBook Pros and Laptops – For some product launches (software and gaming come immediately to mind) an audience needs a hands-on approach to connecting with the material. Laptop rentals can give guests a chance to experience a product for themselves.

7. IPads and Tablets – Encourage personal involvement and expand your fan base by offering contests, sign-ups, social media options, newsletter and email opt-ins, and giveaways related to your product and brand. Tablets are an inviting, space-saving way to give guests digital access to sign-up for your promotions.

Product Launch Technology from the Experts

Whether your product launch is a single event or occurring at multiple locations, consistent brand and product representation is crucial for your business reputation. When you choose SmartSource for your product launch technology, you can guarantee that our team of dedicated technicians will manage and support your event’s tech rentals from start to finish. Our nationwide network has inventory coast-to-coast, to cover your events—any time, any location! Get a quote from the experts, today!

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