SmartSource Rentals Blog


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!

Wearable Tech for Events
Wearables for Events
Feb 17, 2016 by Anonymous

Wearable technology has been flashing in and out of the news for a decade or more—leaving most of us feeling . . . intrigued. Ideas that once only existed in science fiction movies and comic books are now on the shelves—available to anyone willing to buy them. However, many of us are still asking whether the technology is honestly practical or if it’s just a “flash in the pan”—grabbing attention for introducing thought-provoking design, influencing manufacturers’ stock prices, and creating fascinating tech magazine articles, rather than wearable technology truly being a product that consumers believe they need.

One thing is certain: wearable technology is the leading edge of a user interface that is more completely integrated—a step toward machines that are truly like a “part of us.” Integration is a driving focus in the development and advancement of technology; appropriately, integration is also a critical part of business events!

Some Unexpected Facts about the Future of Wearables:

  • An estimated 17.1 million smartwatches were sold worldwide in 2015. ²
  • Shipments of Smart Wearable units are expected to increase from 27 million (in 2014), to 116 million in 2017. ¹
  • $53 billion is the projected market for wearable devices by 2019. ¹

How Can Wearables Benefit Event Planners?

As with any technology, event planners should only employ a tech option if it brings a genuine benefit. In the case of wearable technology, many of the choices CAN make sense for event planners. Even at their most basic, wearable devices offer hands-free connection, and event planners have their hands FULL (often literally).

Many of the most successful wearables focus on lifestyle and health (helping users to track their steps, monitor their heart rate, and prevent sun-damaged skin, for example), but wearables can provide many benefits for event organizers and exhibitors. Here are a few products that may make work easier for event professionals:


  • Google Glass and GlassUp – although Google Glass has had a somewhat sketchy reception from the general public and the product is currently in a state of transition, there are definite advantages to headsets and eye wear. The optical head-mounted display can allow:
    • News
    • Facial recognition
    • Hands-free photography and videography
    • Photo manipulation
    • Email
    • Translation
    • Sharing to social networks
    • Connection to apps
    • Reminders and scheduling
    • Voice recognition
    • Voice activated search results and queries

Indeed, GlassUp intentionally avoids the futuristic appearance of Google Glass. The company offers headsets that look like regular glasses but are designed to offer personalized connectivity and notifications for travelers and exhibition attendees (including integrating customized apps for business events and shows). The translation capabilities alone are enough to make these options valuable for many business events!

  • Smart Contacts – options such as the iOptik Contact allow many of the benefits of smartglasses, with a wider viewing range and without affecting the wearer’s appearance.
  • Daqri Smart Helmet – this wearable option protects the wearer’s head, keeps a person’s hands free, and projects augmented reality that can display materials such as schematics, diagrams, and instructions that offer valuable assistance at job sites, in training sessions, or for demonstrations.


Once worn only by Dick Tracy, smartwatches are now readily available. Although it was expected that 4 out of every 10 wristwatches would be smartwatches by 2016 ³, many of us may still be hard-pressed to find anyone wearing one. However, smartwatches make a LOT of sense for event planners and exhibitors.

Whether you choose the Apple Watch, Pebble, or Android Wear, smartwatches can make it simple to connect with your phone, apps, contacts, and the Internet. Smartwatches offer built-in connectivity and conveniences—such as:

  • GPS
  • Standalone phone
  • Internet connection and data service
  • Speakerphones
  • Emailing
  • Instant notifications
  • Tracking

Something to consider: most smartwatches work best (or even require) a connected smartphone.

Moving Forward with Wearables

Wearable technology is still unusual and novel enough to help trade show displays and event exhibitors make an impact. “. . . Currently, the market is friendlier toward cheaper and simpler wrist-mounted devices that only offer notifications and tracking as opposed to full-fledged mobile operating systems boasting a range of apps (like the Apple Watch).” ² Although headsets and smartwatches may not appeal to the masses just yet, event planners are an ideal candidate for this technology—people who need information and constant connection, hands-free and on-the-go!

How Can SmartSource Help?

SmartSource Rentals can provide the technological foundation for any business event. Our nationwide network of branches can provide your event with the lighting, staging, sound, digital signage, servers, and software that create successful events! You’ve got enough to do—let US take care of the tech! Give us a call today at 800.888.8686

(Image courtesy of atibodyphoto at
Future Trade Shows Will Include Many Technological Features
trade show technology, future trends, SmartSource Rentals, virtual reality, augmented reality, geofencing
Feb 05, 2016 by DeDe Mulligan

Cool Options Are Around the Corner


Trade shows are the perfect place to use specific technological gems – partly because the contained space is perfect for testing new apps and partly because every exhibitor is looking for something new and cool to bring precious attendees streaming to their booth.

Today’s blog post will focus on the breakthrough applications on the horizon: Geofencing, 3D Printing, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Drones.


You are probably already familiar with geofencing, but don’t call it by that name. This is when push notifications are sent to your smartphone or iPad rental exactly when you are within so many feet of a trade show booth.

This message is meant to lure you into the booth to see a demonstration, register for a giveaway or gain points toward a loyalty program.

Geofencing is also about what is happening at the moment. For example, if a speaker is holding a book signing in a booth for two hours, that message would be received only during that time and only by individuals that are close by.


3D Printing

This technology allows booth exhibitors the capability of producing prototypes that are personalized to each attendee.

For example, OREO debuted 3D printer vending machines at the South by Southwest Interactive trade show. The machines served up personalized cookies based on which flavors were trending on Twitter. Users share their favorites using the hashtag #eatthetweet and the cookies were made in less than 2 minutes.


Virtual Reality

This technology allows event marketers the ability to tell their story in a more immersive way. VR allows users to feel like they are in a different place. Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and Vrse provide the virtual reality experience to attendees, from a headset, a reader or even a mobile app.

Besides being cutting-edge, this offering reduces the cost of shipping, assembling and storing your products. You can immerse the user into an environment where they can understand your product use in a variety of settings.

Augmented Reality

Where VR is about transporting users to another location, AR is about bringing digital objects into the real world. To view great examples of AR, check out the Magic Leap website.



According to Global Experience Specialists, drones are here to stay and they are providing valuable touchpoints at events. Drones can livestream video, analyze foot traffic and provide better brand awareness for exhibitors.

For example, Pepto-Bismol implemented a Twitter campaign called #TweetforRelief and when people did tweet that hashtag, a drone would drop off the tablets to that person as long as they were in the confines of the event.


SmartSource Rentals Speaks Up About the Future

SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals helps businesses be successful by being the chosen technology solutions partner to over 400+ trade associations and thousands of corporate events and user conferences. Take advantage of our experience and knowledge by requesting a quote  or calling our sales team at 800-888-8686.

Onboarding Session Technology
Feb 02, 2016 by Anonymous

Many businesses recognize that it saves money to retain good employees. The costs of hiring can include advertising, recruitment, travel, relocation, and training—not to mention hours upon hours of time spent sorting through resumes, scheduling interviews, deliberating, following through, and negotiating salaries and benefits.

Indeed, studies show that many companies lose a significant amount of time and money in headhunting, hiring, and training new employees. Many companies realize—too late—that it’s worth the extra effort to try and retain current team members rather than to replace them.

Optimal ROI from Onboarding

A recent Aberdeen Report defines onboarding as an orientation process involving:

  1. Forms management
  2. Tasks management
  3. Socialization into the company culture

The report suggests that companies will achieve “optimal ROI” from their onboarding process by incorporating those three elements.  The research demonstrated that onboarding and socialization techniques lead to several positive outcomes for new employees, such as:

  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Better job performance
  • Greater organizational commitment
  • Reduced occupational stress

Onboarding Sessions Can Improve Employee Retention

Once hired, new employees benefit greatly from onboarding sessions. These informative presentations help bring employees on board with orientation and training that help to give them an appropriate view of their new work environment.

Onboarding sessions are a useful HR tool—incorporating both training and management to deliver the knowledge and skills that help individuals successfully join into a new team, project, branch, or company. The Wall Street Journal article, “Employee Retention – How to Retain Employees,” suggests the following tactics:

  • Explain the expectations
  • Communicate your business’s mission
  • Create open communication between employees and management
  • Outline your perks and benefits package
  • Coach employees
  • Foster employee development

Onboarding sessions may involve:

  • Formal orientations
  • Mentoring
  • Role clarification
  • Presentation of organizational culture
  • Skills practice
  • Development programs
  • Team building
  • User training
  • Case work
  • Exercises

Effective onboarding . . . can be one of the most important contributions any hiring manager, direct supervisor or human resources professional can make to long-term organizational success . . . onboarding done right can improve productivity and executive retention, and build shared corporate culture.(1)

Technology that Helps Incorporate Employees

Onboarding can include formal meetings, lectures, videos, printed materials, computer-based programs and group sessions. Smaller, more personal meetings are also a good technique for helping bring new employees into the team. Consider the following technology options as you create an ideal onboarding campaign:

Networked iPads, or laptop rentals, and presentation software are an excellent choice for onboarding sessions. With linked iPads, laptops, or tablets and the right software:

  • Event managers can distribute materials in a common presentation format
  • HR, management, and training session leaders can instantly capture each team member’s work
  • Presenters can quickly and easily adapt materials to suit the specific session members
  • Speakers can easily implement crowdsourced content, present surveys, and run Q&A sessions

A Mobile App is the ideal digital organizational tool—helping to connect your audience to exactly the materials they need. In the case of onboarding, use a customized mobile app to:

  • Present interactive maps for campus orientation
  • Offer an E-Literature library of digital documents
  • Connect to social networks for work teams, mentors, and support staff
  • Provide downloads of benefits information and employee handbooks

Projectors and Screens are a traditional foundation for delivering the videos, charts, graphics, and slide presentations that will help in orientations.

Sound Systems are important for boosting the audio of your managers, speakers, and educators as they help orient your new team members.

In conclusion, the onboarding sessions that welcome recruits are a valuable technique in familiarizing new employees to the expectations and culture of their workplace—helping businesses increase their recruitment ROI and gain a more educated, acclimated, and successful workforce!

SmartSource Rentals has the experience and inventory  to help you create effective orientations, staffing events, or corporate training sessions, anywhere in the U.S.! Call us at 800.888.8686 or get a quick quote today!





Thinking Outside the BOX for Trade Show Event Tech
Jan 26, 2016 by Anonymous

Trade show exhibitors and event planners are perpetually looking for fresh ways to promote their business, products, services and ideas. Businesses are always in need of unique ways to distinguish themselves from the competition and help draw a crowd off the showroom floor. Industry professionals know that the success of trade show exhibits often relies on technology—from the basics of sound, lighting, and lead retrieval, and moving up to leading-edge event technology that sets new standards.

Create Connections before the Event

Use social media, games, and apps to extend your exhibit’s reach beyond the booth—building excitement for your exhibit beforehand and helping to create a virtual space to engage your customers and help them to interact with your brand.

One award-winning social media campaign used gamification, social media, smartphones and devices, interaction, and QR codes to create a remarkable promotion! Their campaign succeeded above others by incorporating the following aspects:

  1. Creating a custom-made app that introduced the company’s product.
  2. Encouraging guests to download the app and game before the event or allowing them to connect to it quickly through an eye-catching QR code station onsite.
  3. The app allowed guests to select and customize gaming personas, helping to create a fun and interactive community and networking potential.
  4. The app used a scavenger hunt that encouraged competitive teamwork.
  5. The scavenger hunt involved locations in the event’s host city, not just the event facility—creating a broader event experience for attendees (while also cleverly limiting the time that attendees wanted to spend at competing booths).

The company’s campaign opted for smart phones, social media, and Quick Response (QR) codes, believing that customers were most comfortable with these technologies. Backing up this concept, research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that:

  • 61% of online Americans now use social-networking sites daily
  • 62% of gamers engage in game play with others (either in person or online)
  • 33% of gamers play on their smart phones

Trade shows can be work—help to make them feel like fun!

Expand a trade show booth with sights, sounds, and a more tactile approach to exhibit display!

Every trade show exhibit revolves around a physical display area. While a successful exhibit should utilize social media and virtual engagement, the booth itself cannot fail to draw in guests and help form face-to-face interaction as well! Here are our top five suggestions for event technology that can help your business’s trade show booth expand beyond its footprint and reach out to guests!

  1. Beacons – if your trade show is offering an event app that enables Beacons, take advantage of this unique opportunity to connect directly to attendees through their own devices. Beacons can “enhance a visitor’s experience by delivering improved customer service and offering digital content through event-specific mobile apps.”(1) When an app enables Beacons, it can allow:
    • Check-ins
    • Contactless registration
    • Ticketing
    • Signups
    • Location-based services
    • Push notifications
    • Proximity marketing
    • Time-sensitive promotions
    • Personalized deals and offers
    • Rewards programs
    • In-app discussions and feedback
    • Content delivery
  • Virtual Reality – virtual reality displays and VR headsets add the elements of novelty and fun to your trade show booth’s promotional videos and demonstrations. At the low end of the pricing scale, Google Cardboard uses apps, smartphones, and a bit of cardboard origami to provide a 3D immersive viewing experience that can give visitors an excuse to stop, look, and linger for your sales demonstrations and content.
  • Sound Shower Directional Speakers – directional speakers mount from nearly any angle and offer highly-targeted sound directly to your guests. They offer an excellent opportunity to give visitors a uniquely layered and dimensional “surround sound” auditory experience, as well as being an ideal method for competing with the noise of the showroom floor!
  • Video Projection Mapping – similar to the searchlights used at grand openings and movie premiers, the right lighting can stimulate interest and intrigue! In the case of trade show booths, video projection mapping can break up the monotony of box after box of exhibitors—helping you extend your business’s appeal beyond the 10×10 foot “pre-defined area.” Video projection mapping can allow you to project images, logos, videos, or lighting effects over the walls, floor, and furnishings in your booth—including any wall surfaces, tabletop displays, fabric draping and panels, and rigid or semi-rigid substrates—distinguishing your display from your competitors.
  • Curved Screens – monitors are always a good choice for exhibits. Not only do they deliver valuable video content, but they fit easily into a trade show booth design. The latest 4K UHD curved screens are extremely useful for presenting crisp, eye-catching images, and the screens still possess the novelty that helps a booth make an impact!

About SmartSource Rentals

SmartSource Rentals has over 30 years of experience in trade show technology and technology rentals. With our coast-to-coast network of branch locations and our multi-million dollar inventory, SmartSource is ready and able to provide any rental technology your business or corporate event requires—all backed by the support of our expert technicians! Give us a call today at 800.888.8686 or contact us for a quick quote!




Getting the Most Out of Audience Response Systems
Jan 19, 2016 by Karen Daniels

With Today’s technology, everything is about “instant.” We access information instantly, communicate in a flash anywhere in the world, and we can find out in real time what our audience is thinking and what they care about.

Tapping into that “instant” ability is part of creating and running a successful trade show, conference, or corporate event. If you are running or presenting at an event, you are always looking for ways to boost attendee engagement and audience participation. Audience response systems can do all that.

At their best, audience response systems (ARS) promote live interaction, engagement and feedback. They can take an already good presentation to the next level and alert trade show managers to areas that are weak during an event.

The New ARS – Mobile Event Applications

With advances in smart phone and tablet technology, audience response systems for events are now often run right through attendees’ mobile devices. This makes ARS more affordable and easier to deploy, since most people attending an event have one or both of these devices with them (Plus, you can always rent iPads for those attendees who need them).

A mobile event application designed to allow attendees to respond to, and comment on, presentations and other event activities, not only helps boost participation and engagement, it provides you with priceless information that you can use to improve this event, and future events.

However, like all technology, if not used properly, ARS can fall- short of your expectations. That’s why it’s important to understand how you can best use an ARS, especially during a presentation when you’re trying to connect with an audience. Here are some tips to get you started.

17 Audience Response System Tips

  1. Like all technology, it’s good practice to test the equipment prior to live use.
  2. Make sure that everyone running the presentation knows how to use the equipment. For example, the presenters and/or moderators.
  3. Consider using two screens during the presentation, one for the presentation and the other for the ARS.
  4. If you’re using an ARS during a presentation, take the time early on to draw everyone in and demonstrate how to use the ARS. Keep it simple, such as asking them to sign in. Or, you might ask them for some simple demographics questions. This helps them feel comfortable with the technology and can give you valuable information.
  5. Always let participants know if the responses are going to be anonymous or are going to be tracked.
  6. You can generate engagement by polling them early on and letting them know that you will reveal the results at the end of the presentation.
  7. Don’t over use the technology. You don’t want to present them with dozens of questions they need to voice their opinion on. A good average number is about 5 questions for every hour of presentation.
  8. Make it as easy as possible. For example, number each of the answers to match a number on the keypad.
  9. Ask questions that are useful and relevant.
  10. Avoid questions that are worded confusingly. As an example, don’t use double negatives.
  11. Make sure to include some opinion-style questions.
  12. People want to be heard. If at all possible, use the responses you are receiving to change the course of the presentation. Or, at least, talk about the responses. No one has continued engagement in a vacuum.
  13. Keep the questions short and use questions that only require brief opinions. However, brief does not mean that you don’t want to ask challenging questions. Controversial questions can be good for generating discussion.
  14. Gameshow style questions or running a competition can help generate responses.
  15. If the presentation is designed to actively teach the audience something, use your ARS to find out what they know about the topic at the beginning and then again at the end. It’s good to know if how you are teaching them actually works.
  16. Let everyone know that the equipment must be returned at the end.
  17. Don’t be afraid to have a call to action at the end, such as having them sign up for something or, ask a question that you will respond to personally.

These tips will help your effectiveness no matter what type of ARS you are using. Technology is only effective when you use it to engage your target audience.

Get the Most from Your ARS and all Your Technology

With our extensive cutting-edge inventory and highly-trained professional staff, we will set you up for success. Every time.

Want to get the most out of your ARS? Call us at 800.888.8686 or request a quote today so that we can help you get the most from your trade show or corporate event technology.

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