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Rebooting venues

At the recent Smart Venue Summit, which took place at the Victory Services Club, 25 February, it was discussed in great detail just how important the right technology is. However, acquisition, installation and/or hire is no cheap feat, and the question was asked of who should bear the brunt of the cost. Venues, of course, are the biggest investors in general AV and event technology. To get an idea of what is on offer, and how client demands have changed, CN did the rounds around the country.

Judy Rose, conference and events sales manager, Vale Resort

The world of technology can be a minefield. Keeping up to date with the latest technology is always a challenge. We have invested in LCD projectors in each of our meeting rooms with screens.

We use a very good AV company Cleartech who are always happy to meet clients to discuss their requirements and are first class. If they require extensive equipment, then the AV company can provide a technician on-site for the duration of the event thus giving peace of mind to the organiser. Our front-line events team are extremely capable to deal with.

Clare Brockway, conference manager, Cardiff Metropolitan University

As a venue, all of our meeting rooms have built-in ceiling mounted projectors and either a laptop or PC as well as built-in speakers. Our large rooms have PA systems and microphones, double or triple projection and the screens are larger too. Our key rooms have hearing loops installed. We also have a number of IT suites too.

Our clients seem to be more resilient and aware of the different technology available when they attend an event. It seems common now that people are using laptops with HDMI connections, and all our meeting rooms have VGA and HDMI connections to accommodate this. We always make sure we have Apple Mac adaptors available too.

We have also noticed a number of clients asking to use Skype in the meeting rooms, or requesting to hire our Skype video conferencing suite, with the drive to reduce travel to conferences. We also offer free Wi-Fi to all delegates.

At Cardiff Met we have a School of Technologies so are kept well informed of developments. We also hosted the JISC conference last year which showcased a digilab of future technology. 

The conference team keep up to date of future technology at exhibitions and supplier workshops and are due to attend the Drake AV workshop in February to give us insight into the latest technology for events.

Craig Warner, IT director, Wyboston Lakes Resort

With rapidly changing customer demands and expectations, it’s very important that venues have a good IT strategy that allows them to focus on new innovations and plan ahead.

For instance, its vitally important that venues invest in scalable bandwidth, allowing them to respond rapidly to change. Without this kind of forethought and a strong investment strategy, venues will inevitably fall behind allowing the competition to overtake them.

James Morris, ICT manager, QEII Centre

Event technology has changed the way we invite, outreach and promote events. PR and public excitement are generated across a range of social media channels, and invitations take a more digital form. With the explosion of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, among others, it is easier to target the right demographic for your event.

An attendee at an event will always expect to be online, to stay up to date with event content, social media feeds, internet sites, email and often be connected to the office. As nearly all of this will be carried out on mobile devices a high-quality wireless provision is a must.

Attending an event no longer requires the user, or the speaker, to be physically present. Instead, fast, reliable internet allows videos to be streamed and technology advancements can enhance the audience reaction with questions being spoken or typed and audience feedback gathered through interactive voting.

 It is important to realise that technology never stands still. People’s perception of communication changes rapidly and it is vital that the QEII Centre remains up to date. New technologies such as 5G, unified communications and collaboration and touchscreen technology will enable the centre to offer solutions that enhance the client’s experience.    

Kirsten Kruls, events and marketing manager, Lincoln’s Inn

The preservation of history and tradition at Lincoln’s Inn is a great appeal to event bookers. That being said, due to evolving expectations that stipulate flexibility, we constantly make judgements on where to maintain traditional practices, and where to implement modernity through the latest technology. 

In recent years, venues have paid closer attention to the impact of lighting design on the guests’ experience. Our brand-new installation in the 19th century Great Hall allows for bespoke levels of lighting, controlled by a series of panels. For example, the dining area and dance floor could be next to each other, with completely different lighting effects, from one central system. There are also capabilities for event organisers to have their own setting, implemented at the touch of a button.

Analysing event professionals’ needs through feedback, industry reports and networking provide critical information to determine new necessary requirements. We could be catering for the most traditional of banquets, but behind the scenes, the kitchen technology epitomises contemporary innovation. 

We’ve invested in a new state-of-the-art kitchen with an oven controlled by USB, sending instructions that change temperatures at specific points of the cooking process. From cooking 150 litres of soup in just ten minutes to composting left-over food with our waste management system, we use technology within our kitchen to increase our efficiency without jeopardising our high standards.