It’s a great time to be in the meetings business. According to the American Express 2019 Global Meetings & Events Forecast, the meetings industry is “settling into a new normal.” More meetings will be planned for 2019, and they will be longer in duration and will attract more attendees. Of importance to hoteliers is this excerpt: “We need to create within a meetings and events environment the same experience that meeting attendees and owners are able to achieve within their personal lives. We need to continue to drive for a more seamless and consumer-type experience for the meeting attendee and owner.”
Welcome to the “consumerization of technology.” For years the industry has been working towards creating home-like environments in their hotel guest rooms so that guests’ experiences are at least as good as – but preferably better than – those at home. The Global Meetings & Events Forecast shows us that it’s time this same philosophy is carried into the meetings space. Outside production partners will always be valuable to create customized, large-scale events in ballrooms and flexible spaces. But is it still necessary to have portable equipment and cables taped all over the floors just to provide basic presentation support?
One way that planners will judge their event’s success is by “measuring the level of attendee engagement.” They will be demanding newer, sexier technologies to gain a competitive advantage in this increasingly consolidated environment. Mobile apps, facial recognition, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics are just a few of tools that will be used in 2019 to stimulate attendee interaction, according to the report. But here is the problem. For smaller properties that self-manage event technologies and those that rely solely on portable equipment and temporary setups, meeting these advanced technology demands will be nearly impossible. Yes, the hotel can certainly bring in an outside vendor to assist but making sure the overall event is flawless can place a lot pressure on an employee whose has a limited understanding of audiovisual equipment and event technology.
If technology continues to transform the meetings and events industry by making functions more immersive and exciting, then hoteliers need to do whatever it takes to improve the processes for how audiovisual equipment and event technologies are being bought and sold to planners and how they are being maintained in house. This means training staff how to select, sell and implement technology. It means knowing how to measure revenues and costs. It also means evaluating revenues and expenses on a regular basis and reacting as needed. Planners’ reliance on technology to enhance their events will only continue to grow, as attendees continue to demand it to keep them engaged. The good news is that event technology can actually increase event attendance by 20%, increase productivity by 27%, and decrease costs by 20-30% (Enterprise Event Marketing).
So, what’s a hotel to do if it doesn’t have the physical space or financial resources to hire a full-time, onsite AV technical crew? The answer may be found in technology itself. AudioVisual technology that is built into the event spaces is more reliable, easier to use, and much more cost-effective than portable equipment. New tools are available that enable meetings venues to self-manage basic AV services that require less labor and are easy for in-house staff to operate. They provide the framework to guide and support the planning and event phases, as well as provide responsible management of assets and inventory. Moreover, providers now have access to funding that allows the shift of CapEx to OpEx and enables hotel management to increase return to ownership while driving more revenues to the bottom line.
Implementing an event technology management program can help with the following:
- Building responsible stewardship of owner assets; Optimizing return on investment
- Driving revenues with guided, pro-active sales tools
- Measuring all revenues and expenses; Increasing staff productivity
- Enhancing existing Sales, Catering and Event Management Systems
- Managing services provided by third-party vendors; Ensures profitability
- Managing all AV inventory through one system; Reducing down-time due to service and repairs
- Placing operational and financial performance information at your fingertips
As the meetings business continues to ramp up across the globe, it’s time to invest in technology designed specifically to help hotels and facility operators better manage the audiovisual equipment and event technology process. Not only will they discover new sources of revenues, but they will become more competitive in the market and begin capturing new meetings business that they didn’t have before. And, meeting attendees and planners will have the elegant, integrated, technology experience they are asking for.
- About Jeff Loether
Jeff Loether is president of ELECTRO-MEDIA DESIGN Ltd., an audiovisual systems design and acoustical consultation group focusing on audio, video, control, and related presentation, entertainment, and communications technologies. Loether is the IACC 2018 Mel Hosansky Award recipient for Distinguished Service.