Ensure venue technology standards meet customer requirements
How many times have you attended a presentation that was plagued with technical difficulties? Not only is it embarrassing for the presenter but for the event coordinator and the venue as well. It can be an actual detriment to the business. Venue technology standards are a topic worth discussing and we recently had the opportunity to delve in a little deeper with Sylvia Blain, Event Coordinator, Statehouse Convention Center, Little Rock, Arkansas, and we discussed her personal experience with these trials.
"It's all about being prepared and asking the right questions. We gather as much information as possible but tend to error on the side of underpromising and over-delivering..." - Sylvia Blain, Statehouse Convention Center
Sylvia on how to mesh technology requirements with venue capabilities.
“There’s a growing need for a middle-man to fill the role of someone who can bridge the gap between the IT department and a client-facing customer service standpoint,” Sylvia suggested.
It’s not uncommon to see this divide where the customers’ expectations are not met because of terminology differences between departments in the modern events business. Sylvia is a veteran of understanding these challenges and has some unique insight as to how venues can become better prepared.
“We’ve never had a major issue because during our planning process we are able to capture all of the necessary technical information. It’s all about being prepared and asking the right questions. We gather as much information as possible but tend to error on the side of underpromising and over-delivering. What we’re really trying to do is set the right expectations,” Sylvia stated.
The challenge of setting venue technology standards
Technical services teams are sailing uncharted waters because there are a lot of issues that haven’t yet been dealt with. Not even the most in-depth Google search could provide the answers to questions that have never been asked. “There are not any set protocols,” said Sylvia, “we’re all just trying to deal with the problems as they come.”
The most commonly mentioned technical issue is dealing with the requirement for (fast) Wi-Fi. The surge in the integration of events with a mobile platform is astounding and is not going to lose speed anytime soon. When we asked Sylvia what a typical client request for Wi-Fi capabilities is, she had this to add, “It depends on the event. Some will need a closed, private network in order to handle the financial information (for things like transactions or online bidding) while others just need to provide their guests with the service out of expectation.”
The problem with Wi-Fi
The main problem with Wi-Fi is determining the amount of bandwidth that the event will actually require. Attendees arrive with cell phones (sometimes two), tablets, and laptops. These things often begin scanning networks and connect automatically. By capturing the correct requirements and customer expectations, you can better accommodate the clients and avoid any nightmares.
But what about the mission-critical connections? When there is a live stream, bidding or polling? If it is something that is essential to the presentation, Sylvia recommends a hardline connection at her venue.
“When there is an event that requires a guaranteed internet connection, we require a hardline drop. Our IT department can then have control and monitor the stability of the network and usage. More than likely, we will have enough bandwidth. There’s no way for us to make a contractual agreement without the hardline,” remarked Sylvia.
What are the current and future technology challenges venues face?
We were curious to what the biggest challenge that she’s seen in dealing with Wi-Fi requirements and capabilities has been. Her reply was in trying to isolate a password-required, secure connection to one particular area (for bidding and the corresponding financial transactions), while the rest of the event had access to the open network. This kind of configuration is complex and is often best approached by connecting your IT team with the customers to ensure that everyone is speakingthe same language.
Ultimately, we asked Sylvia what she thought the future held. She believed that the future would include a greater reliance on wi-fi and even loftier expectations of service and capabilities from attendees. She thought that it would become more and more difficult to operate a venue without a dedicated IT person just for customer events (many venues must share their internal IT resources). Both of these sentiments are often echoed by industry research and trends. It’s likely that we are still on the upswing of many of these challenges. Venues will need to work diligently to avoid falling behind these common customer expectations. The uptick in the use of wearable technology and beacons will make the requirements necessary to stay connected even more of a necessity. It will be all the more important for convention centers and venues to keep an eye on the landscape and to adapt to these growing technology changes.
We want to thank Sylvia Blain for taking the time to discuss this very important subject. If you'd like more information about venue technology standards or wi-fi, you should consider downloading our venue technology standards template below. It will allow you to better ensure your venue's IT staff is on the same page as your customers.
If you have any questions or comments on the subject please leave them below.