The Technology Survival Guide to Meetings and Conferences

When selecting a venue for your next meeting or conference, the first factors that likely come to mind are things like the venue’s location, layout, or catering options. These are all essential, but with most meetings and conferences featuring a number of speakers and attendees carrying multiple devices, the venue's tech infrastructure and expertise should rank high in your list of considerations. The following are a few guidelines when considering event tech:

Technology Can Make or Break Conferences and Meetings Learning about a venue's technical capabilities is among the first conversations you should have prior to selecting your event location. Not only will the venue’s answers give you peace of mind, but they will also help you understand what you can plan for on the day of your event and what costs may be associated. While it's tempting to save on tech costs, this is one area that is well worth the investment. While guests often won’t notice flawless tech, failing microphones or projection will turn heads. Even the best run events can have issues. During a presentation former Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, had to ask the audience to stop accessing the Internet on their mobile phones, so that he could deliver the presentation.

Essential questions when visiting meeting venues The following is a list of must-ask questions for venues:

  • Does the venue have dedicated Wi-Fi? How many users can it handle simultaneously for normal use (e.g. email checking, social media, etc.)? How many if users are streaming video? What is the cost for internet? Is it possible to upgrade the speed at the last-minute if necessary?
  • What is the upload and download speed of the connection? Tip: You can find out while visiting the venue with SpeedTest.net.
  • Are there adequate outlets available for guests to charge their device/s? Ask the venue if they have an electrical plan.
  • Is there a clear cell phone signal in the meeting place? If not, make sure there is Wi-Fi available.
  • Does the venue have microphones and sufficient lighting for your event? Do they have extra microphones if needed?

Don't overlook sound and lighting The quality of the venue's sound and lighting can transform the ambiance and effectiveness of your meeting or conference. Venues that are prepared to host your conference or event will have ready-made sound and lighting packages or a la carte pricing. If they don't, it's a red flag that they may not have experience with the lighting your event requires. Always make sure to keep your eyes open for the placement of speakers (are they around the room or located in just one area) and where lights and projectors are placed (are they fixed or is there a ceiling grid where you can adjust their location). Venues should also know their limits in terms of sound and lighting and should have recommendations for when you may need to bring in outside vendors.

Assessing your needs based on event specifics The venue should be able to assess your specific conference or meeting technology needs based on a few key pieces of  information. Often it’s best to provide as much detail as possible to ensure the venue’s estimate will match the final costs:

  • Number of attendees - How many attendees will be at the event throughout the day? Will they be using Wi-Fi and if so, what kind of browsing will they be doing?
  • Number of Presenters - How many speakers, panelists, and Q&A sessions will you have? Will any of these happen simultaneously?
  • Event Agenda - Does your meeting or conference have sessions that include speakers or presentations? Is there a reception or time for guests to mingle? If the event is multi-stage, are you looking to have the ambiance change throughout the event?
  • Lighting and Branding – How would you like to light and/or brand the space? Are you looking to have anything beyond the house lighting (e.g. up lights, gobos, wall washes, projections on walls, etc.)?

Assessing the venue's tech-savviness When speaking to the venue staff on site visits, keep note of whether they are able to answer your questions about technology, either on the spot or as a follow-up. If they aren't, you may be speaking with someone who can not adequately predict your needs or the associated costs. Keep in mind that the best venues prepare based on their past experience hosting events just like yours. As a result they should be aware of basic capabilities and within easy reach of more tech-heavy answers from their technicians. The venue should also have ready-made resources about what tech equipment  and capabilities they offer. This information may prove to be essential when passing on information to your team.