Guests travelling for business meetings, conferences and events is not a phenomenon, but now, more than ever, audio-visual offerings are vital. Access to — and supply of — reliable and modern equipment is indispensable for venues aiming to attract guests travelling far and wide for work. And it’s worthwhile; the StatsCan International Travel Survey 2017 reports meeting, incentive, conference and exhibition travellers accounted for more than 1.3-million arrivals in Canada in 2017, creating more than $1-billion worth of economic impact.

Despite seemingly endless tech options, the consensus is that a one-size-fits-all solution suits standard meetings.

Charlene Tattrie, manager of Catering and Conference Services at Fox Harb’r Resort in Nova Scotia, says, “The equipment and services most requested are an LCD projector and screen and a sound system with a microphone and a podium.”

Sébastien Roy, general manager and owner of Château Mont-Sainte-Anne and the Mont-Sainte-Anne Conference Centre in Beaupré, Que., hears the same requests and notes that, for the majority of meetings, projection is number-1. “For most meetings, projectors and sound equipment are requested,” he says. In addition to standard business meeting requests, AV is necessary for a host of other events. “For banquets, concerts and shows, there’s all sorts of requests such as discos and DJs and a lot of lighting and lasers,”
he explains.

While there are similar requests that come up consistently, equipment needs tend to be outsourced. Fox Harb’r Resort recently partnered with Freeman Audio Visual Canada for its technology needs and, at Mont-Sainte-Anne, all AV requests are outsourced.

“The actual conference centre and hotel doesn’t own any AV equipment or rent directly,” says Roy. “We have a contract with Concert Plus from Quebec City, so we suggest them to every group with audio-visual demands. It’s not an exclusive arrangement, so [the customer] can bring in their own AV company if they wish and we’ll work with them.”

Outsourcing can reduce the costs of purchasing expensive equipment that can quickly become out of date and also offers near-unlimited options to the guest. There’s also no interruption in guest experience, as the hotel gets to know the guest’s needs and takes care of the details separately with the audio-visual partner. “For the customer, when they choose our external AV, they don’t see the difference. They don’t know it’s from an external company — we call, we order, we supervise, the company comes in and installs. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

According to Freeman Audio Visual Canada, at the core of next-generation meetings and events is a focus on the event as an experience — using technology to wow and delight. Extravagant light shows, holograms, projection technology and even artificial intelligence (AI) are being leveraged to make the most of meetings and events.

A far cry from PowerPoint and slides, video walls (storeys-high screens commonly seen at tech conferences and festivals) and projection rule visual effects and backgrounds. With projection mapping, images and video can be cast onto almost any surface, in 2D or 3D, for an immersive experience.

Beyond elaborate audio-visual effects, interactive technology has a place as well. AI tech can be used to recognize and learn patterns to improve workflow, not only for real-time accessible data at an ongoing event or conference, but to streamline processes and planning — reducing costs for operations and marketing. A step further, facial-recognition can assist in tagging members on social channels throughout an experience and can also be used to capture and catalogue the emotions of audiences and crowds, although privacy and data concerns are important factors associated with this sophisticated tech.

Written by Andrea Victory


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