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5 Reasons to Add AV Management Software to a Hotel's 2019 Capital Budget

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 21 September 2018
Recent reports are showing that the meetings segment of hospitality is flourishing, and technology is of critical importance to event planners in venue selection. Meeting facilities with lodging - which hosted 87% of meetings 2016 according to the PwC Conference Center Report - need to put more focus on managing their built-in and portable audiovisual equipment to meet planners' expectations in 2019. Inventory management, break/fix ticketing, cost accounting and expense management of a hotel's event technologies is often overlooked. However, when properly orchestrated via cloud-based software and a mobile app, a hotel can turn AV into the second most profitable department in a hotel, behind rooms.To breathe some life into this often-ignored, revenue-generating department, Electro-Media Design has developed AVaStar, a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that ensures all event equipment and meeting services are being delivered and meeting customers' expectations. AVaStar empowers the staff that self-manages AV services with the tools and resources needed to keep things under control. Staff can avoid surprises and cut down on last minute pop-ups with scripted sales prompts and packages that ensure complete orders before the event. It also supports staff with setup and troubleshooting procedures that quickly overcome challenges that arise. And, when it comes to service and maintenance, AVaStar's ticketing system and maintenance schedule reduces downtime and ensures that everything works.Consider this:2.2 million meetings took place in the United States in 2016, representing $316 billion in direct spending; Meeting facilities with lodging hosted 87% of those meetings (PwC).The total addressable market to hotels was roughly $176 billion, or 56% of the $316 billion in direct spending for the industry (PwC).Technology is becoming critically important in venue selection, as incoming generations are demanding the latest in technology advancements to stay engaged and interact with meeting content (IACC 2017 Meeting Room of the Future)."PwC reports that 'centers of all sizes are focused on developing flexible space that can easily adapt to meeting organizer needs,'" said Jeff Loether, president of Electro-Media Design. "While large centers are budgeting to increase the size of meeting-room and pre-function spaces, create grand entrances, and add natural lighting, small- and mid-sized centers are planning to enhance the attendee experience with technology. It's these smaller meeting facilities with lodging that typically self-manage their AV and lack any type of resource or support system that provides a professional template. They typically struggle through the process and sacrifice potential revenue and profit. It's for these hotels that we created AVaStar."Electro-Media Design is the foremost consultancy in the meeting, entertainment, and event technologies and acoustics. The company has provided consulting services for more than 1,000 projects globally including hotels, conference and convention centers, and has written the brand standards for audiovisual and acoustics design for many of the industry's leading brands. In 2018, EMD released a new, digital platform to guide hotel staff in providing technology services to event planners and customers.Here are 5 reasons why operators need to budget for AV Management software in 2019:1. Maximize Revenues with Scripted Sales for Non-Technical StaffWhen staff do not understand AV technologies, it makes it difficult for them to sell - or upsell alternatives - to event planners. Within AVaStar, venue-specific service packages are created and customized to drive sales and eliminate errors and omissions in equipment orders. This decision-tree process prompts staff to ask specific questions. Depending on the planners' answers, the salesperson then moves on to the next question. It's an easy-to-use analytical tool that builds a billable package of AV technologies.2. Ensure Equipment Performance by Tracking AV Equipment Lifecycle in Micro DetailWhen the person managing AV processes is also responsible for other tasks, managing inventory often takes a back seat. It's not enough to just know which systems are in-house (built in), which are portable, and what can be brought in from a third party. What is sorely lacking is the ability to track AV equipment across its lifecycle. When was the equipment purchased and from whom? How much did it cost? Is it still under warranty? If it is under warranty, who holds the service contract? How many times has the equipment been repaired? Who repaired it? How many times has it failed? What did it cost to repair? Where is the equipment stored? How often is it used? At best, hoteliers use sticky-notes, index cards, whiteboards, and maybe excel spreadsheets to answer just a few of these questions. AVaStar gives operators an at-a-glance synopsis of each piece of equipment in micro detail, enabling even the most novice sales person to ensure planners are using equipment that works each time, every time.3. Ensure Proper Service Ticketing of Broken/Fixed EquipmentPreventive maintenance procedures are in place at most hotels to ensure that capital expenses are functioning properly. Unfortunately, many hoteliers fail to add AV technology to their PM schedules. The best way to ensure that AV equipment will work prior to an event is to implement a service-ticketing program. If equipment is malfunctioning and needs to be serviced, a ticketing system (that includes barcode labeling and scanning, or inventory asset tags) will let staff know where the item is in the repair cycle. AVaStar tracks where the equipment was sent for repair (internally or externally); how long the item is out of service; when the repair was completed, and if the item was put back into inventory; if the item needs replaced; or if staff needs to find other workarounds to meet the planner's needs.4. Manage Expenses by Tracking Costs and Revenues of AV Equipment, Even Equipment and Services Provided by Third-Party AV Services VendorsOnce hotel teams begin driving revenues from AV equipment, they will need the ability to measure and manage those revenues as well as associated costs. AVaStar is built to do just that and more. While tracking revenues is important, AVaStar also identifies the sources of revenue. Did the money come from equipment the hotel owns or rents? How much labor was paid for staff to manage the equipment? Did you need to hire outside labor to run the technology? Was additional equipment like rigging, Internet, or electric services required? What did the labor cost for that endeavor? How much money is spent on equipment rental? Can the hotel reduce its expenses if equipment was purchased vs. rented? If yes, how much and how quickly? AVaStar is designed to make hoteliers more efficient with their spending. It identifies top line revenues and bottom line costs quickly. And it helps ensure that all AV related costs are allocated properly, not falling into the "Banquet-Other" category by mistake. Even when outsourced third-party vendor equipment and services are needed, AVaStar will help manage them as well.5. Access AV Data on the Fly via Mobile AppOperations staff - who are usually not tied to their desks - can manage most of the above via the AVaStar Mobile App. It brings AVaStar's desktop functionality to staff's fingertips."Until we released AVaStar in June, no software like this - created specifically for managing AV in a single venue - previously existed," said Eric Bracht, AVaStar managing director. "Why wouldn't hoteliers' budget for a single, dedicated platform for conducting all AV technology activities? If you operate a meeting facility, and you use non-technical, in-house staff (like the catering or banquet manager) to oversee AV services for these events on top of their normal, everyday duties, it's exhausting your resources. Chances are, these staffers are not comfortable with the added responsibility, planners aren't happy because their planning contact lacks the knowledge to support their technical requirements, and owners aren't happy because revenues are falling through the cracks."The best way to meet planners' expectations in 2019 and capture significant lost revenue is to budget for AV Management software," Bracht said. "The smart investment is in a solution that is built by hospitality's foremost AV technology experts. To learn what AVaStar can do for you, just give us a call."
Article by Jeff Loether

Built-In or Portable: What's Your AV Strategy?

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 8 August 2018
If a hotel does not have enough AV rental revenue to share with an outside audiovisual company to manage these in-house services, trying to self-manage AV services can be a nightmare. Without an SOP program and technical support, balancing portable equipment and built-in equipment along with staff training is quite challenging.Another out-of-balance condition arises when the hotel's corporate design standards dictate that the facility must have basic AV technologies built in, but there is no maintenance program, repair budget, or upgrade program to keep the systems working and current. Installed technology is considered part of the building's fixed equipment. That means, if something goes wrong with it, it's the hotel's responsibility to fix it. When this built-in equipment is not routinely maintained, it will deteriorate and fail, typically during or right before an event. From this point forward, the built-in systems are considered unreliable and portable systems are used at a much higer cost to the hotel and guest. And, it's just not fair to try to get the out-sourced AV services provider to be responsible for the hotel's buiilt-in systems. It's not their equipment, and they make money renting their own portable equipment.Meeting planners aren't happy when told they must use portable equipment, since it's a hit to their budgets, and portable systems are typically disruptive aesthetically. Some planners may choose a venue solely because its installed AV systems are sufficient for their event, and the costs are usually lower. IACC facilities, for example, are committed to having excellent built-in systems available as part of their CMP pricing packages. Built-in basic AV systems have many advantages - more efficiency, lower cost and consistent service quality across multiple properties - but not maintaining the systems will result in a loss of business and a wasted investment.So how does a hotel balance built-in and portable AV equipment? Here are six critical factors to consider:1. Focus on creating a great guest experience.This starts at the corporate level through choice and control. Corporate management needs to create a consistent quality guest experience across all properties in their management portfolio. They must also give developers guidance and options through design standards to provide a consistent platform for their staff. Meanwhile, brand management must align their operations staff to own, maintain, and provide services using the built-in systems while managing out-sourced AV service vendors. This is done through standard operating procedures, master agreement terms and conditions, and proper accounting. At the property level, hoteliers need to present planners with technology options (basic & advanced; built in & portable) and they must control and measure the financial return. Controlling and measuring event-technology revenues and expenses will lead to more efficient operations, more memorable guest experiences, and more profitable bottom lines.2. Design for both built-in technologies and portable outsourced equipment.In our experience, in most small- to medium-sized hotels, more than 80% of business meetings have AV requirements which can be satisfied with basic built-in AV technologies for sound and display, leading to a cleaner room, more efficient operations, and higher quality guest experience. Design standards must incorporate not only basic built-in AV equipment but must also accommodate supplemental portable equipment and promote the services of out-sourced AV vendors who provide advanced services when required.3. Establish a program for preventative maintenance and repair.Operations must have a proactive approach with an allocated budget to maintain built-in equipment; properly maintained systems provide high reliability and high performance as designed and installed. Preventative maintenance programs address both hotel staff and local AV servicing companies to proactively optimize the performance of the built-in systems.4. Anticipate future-technology upgrades.Incremental upgrades of built-in technology are a must, so budget for it. Installed video and audio equipment have an expected reliable service life of five to 25 years when properly maintained. Planning and budgeting is required to ensure that the technology will be current. New financial tools are available to allow leasing, even for built-in equipment as part of the operating budget, not as an owner asset.5. Implement standard-operating procedures and training.Solid, well-executed SOPs and staff training provide for intentional, structured guest experiences that are aligned with consistency, financial return and guest satisfaction. Design standards, installation and ongoing maintenance and training links development directly to operations.6. Consider flexible financing options.All the above needs to be responsibly accounted for and funded. Managing outsourced vendor contracts and budgeting for upgrades and preventive maintenance each need to be accounted for. Balancing the self-managed built-in AV systems with advanced AV services provided by outsourced vendors is a win-win-win for all involved. These hybrid services models pay for themselves and deliver excellent guest experiences. The new AV-as-a-Service funding models leverage operating leases with support services and improve financial returns.Implementing these six elements are key to a successful, balanced AV services program. It's a complicated decision process that must be carefully thought through. The implications of each decision become far-reaching and will affect many meeting planners and their guests, well into the future.
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Hoteliers Self-Operating their AV Services are 'All Ears' When it Comes to AVaStar by EMD

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 19 July 2018
Electro-Media Design (EMD) President Jeff Loether was "all ears" at HITEC Houston last month as he listened to hoteliers' tales of woe when self-managing their hotel's audiovisual operations. Conversations with multi-property owners and operators representing more than 30 hotels (including brands, independents and casinos) are continuing. Operators are eager to learn even more about AVaStar and how the patent-pending solution developed by EMD can help their non-technical staff better coordinate audiovisual equipment rental, set up and servicing."HITEC Houston was a successful show for Electro-Media Design as we used this venue to launch a first-of-its-kind solution," Loether said. "AVaStar is ideal for any hotel struggling with self-managing its AV operations. A management company, for example, probably doesn't have an AV specialist who oversees and trains staff in the sale, use and maintenance of audiovisual equipment. Each hotel in a multi-brand portfolio scenario may have its own AV specifications; some flags may allow portable equipment while others insist on built-in solutions. It can be really challenging, especially when capturing AV revenue is so critical to the bottom line."Most of the folks we met with at HITEC have portfolios of 10 or more properties," he said. "They've been self-operating with no support tools, and it's been a struggle. We heard the same story from independent property owners and those running casinos. Regardless of the hotel's ownership affiliation, each person said the same thing: 'We need help . . . and we had no idea that a solution like AVaStar existed. Please, tell us more.'"AVaStar is a single, dedicated platform for conducting all AV Technology activities, including planning and providing audiovisual services, managing meeting needs, scheduling resources, and tracking financial performance. It ensures that equipment and services are delivered and meeting customer expectations by prompting non-technical users with interactive, step-by-step sales, setup and troubleshooting procedures. When it comes to service and maintenance, AVaStar's ticketing system and maintenance schedule reduces downtime and ensures that everything works.Top Tech Consultants Chime InHoteliers are not the only people interested in AVaStar; some of the industry's leading hotel technology consultants are also intrigued with the software and the efficiencies it brings to hotels."AV support is on the front line of hotel convention services - these providers are the 'roadies' of the event world," said Corbin Ball, founder and owner of Corbin Ball & Co. and hospitality's foremost authority on all-things technology when it comes to the meetings industry. "With the hard work and long hours required, their support is crucial to a successful event. However, especially with smaller properties, in-house AV support services have been left to fend on their own in terms of managing event technology processes and coordinating equipment rental and servicing. There have been no standardized business models and no specialized education to help."The addition of a comprehensive online AV support system, such as AVaStar, will be a welcome addition to many in-house hotel AV shops," Ball said. "With the proper use, it should save time, save money and improve customer service."John Burns, president of Hospitality Technology Consulting and a 2006 HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame Inductee had this to say: "In my experience, A/V is often the ugly sister in a hotel's banqueting operation. No one understands it, and no one really wants to. How well it is controlled - charges posted, inventory managed, and staff scheduled - is far less than perfect in some operations. A tool that could assist in bringing discipline to a hotel's in-house A/V operation should be of real interest to many property operators."Dave Berkus, a professional speaker, blogger, futurist and 1998 HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame Inductee, addressed AVaStar from the presenter's perspective: "I've given workshops and keynotes in hotels large and small worldwide," he said. "When I arrive to find no professional A/V staff to greet me, I begin worrying that I'll next find equipment problems or worse yet, the wrong interface cables. It is a professional speaker's nightmare. I'll strongly support any solution that will give me comfort and a great show."Managing a hotel's AV department with AVaStar means:Ensuring equipment and resources are where they are needed, when they are neededManaging and monitoring activities of support vendors including third-party AV servicesAiding sales and planning process with prompts and guidesManaging all portable and installed inventory with one systemReducing equipment down-time due to service and repairsPlacing operational and financial information at your fingertipsManaging revenue and expensesOptimizing return on investmentIncreasing staff productivityExtending the power of existing property systems, such as Sales & Catering, through AVaStar APIs"We're thrilled that AVaStar has stirred such curiosity among hoteliers, consultants and even the media," Loether said. "Top editors from the leading hotel press also met with us to learn about this technology to better educate hoteliers. As we expand on conversations with outsourced event-technology companies who are supplying AV equipment to hotels and the industry's leading suppliers of sales-and-catering software - both of whom will benefit from by partnering with AVaStar - we will keep the industry apprised of the latest integrations and installations."Launching AVaStar at HITEC was a milestone for Electro-Media Design," he added. "Over the next several weeks we will be announcing more enhancements to this software as a service platform, including the development and launch of a new mobile app, and the introduction of AVaStar Academy designed to offer basic and advanced AV services and SaaS training." About AVaStarAVaStar is an event-technology platform designed to provide a comprehensive suite of services. It's an interconnective software which provides systems and templates that cover the entire spectrum of activities associated with operating and managing technology systems and services. AVaStar extends support for professional consulting and design services through its working relationship with Electro-Media Design, the foremost consultancy in meeting, entertainment, and event technologies and acoustics. Electro-Media Design, Ltd. is an independent technology design and management consulting practice. For more information on AVaStar, visit www.avastar.io or call (442) AVASTAR.
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Electro-Media Design Unveils AVaStar at HITEC

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 19 June 2018
Houston --Today at HITEC, Electro-Media Design is introducing a new solution for venue operators that will make the self-managing of AV Technologies an asset, rather than a liability. Called AVaStar, the patent-pending solution is designed for in-house hotel staff who find themselves tasked with managing event technology processes and coordinating equipment rental, set up and servicing, even when it may not be their primary job responsibility. AVaStar is the ideal solution for franchisees, independent hoteliers and management companies who want to maintain control over their AV operation and retain 100% of AV revenues."AVaStar is a single, dedicated platform for conducting all AV Technology activities, including planning and providing audiovisual services, managing meeting needs, scheduling resources, and tracking financial performance," said Jeff Loether, Electro-Media Design President. "It ensures that equipment and services are delivered and meeting customer expectations by guiding the sales and planning procedures and supporting the operational staff with step-by-step processes. When it comes to service and maintenance, AVaStar's ticketing system and maintenance schedule reduces downtime and ensures that everything works. Until now, with the launch of AVaStar, no tool existed that provided this level of comprehensive self-managed AV service."AV SaaS Strategy The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model is flourishing in hospitality. Historically, the legacy model was for the building owner to purchase equipment, have it installed, and operate and maintain the systems themselves. As out-sourcing resources for IT systems became more popular, the idea of bundling equipment along with the services created this "SaaS" model.The AVaStar SaaS will facilitate the following:Consultative SellingResource SchedulingInventory ManagementPreventive Maintenance & TroubleshootingManagement and Operational ReportsVendor ManagementRevenue and Cost Accounting"Outsourcing to a third-party AV services provider is a nice perk if you operate a large hotel with multiple venues that contribute a significant revenue stream," said Eric Bracht, AVaStar Managing Director. "But it's the exception, rather than the rule for smaller hotels. Many properties go it alone ... but with AVaStar, they will never be alone. We packed AVaStar with step-by-step instructions to make even the most novice staff person an AV technology expert."Hoteliers can easily manage outsourced service providers and cross rental equipment vendors with just a few clicks," Bracht said. "If driving sales and managing expenses is a concern, AVaStar contains an accounting system that tracks costs and revenues. AVaStar even supports non-technical users with step-by-step setup and troubleshooting procedures. And, the AVaStar mobile app makes last-minute changes and approvals easy from anywhere on property. If additional assistance is needed, help is just a phone call away."Managing a hotel's AV department with AVaStar means:Ensuring equipment and resources are where they are needed, when they are neededAiding sales and planning process with prompts and guidesManaging all portable and installed inventory with one systemReducing equipment down-time due to service and repairsPlacing operational and financial information at your fingertipsManaging revenue and expensesOptimizing return on investmentIncreasing staff productivityExtending the power of existing property systems, such as Sales & Catering, through AVaStar APIsAVaStar Academy to Provide Ongoing EducationThe AV industry trade associations do not support end users since they do not want to tamper with the relationships between their paying members (equipment manufacturers and dealers) and the members' customers (end users). There are no tech school courses being taught on how to setup, run, or manage AV systems or departments. The only way to learn is to work in an AV rental company or facility's AV department. Herein lies the opportunity to make a difference.In addition to launching AVaStar, Electro-Media Design is developing AVaStar Academy offering basic and advanced AV services and SaaS training. Through this program, hoteliers self-managing their AV departments can receive:On-demand training courses (basic and advanced)Event-technology sales trainingAccess to a Q&A forum with a Searchable FAQ databaseMeetings industry educational resourcesAccess to channels for subject matter experts"As someone who has worked in the event technology field for nearly 40 years (from concept through design, to construction, commissioning, and operations), I have spent my career helping hoteliers and conference center operators to better manage their AV technologies," Loether said. "Because the revenue stream is not significant enough to attract an outside technology company, many hoteliers try their best to manage AV themselves, but they often fail. One of the reasons for this is because they rely on staff to sell and support these AV services without access to any formal training program. And today, with the quality, cost and reliability of technology equipment being excellent there's no reason the hotel staff cannot provide basic AV services using quality, built-in systems. It's time to stop the madness and embrace AVaStar. It provides even the smallest hotel operator with an AV services business model, ongoing training and education, and a new revenue stream that will drive profitability, increase loyalty and create better meetings."To experience AVaStar, stop by Booth #1019 at HITEC Houston, or visit www.avastar.io.
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EMD Offering 'Self- Audit Questionnaire' to Aide HITEC Attendees with Tradeshow Strategy

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 12 June 2018
If you don't know the answers to these questions but are planning to attend HITEC this month in Houston, then it would be prudent to schedule a visit with the foremost consultancy in meeting, entertainment, and event technologies and acoustics, Electro-Media Design. By completing a short, online "Self-Audit Questionnaire," EMD will identify where attendees' AV Technologies may be falling short and help them better prepare to shop this premier technology event, to be held June 18 to 21 at the George R. Brown Convention Center."Taking the Self-Audit Questionnaire will assess if:AV Technology services are being managed efficiently within a venueNon-event AV systems (such as background music systems throughout the hotel) are being maintained properlyPreventive maintenance includes a formal tracking system for AV service and repairDisplay systems are meeting high definition 1080p digital image and resolution requirementsDiscounting AV Technology services is helping or hurting operationsA market strategy exists that ensures AV service offerings match the level of service and capabilities of a hotel's other event service offeringTo take the Self-Audit Questionnaire, click here. Participating hoteliers will receive a customized scorecard from EMD at HITEC that will reveal operational areas where they can improve on AV-management processes.AV Challenges for IT Departments"Oftentimes IT people find themselves thrust into the role of AV Technology manager, but they don't know much about the equipment or planning processes, but there is no one else to do it," said Eric Bracht, EMD Senior Consultant and winner of the 2017 International Association of Conference Centers' (IACC) Award of Excellence. "Likewise, hotel engineers and the F&B team don't have the training or skill set required to support customers' technology requirements. If the hotel has an in-house AV provider, chances are they will manage the meeting technologies but no other systems that aren't revenue generators, such as background music systems and digital displays in the restaurant, lobby, spa, pool and elevators. Determining who is responsible for these systems is challenging - especially for non-technical hotel staff whose primary job responsibility does not include AV equipment. At HITEC, we want to speak with those IT folks who are looking for options and support to assist with managing AV + IT."Bracht explained that IT used to oversee revenue generation from pay phones, long-distance calling, pay-per-view movies and high-speed Internet access. Today, however, these revenue sources are gone, while IT still must invest in the best possible WiFi to meet guest demand and expectations. If they don't spend the money to beef up the infrastructure, then guests will go elsewhere. Adding AV to the IT department's list of tasks just compounds their frustration.AVaStar Comes to the Rescue"We want IT departments to become profitable again," said Jeff Loether, President of Electro-Media Design and winner of the IACC's 2018 Mel Hosansky Award for Distinguished Service. "When properly run, AV is the second most profitable department in a hotel, behind rooms. At HITEC, we will introduce IT professionals to a new solution that predicts, prevents, and troubleshoots audiovisual problems before they arise. Called AVaStar, the tool is designed for non-technical in-house hotel staff to manage the event technology process and coordinate equipment rental, set up and servicing. It's the missing link to event technology management that small operators have been asking for."As someone who has worked in the event technology field for nearly 40 years (from concept through design, to construction, commissioning, and operations), I have spent my career helping hoteliers and conference center operators to better manage their AV technologies," Loether said. "By taking this Self-Audit Questionnaire, we will quickly identify ways that hoteliers can self-manage their AV Technology processes. We will then sit down with hoteliers at HITEC who want to review our findings and receive a scorecard to see where they can improve using AVaStar. Even if the hotel has an outsourced AV partner working onsite or providing rental equipment, AVaStar enhances the AV management process by equipping hotel staff with scripted sales to sell third-party equipment services. It's a win/win/win for hoteliers, outsourced AV companies and meeting planners."To pre-schedule a meeting with an AVaStar or EMD team member at HITEC without taking the Self-Audit Questionnaire, call (442) AVASTAR or email info@avastar.io. For more information on AVaStar, visit www.avastar.io.
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Struggling with Self-Managing AV Services? Help is On the Way with AVaStar

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 23 May 2018
Gaithersburg, Md. -- Self-managing technology requirements for meetings and events can be stressful for small hotel operators, especially those who don't have the luxury of working with an outsourced technology provider. Sales-and-catering teams have a lot of information to manage and multiple systems to track and communicate meeting planners' needs - including audiovisual technology. Staff are often responsible for suggesting to meeting planners the types of equipment that will work best for their event; coordinating with outside vendors to order additional equipment as needed; and ensuring that this equipment - whether its portable or built in - is working properly each time, every time. Before pressing the panic button, STOP. Help is on the way, with AVaStar.AVaStar is a NEW digital platform from Electro-Media Design that guides staff in providing technology services to their customers. It's a SaaS that is jam packed with industry intelligence to make planning technology for an event easy. With venue-specific service packages to choose from, hotel staff can eliminate errors and omissions in equipment orders. AVaStar ensures that equipment and services are delivered and meeting customer expectations by automatically prompting non-technical users with interactive, step-by-step sales, setup and troubleshooting procedures. And, when it comes to service and maintenance, AVaStar's ticketing system and maintenance schedule reduces downtime and ensures that everything works."As someone who has worked in the event technology field for nearly 40 years (from concept through design, to construction, commissioning, and operations), I have spent my career helping hoteliers and conference center operators to better manage their AV technologies," said Jeff Loether, president of AVaStar and Electro-Media Design (EMD), the parent company. "Operators of five-star hotels and luxury properties who care about the guest experience want to control AV using their own staff instead of out-sourced vendors; their goal is to deliver a consistent brand experience instead of a patchwork of concessionaires. Small hotel and venue operators want this too, but they often struggle with self-managing their AV technologies. If the revenue stream is not significant enough to attract an outside technology company their only option is to go it alone."That's why I pulled together a team of software developers to create a solution that predicts, prevents, and troubleshoots audiovisual problems before they arise," he said. "AVaStar is a tool designed for non-technical in-house hotel staff - employees who most likely have another primary job responsibility and who have no AV experience - to manage the event technology process and coordinate equipment rental, set up and servicing. It's the missing link to event technology management that small operators have been asking for, and they can see it next month at HITEC in Booth 1019." AV Technology Emphasis GrowingAccording to the International Association of Convention Centers' (IACC) 2017 Meeting Room of the Future report, technology is becoming of critical importance in venue selection, as incoming generations are demanding the latest in technology advancements to stay engaged and interact with meeting content. The report states that "Meeting planners are continuing to implement technology that boosts delegate interaction and engagement, and with the success of these new technologies in improving communication, integration of new technology is not slowing down anytime soon."In addition, Meeting Planner International's 2017 spring edition of Meetings Outlook, reported that meeting planners are significantly increasing budgets for conference technology and AV equipment, suggesting that "meeting planners are willing to make the investment because of the competitive edge and wow factor new technologies bring to meetings." Mobile conference apps, audience response solutions, telepresence/remote presenters, live event streaming, delegate screen-sharing, and Beacon/GPS delegate tracking are just a few technology topping meeting planners' must-have lists. All these technology-related tasks require more bandwidth. According to IACC, 58% of meeting planners said they would not even consider shortlisting a venue that did not have the guaranteed Internet capacity to support the needs of their event. An even larger majority, 72 percent, indicated that affordable (or free) high speed wireless Internet will be the most critical technology needed for meetings in the next five years."It's time to worry less about providing equipment and focus more on ensuring a good customer experience.""Meeting planners expect modern technology, and small hotel owners and operators need to deliver on those expectations to drive sales and manage expenses to watch that bottom line," said Eric Bracht, AVaStar managing director and Electro-Media Design senior consultant. "But how is a sales-and-catering manager to know how to spec this equipment and offer additional ideas and solutions for an event? AVaStar provides one dedicated platform to conduct all AV Technology activities. It contains an accounting system that tracks costs and revenues, and it's available as a mobile app to make tracking last-minute changes and approvals a breeze."We invite all hoteliers who are interested in gaining control over their self-managed AV Services to experience AVaStar in the EMD booth at HITEC," Bracht said. "It's time to worry less about providing equipment and focus more on ensuring a good customer experience. Although a hotel may need to 'go it alone' when it comes to self-managing AV technology, with AVaStar, they will never be alone. It's packed with step-by-step instructions to make even the most novice staff person an AV technology expert. If additional assistance is needed, help is just a phone call away."To pre-schedule a meeting with an AVaStar team member at HITEC, call (442) AVASTAR or email info@avastar.io. For more information on AVaStar, visit www.avastar.io.
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See the Future of Meetings at HITEC via AVaStar

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 16 May 2018
Visit Booth #1019 at HITEC, June 18 to 21, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in HoustonGaithersburg, Md. -- The adoption and use of new technology has sparked a shift in meeting planner objectives and goals. According to the International Association of Convention Centers' (IACC) 2017 Meeting Room of the Future report, meeting planners are looking to create more personalized experiences for delegates by integrating more interactive technology. Nearly 20% of meeting planners report that in the next five years, they expect increased pressure to stay ahead of the curve by integrating the latest, greatest technology. In addition, Meeting Planner International's 2017 spring edition of Meetings Outlook, reported that meeting planners are significantly increasing budgets for conference technology and AV equipment, suggesting that meeting planners are willing to make the investment because of the competitive edge and wow factor new technologies bring to meetings. Next month at HITEC, a new option will enter the scene, designed to bring more attention to the event technology arena. Meet AVaStar, a digital platform created in direct response to hoteliers' requests for a solution that guides staff in providing technology services to their customers. Hoteliers struggling with keeping event technologies updated, developing technology plans and budgets, and providing training to internal AV teams needs to experience AVaStar in the Electro-Media Design Booth 1019, June 18 to 21, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.AVaStar is designed for staff tasked with the following . . . even if it's not their primary job responsibility:Overseeing multiple events simultaneouslyJuggling large amounts of information dealing with meetings management, and multiple systems that track and communicate meeting needs - including audiovisual technologyPlanning and detailing meeting technology needsManaging venue AV equipment and resourcesCoordinating with vendors to order additional equipment as neededEnsuring portable and built in equipment is serviced and repairedProperly manage revenues and control expenses"AVaStar is powerful event technology unlike anything that is on the market today," said Jeff Loether, AVaStar president. "It's the next generation in self-managed AV services, and hoteliers can experience it for the first time at HITEC. AVaStar provides one dedicated platform to conduct all AV Technology activities. Even with no technology background, today's hotel staff must understand the technology needs of meeting planners to ensure the venue can meet their needs. We packed AVaStar with intelligence, making it smart and easy to use ... even for those who are unfamiliar with AV equipment."Hotel technology encompasses much more than just front- and back-office systems," he said. "Event technology is an important tool in attracting and retaining the meetings and convention business. It's time that technology - designed to support teams and venues in successfully providing top-quality event services - take center stage. It's time for AVaStar."For more information on the full constellation of AVaStar services, pre-schedule a meeting with an AVaStar team member by calling (442) AVASTAR or emailing info@avastar.io. For more information on AVaStar, visit www.avastar.io.About AVaStar AVaStar is an event-technology platform designed to provide a comprehensive suite of services. It's an interconnective software which provides systems and templates that cover the entire spectrum of activities associated with operating and managing technology systems and services. AVaStar extends support for professional consulting and design services through its working relationship with Electro-Media Design, the foremost consultancy in meeting, entertainment, and event technologies and acoustics. Electro-Media Design, Ltd. is an independent technology design and management consulting practice. For more information on AVaStar, visit www.avastar.io or call (442) AVASTAR.
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5 Top Problems with Un-Managed AV Services

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 8 May 2018
Technology is driving all aspects of our lives. In the meetings environment, it is playing a role more important than ever before. Just look at AAA's new Diamond Rating Guidelines for Lodging; the better the event technology, the higher the Diamond Rating AAA will bestow. To be ranked as a four diamond "Refined" hotel, a property must have an "ample variety of meeting rooms" with the "latest technology." To receive a five diamond "Ultimate Luxury" designation, the criteria isn't much different for the event space - there needs to be an "ample variety of meeting rooms" that are "luxuriously appointed" with a "leading-edge effect" and have the "latest technology."While this seems straight forward, I wonder what AAA considers to be the "latest technology?" Can a hotel that brings in portable equipment on carts and tapes cables across the floor achieve a AAA 4-Diamond Rating? Or, must the equipment be a permanent fixture in the hotel and supported by knowledgeable staff?While outsourcing to a third-party AV provider can be an efficient means of providing services, this works best in larger, public venues that have a significant revenue stream attached to these services. For many private and institutional venue operators self-operation is the only option because there is no revenue stream to attract an outside technology company. There are global, national, regional and local options for outsourcing AV service operations, but there are no support services, programs or platforms for those venues that choose to self operate. That means facility staff are on their own to figure out how to predict, prevent, and troubleshoot audiovisual problems when they arise. This also means hotels will be using in-house staff - employees who most likely have another primary job responsibility and who have no AV experience - to manage the event technology process and coordinate equipment rental, set up and servicing.5 Top Problems with Un-Managed AV ServicesAs someone who has worked in the event technology field for nearly 30 years (from concept through design, to construction, commissioning, and operations), I have spent my career helping hoteliers and conference center operators understand what it means to have the "latest technology" in the event space. Over the years I have identified technology inefficiencies, conflicting interests, and process gaps that increase construction and maintenance costs for venues, and these problems typically result in substantial revenue losses.Here are 5 top problems that operators of hotels and conference centers are facing when it comes to managing AV technology in the event space.No AV Services Business Model: There is no template, system or organized support for venues that want to self-operate their AV systems. For hotel brands and facility management companies, the challenge is how to hire, support, and evaluate AV technicians whose unique skills do not fit into any of the other departments (for example: F&B, IT, rooms, FM, etc.) since AV Services are unique in many ways. And while public and private sector facilities have a need for meeting and event technology education, there are no organized resources to provide it.No Industry Education: The AV industry trade associations do not support end users since they do not want to tamper with the relationships between their paying members (equipment manufacturers and dealers) and the members' customers (end users). There are no tech school courses being taught on how to setup, run, or manage AV systems or departments. The only way to learn is to work in an AV rental company or facility's AV department. Herein lies the opportunity to make a difference.Challenging AV Finances: Historically, "installed" AV equipment is considered part of the building's fixed equipment. Earlier generations of analog AV equipment were big, expensive, and built into the building like plumbing and furnaces. Today's digital equipment, however, is much smaller and far easier to install. Much of the digital processed and controlled AV equipment is more like computers and phone systems than the older analog AV equipment.The cost burden of installed AV equipment is still carried in the construction and maintenance budgets of the facility owner and operator. When upgrades or renovations are needed, these compete against other building systems such as roofing, carpet, furnishing, etc. Decisions are typically made using criteria that do not consider the revenue generated by the AV systems, or the quality of the meeting experience. The result is the deterioration of built-in systems due to lack of prioritization and equipment becoming outdated. The venue resorts to using portable, rented equipment at a high cost, not to mention its negative aesthetics generate complaints from meeting planners and event attendees.Portable AV equipment: The deterioration of built in AV systems results in the prolific use of portable AV equipment. The time to setup and adjust the portable AV equipment, and then to remove and put away the equipment after the meeting drives-up labor costs and makes quick-turning of rooms difficult. Portable equipment requires storage, and the physical moving of the equipment shortens service life, increases maintenance costs, and is less reliable than built-in systems due to potential human error during setups. Additionally, portable equipment is more subject to theft and tampering, and often requires the room to be setup around the equipment in less than ideal arrangements. Cables taped across the floor to service the portable equipment is one of the most mentioned complaints of meeting planners and guests.Eroding AV Revenue and Margins: The cost of technology equipment continues to drop; however, the cost of labor has been rising for both hotels and the out-sourced services companies. Venues that rely on the labor intensive portable equipment business model can struggle to make a profitable business case in venues without sufficient revenues, often resulting in higher prices to customers. In response to the increasing charges for AV services, many event planners are self-provisioning by bringing AV equipment with them, even though they don't know how to operate it. Then, they need support and services from the hotel to connect this equipment to power, the WiFi infrastructure and other services. This is a difficult situation for venue staff since an AV failure still reflects on the hotel from the guests' perspective, not on the meeting planner. Some hotels are even implementing a "corkage" charge for self-provisioned equipment.Coming Soon: A Hybrid SaaS Solution + Better Meetings InstituteThe Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model is flourishing in hospitality. Historically, the legacy model was for the building owner to purchase equipment, have it installed, and operate and maintain the systems themselves. As out-sourcing resources for IT systems became more popular, the idea of bundling equipment along with the services created this "SaaS" model.Next month at HITEC, technology aficionados will be introduced to a new hybrid SaaS solution that will serve as the "Next Generation of Managed AV Services." It will enable venues to self-operate quality, built-in basic AV equipment that requires less labor and is easy for in-house staff to use. The venue can build the cost for this tool into its general room fees or charge separately, but in either case, they are driving revenue. Better yet, funding options will be available to enable venues to get the equipment and services they need without having to dig into CapEx funds. There are even plans that permit the facility to "skip" up to three monthly lease payments per year during slow seasons.Also at HITEC . . . a new educational institute will emerge that will spark better meetings by providing basic and advanced training on event technologies. Using short single-topic videos, facility staff can learn incrementally and access modules when needed; just-in-time learning. This basic and advanced training is designed to apply to technicians-in-training for hotels, conference centers, schools, and corporate facilities.Pre-HITEC, Self-Audit QuestionnaireIf you're unsure whether self-operating your AV services is the right choice for your venue, then come to HITEC, June 18 to 21, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. A "Self-Audit Questionnaire" will be available to attendees on June 5 to help operators answer this important AV service management question. To receive the Self-Audit Questionnaire, email info@avastar.io.

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