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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.

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.
Article by Jeff Loether

AV for IT: Convergence Myth Perceptions

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 16 June 2016
and analog systems cannot be designed -- using digital thinking. Digital is defined by parity checking: ones and zeros, black and white, on and off, works or does not work, etc. Analog is convoluted and expressed in technicolor, with infinite variation and potential. Both analog (AV) and digital (IT) disciplines are complex, but in different ways; they use a diverse vernacular and have a dissimilar discipline requiring an alternate set of skills and interests. We call this field of practice: "ArchiTechnology."Since the physical spaces are not pre-engineered off-the-shelf components, designers must consider analog factors that affect the effectiveness of:Cameras, including field of view, glare from surfaces, patterns in (and colors of) surface coverings, reflectivity of surfaces, contrast in field of view, motion of subjects and/or objects in or behind field of view, depth of field relative to light levels, and depth of subject matter, color temperature and evenness of light sources, vibration of camera and projector, etc.Displays, including reflectivity or glossiness of display surface, angle of view relative to sources of light (windows, lighting features), distance of the display to the nearest and furthest viewer, nature of the content, etc. Failure to anticipate and properly design around these factors can result in systems that fail to perform or satisfy.Sound Systems, including distances from microphone(s) to talkers' lips, speaker(s) to listeners' ears, and speaker(s) to microphone(s). Also, vibration and background noise levels, reverberation in the room, reflectivity of surfaces near the microphones or speakers also affect the effectiveness of sound systems. Of course, the specific characteristics of the microphones and speakers also must be factored into the designs.The Analog Room + Analog Users/AudienceAudioVisual design is a holistic discipline. Instead of simply plugging in "terminal equipment," such as telephones and televisions, POS terminals and kiosks, the entire room and the AV elements contained within it become the end point. The room itself is an analog environment. Physical dimensions, surfaces and angles, aspect ratios, etc., are analog phenomenon.Not only are AudioVisual components analog, but so are the users of the systems; humans are analog by nature. We do not perceive digital signals directly. Our eyes and ears and other senses detect changes in the analog environment. We have a wide range of sensitivities to sound and light. Factors such as culture, age, native language, exposure to damaging noise, eyesight acuity, stress levels, training, etc., all affect how well users are able to hear, see, and interpret the analog information being presented by the AV systems.Therefore, the analog room affects the performance of analog AV equipment, and the sensitivities and experience of the analog users. We cannot fix an unfriendly room using technology. Analog interactions (and interferences) will happen whether intentional or consequential.As we focus on designing ballrooms and meeting spaces that provide event technology to enhance the customer experience, we as a by-product will also be making these spaces even better for human participants. Why? Because the event AV technology is even more sensitive to inadequate lighting or unwanted noise from HVAC systems or adjacent spaces than humans are.In review, the convergence of telephones and televisions to the IT and digital domains were fairly straightforward in that (1) point-to-point transmission changed from analog to digital, and (2) telephone and television equipment attached to the distribution of the systems is pre-engineered and off-the-shelf. While point-to-point transmission of AudioVisual signals is progressing along the path toward digital, the design of AudioVisual systems goes beyond network and terminal equipment and includes the room and users as well. The design of AudioVisual systems requires an intrinsic and deep understanding of human factors, architecture, physics, light, and of course the AV equipment itself. It requires an expert skilled in the practice of "Archi-technology."Don't Make False 'AV = IT' AssumptionsExpecting that your IT design team can properly implement mission-critical AV systems is an unfair assumption. Good AV design involves far more than the network itself. There are many resources available to explore this new world. InfoComm has the most well developed education and training programs for AudioVisual systems. Working with an experienced independent AV consultant directly will serve as an excellent resource. True Independent Consultants are not driven by sales commissions, and therefore they see the situation more holistically.Until analog humans sprout Bluetooth antennas, we will continue to have analog experiences in a digital world. The convergence of AV and IT will be paused at the digital/analog threshold.

EMD + HIDI Alliance Bringing the Best of AV + IT to HITEC

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 14 June 2016
There's a lot of sameness out there, especially when it comes to hospitality technology. CIOs, CTOs and CFOs can go crazy trying to determine which company to source for their individual property or brand needs. When it comes to "behind the scenes," such as infrastructure cabling or wireless networks, knowing what to put behind the walls is just as important as what to put on them, and it requires a different type of expertise. Think about it: you could use the hotel's Electrical Engineer to also spec the property's network infrastructure; after all, they design with wires, so they should be able to design a network, right? Wrong. Why then do so many hotels and developers rely on network engineers to design the AudioVisual schematic in the event space . . . or select the best options for guestroom entertainment . . . or identify weak links in the building's security plan?Today there is a single source that CIOs, CTOs and CFOs can turn to for all things AV + IT/Security: The EMD + HIDI alliance. In March, Electro-Media Design Ltd. (EMD) and The HIDI Group (HIDI) teamed up to serve as a single authoritative resource to collaborate with when planning new, or renovating existing, hotels and event spaces. This month, EMD + HIDI will showcase their comprehensive AV + IT and Engineering Consulting Services in Booth #1236 at HITEC, to be held June 21 to 23 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.AV Consultation at HITEC"When it comes to hotel AV operations, audio, video, control, and related presentation, entertainment and communications technologies, Electro-Media Design has got you covered," said Jeff Loether, EMD founder and president. "For the last 25 years, our AV consultants have managed hundreds of meeting/conference project designs for the industry's leading brands who also rely on us to write their master design standards. We also have written supplemental AudioVisual and Acoustical 'Best Practices' books that are used to guide the efforts of architects and developers and contractors in the AV industry. From building management integration, production/feature lighting, and show flow/staging/ power/hoisting/rigging to architectural acoustics, noise/vibration control, and electro-acoustics, no one knows AV like EMD."EMD also provides support programs to hotels with self-operated AV services or to facilities that are providing AV services with non-technical staff, giving them access to a wealth of resources from within the audiovisual industry. Utilizing the hotel's own staff and equipment, the EMD program equips hotels with the standards, procedures, management, sales and training they need direct from the industry's leading AudioVisual experts. This program also manages the contracts of outsourced AV Services Providers."When it comes to providing AV services the conventional thought is to outsource or do it yourself," Loether said. "Now there's a third option - do it yourself, but not by yourself. EMD is here to help." Why visit EMD at HITEC? Because you . . .Need to upgrade technology and want to ensure ROIAre looking for ways to enhance the customer experienceWant to develop a comprehensive technology plan to address long term needsReceive continuous meeting planner complaintsMust increase your revenue stream from AV Services"Whether you want to know what the future of meeting rooms brings or your need is more immediate - like, what kinds of noise problems can you expect if you remove guestroom carpet when remodeling, EMD will be standing ready in Booth #1236 to consult," Loether said.IT Consultation at HITECWith 40 years of multidisciplinary engineering expertise, The HIDI Group has today's CIOs, CTOs and CFOs covered as well. HIDI personnel have worked on over fifty 4 and 5-Star properties across four continents in the past 20 years. Specialized hospitality design and implementation services include: Communication Infrastructure (cabling, voice, data, TV, WiFi, radio, cellular and HSIA), PBX and Data Network Design; Physical and Electronic Security Design (access control, guest room locking, video surveillance, asset management and tracking); Mechanical Engineering Design; Electrical Engineering Design; Architectural Lighting Design; Commissioning; and Risk and Resilience. "We are subject matter experts in many arcane disciplines including radio engineering, satellite and microwave communications, hospitality phones/voice systems and network PCI compliance," explains Ward Sellars, head of HIDI's technology group. The number one complaint that Hotel guests have in Hotels is related to the quality (or lack thereof) of wireless Wi-Fi systems. HIDI understands this and has invested heavily in 3D Radio propagation and design tools so as to simulate the Wi-Fi and Radio/Cellular coverage and to ensure excellent high bandwidth coverage to the entire hotel property.Why visit HIDI at HITEC? Because you . . .Need to implement a cost-effective network infrastructure to support all hotel systemsRequire assistance designing integrated technology and communications systems to suit hotel operationsAre looking for seamless security systems that enhance situational awareness and safety and security for guests and staffStrive for holistic technology infrastructure that evolves to adapt to technological obsolescenceSeek a singular building services solution with expertise in integrated mechanical, electrical, lighting, communications, security, and risk and resilience designToday's global hotel brands intricately curate their guests' experiences, and as such, they require a highly committed and skilled group of experts to write their brand standards and develop the designs needed to guarantee the best results. To ensure flawless execution of technologies from guestrooms to event spaces and everywhere in between - whether it's during a new construction or a facility renovation - a holistic view of the project from an AV + IT and Engineering perspective is required. The EMD/HIDI alliance is bringing this necessary expertise to the table - and to HITEC.AV + IT = Smart Spaces"Although AV and IT are two completely different practices, the outside world sees them as one and the same, and they expect AV and IT to be a seamless package," said Sellars. "Much of the AV infrastructure is now expected to operate seamlessly across a hotel's IT network, making this convergence all the more important. Together, HIDI and EMD are committed to providing 'Smart Spaces' to hotel operators and owners, so that systems can grow and change as the technology evolves. Whether you need our expertise individually on a consultative basis or collaboratively to troubleshoot problems, our flexible independent / subcontract / joint venture structure is available today to meet the demands of the thriving hotel construction market. This alliance presents the highest value with the best expertise - guaranteed."To pre-schedule a meeting with EMD + HIDI at HITEC, email Robin Collins at rcollins@electro-media.com.For more information on Electro-Media Design, visit www.electro-media.com. For details on The HIDI Group, visit www.hidi.com. For EMD media inquiries, contact Barb Worcester at (440) 930-5770 or email barbw@prproconsulting.com. For HIDI media inquiries, contact Jennifer Wieskopf at (416) 364-2100 x247 or email jennifer.wieskopf@hidi.com.

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