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Article by Eric Bracht

You've Chosen to Self-Manage AV: Now What Happens If You Don't Own ALL the Equipment Meeting Planners are Asking For?

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 28 March 2019
You've got a newly built or recently remodeled hotel, and you've made the decision to self-manage the AV services process. Bill, your hotel's banquet manager, was chosen to be responsible for the hotel's built-in and portable AV equipment. To help Bill, you've invested in AVaStar, a managed-services solution that provides step-by-step guidance to manage every aspect of the AV services process. Bill plans and details all meeting technology needs, including ensuring that portable and built in equipment is working and ready for customer use, all while controlling expenses. But what happens when a meeting planner asks Bill for event technologies that your hotel doesn't own? Nobody can or should own everything - it isn't practical. Even the biggest AV services companies subcontract for certain event technologies. According to the American Express 2019 Global Meetings & Events Forecast, mobile apps, facial recognition, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics are just a few of tools that will be used in 2019 to stimulate attendee interaction. But it typically doesn't make sense for a hotel to invest in these types of technologies. How would Bill (whose primary job responsibility is catering sales, not managing technology) evaluate the qualifications, competence, and capacities of the local AV rental company to provide these resources? And, how would he know how to negotiate an agreement that guarantees your hotel receives a fair commission while the guest pays a fair price?Finding the right outside AV services partner isn't an easy task. Terms and conditions need to be included in contracts to ensure that events go smoothly, and that no damage is done to the hotel or to its built-in systems. Even though an outside company is bringing in equipment, it's the hotel's responsibility to support the guest and provide a seamless experience. A strong working relationship with outside service partners ensures they value your business and won't try to poach the business and ask the meeting planner to work with them directly the next time they bring an event to your destination. Most local companies appreciate a good working relationship with a hotel and are happy to receive a new revenue stream from your customers, but there must be a formal understanding of roles and responsibilities.So, there are two ways a hotel can manage this situation.Option No. 1 - Ask Lots of Questions Bill can do his best to find a local AV partner and negotiate the best agreement. To help with that process, here are 20 questions to ask of prospective candidates:What types of services do they provide?How long have they been in business?How far away is their local warehouse?How much equipment is stored locally versus at offices in other locations?Do they employ full-time technicians or utilize freelance technicians?Will they assign an account manager to your hotel?Will the same account manager handle equipment drop-off rentals?Will the account manager contact your client's directly?Will they provide you with standard pricing for equipment, labor and services?Will they work with you to create packages that can be sold to supplement your basic services?Can they provide technical labor when needed?How much notice is required to schedule labor?Will they bill you directly for services?How long after an event before you receive an invoice?What are their payment terms?What discount can they offer you on equipment?What discount can they offer you on labor?Are there any equipment or services that they will not discount?Are they willing to work with pricing on an event-by-event basis?Do they carry the proper indemnity and workers compensation insurance?Option No. 2 - Leverage AvaStar After looking at Option No. 1, your head may be spinning. Unfortunately, there are no "How To" books on the AV negotiating process. As a self-managing hotel and user of AVaStar, however, you can leverage the expertise of AVaStar's professional services team to search and select a reputable AV services partner and negotiate the contract on your behalf. Not only will the AVaStar team work with hoteliers to secure outside provider agreements, AVaStar provides tools to audit actual performance against the terms of the agreement to ensure that what was promised is being delivered. AVaStar gives people like Bill the ability to manage those contracts by monitoring spending and comparing that spend with what was charged to make sure the AV department remains profitable.AVaStar is for everyone. It's ideal for hotels that prefer to self-manage AV services. But when outside services are required, AvaStar can help with that too.
Article by Eric Bracht

Without a How-To Book for AV Services, Who is Training Hotel Staff on Sales, Set Up and Preventive Maintenance?

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 14 March 2019
You've recently opened your hotel or refurbished some of your spaces and took all the necessary steps to ensure that the AV systems were installed properly and working efficiently. This is great news, but . . . who at the hotel will manage all this equipment? There are projectors, screens, flat panel displays, indoor/outdoor speakers, digital signage displays, and background music systems. There may also be portable AV gear, such as wired and wireless microphones, cables, portable projectors and screens, lighting instruments, mixers and adapters. Someone needs to be responsible for the proper care of these systems and equipment, such as preventative maintenance, managed operations, break-fix repair, and software updates. These activities require awareness, skills, procedures, and budgets.Being able to market your hotel as a meetings destination with outstanding technology services is an important marketing advantage. But this equipment doesn't operate on its own and it doesn't come with an AV Operations Manual. Someone must be responsible for selling, operating and maintaining this equipment to ensure delivery of successful, memorable meetings experiences.Ask yourself these questions:Who on premises should oversee AV systems and equipment? Is it Engineering? Catering/Convention Services? Information Technology? Who will provide the training to in-house staff on how to properly sell, maintain and forecast AV technologies? What about staffing? What roles and positions will you need to manage the sales, setup, operations, and maintenance of the AV systems and equipment?Who is going to write the step-by-step instructions for the hotel staff to know how to use this equipment? Who will the staff call when they have questions? There are no tech school courses being taught on how to setup, run, or manage AV services within venues. Currently, the only way to learn this is to work in an AV rental company, work with experienced AV staff or operate it by trial and error. There needs to be a solution that enables hoteliers to self-manage these processes reliably and consistently, without rigorous or costly training.Meet AVaStar. . . a managed-services solution that provides step-by-step guidance to manage every aspect of the AV services process. AVaStar is a new platform based on an AV as a Service (AVaaS) model and is supported by AV industry professionals with deep experience in the hospitality industry. Far more than just a software package, AVaStar is ideal for any property self-managing AV and looking for ways to enhance profits and the guest experience. AVaStar supports both technical and non-technical staff with the tools and resources needed to manage an AV operation within a hotel. It is designed to support hotel personnel with little to no experience managing, monitoring and measuring key AV performance indicators while providing tools that an AV team will appreciate, such as revenue and cost accounting, forecasting equipment needs and tracking required service and preventive maintenance. AVaStar enables hotels to provide self-operated AV services with confidence. Here's how AVaStar works:Bill is your hotel's banquet manager, and he was chosen to be responsible for AV services. This means he must plan and detail meeting technology needs, manage venue AV equipment and resources, coordinate with vendors to order additional equipment as needed, ensure portable and built in equipment is working and ready for customer use, all while controlling expenses . . . and technology isn't even Bill's primary responsibility.Unfortunately for Bill, the Event Management system he currently uses only enables him to add AV services to an event (and may allow him to enter inventory counts), nothing else. Bill must figure the rest out on his own, or not - and wait for the inevitable service failure. With AVaStar, Bill can access one dedicated platform to conduct all AV Technology activities in one place. Packed with industry intelligence, AVaStar guides Bill with the tools, resources, information and support that saves him time, effort and money.Too often we discover that AV equipment is not included in the hotel's preventive maintenance plan - but it should be. Rather than utilizing a separate software for PM procedures, we've added a preventive maintenance schedule module within AVaStar. It identifies which tasks must be performed periodically to keep the systems and portable equipment operating reliably and in optimum condition. It also identifies which tasks can be accomplished by the hotel staff and which need to be performed by a servicing technical contractor - and how often.Speaking of outside contractors . . . AVaStar takes care of them too. The system easily manages outsourced service providers and cross rental equipment vendors with just a few clicks.When it comes to self-managing your AV services and equipment, there is help out there. Outsourcing AV services to a third-party provider or going it alone are no longer your only options. AVaStar provides a better, more comprehensive and profitable way to allow your in-house staff to offer efficient and profitable AV services, driving revenue to your hotel's bottom line with confidence.
Article by Eric Bracht

There is No How-To Book for AV Services, But There is AVaStar

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 28 February 2019
What's missing amongst all this "stuff" is an AV Operations Manual to tell staff - historically someone in the catering or events department - what to do with it all, and how to do it. Don't panic! There's a new support platform for hotels that easily manages a hotel's AV operations and it can digitally replace any "How to Provide AV Services" book if one existed, which it doesn't.Called AVaStar, the new platform is based on an AV as a Service (AVaaS) model and supported by AV industry professionals with deep experience in the hospitality industry. Far more than just a software package, AVaStar is ideal for any property self-managing AV and looking for ways to enhance profits and the guest experience -- especially new construction hotels. It is designed to support hotel personnel with little to no experience managing, monitoring and measuring key AV performance indicators while providing tools that an AV team will appreciate, such as revenue and cost accounting and tracking the required service and preventive maintenance. AVaStar enables hotels to provide self-operated AV services with confidence.Whether you work in the executive office, sales, catering, event services, maintenance or IT, chances are high that you've asked yourself these questions:Who decided that we need all this equipment?What is it for? Where did it come from? How much did it cost? What does all this stuff do and how does it work?Who will train us on how to sell and operate it?Was this equipment installed properly? Are we sure?Can't someone else just manage this mess without taking the majority of the revenue?While General Managers are always looking for ways to drive more revenues to the bottom line, AV Services is an area where money is often left on the table. That's a shame, because when properly run, AV can generate one of the highest profit margins in a hotel.AVaStar is the only solution of its kind on the market, and it answers all a hotelier's questions about the property's event technologies plus it provides an actionable account of every piece of equipment in the hotel. Even before the hotel opens (in a new build scenario), the AVaStar team can ensure that all installed equipment is working properly. The team will train staff on how to use, manage, monitor and maintain the equipment, how to track expenses and measure revenues. This isn't a one-and-done service. Too often we hear about inadequate training from installation contractors by simply grabbing the first person they find and giving him or her a quick "how-it-works" tutorial, whether they were prepared for it or not. Since the contractors typically do not have hotel experience, they cannot provide guidance on how to use the systems to meet customer needs, ergo the "missing manual." The AVaStar platform is always available to support staff with resources, solutions and industry best practices.The AVaStar platform monitors, manages and measures all AV Services provided with both built-in and portable equipment. That includes tracking:When equipment was purchased, for how much, and from whomIf the equipment is under warranty, who holds the service contract, how often it has been repaired and by whomHow often equipment fails and what it cost to repairWhere equipment is stored and how often is it usedHow much revenue each piece of equipment is generatingWhat the labor cost was for staff to manage the equipment and how much labor was paid to offsite providers to run more advanced systems that were rented as neededHow much it cost to rent advanced systems like rigging, Internet, or electric servicesIf the hotel can reduce its expenses if equipment is purchased vs. rentedStop using sticky-notes, index cards, white boards, and excel spreadsheets to answer these questions. AVaStar exists to give operators an at-a-glance synopsis of each piece of equipment in micro detail, enabling sales, catering and operational staff to ensure equipment works each time, every time.Additionally, the software can be configured to provide scripted sales guides for non-technical staff. 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 based on service-oriented results, not pieces of equipment. Depending on the customers' answers, the sales person then moves on to the next question. It's an easy-to-use analytical tool that builds a billable package of AV technologies. It 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.While outsourcing to a third-party provider is one way to provide AV Services, it is not the right fit for everyone. Consolidation of these companies is beginning to monopolize the market, and self-managing AV can be a far more affordable and profitable alternative with AVaStar, especially in small to mid-sized properties with limited need for advanced services. Not only will this program help hoteliers to keep equipment and expenses in line but allows them to retain complete control of their guests' experience rather than relying on others.So, stop looking for the missing AV Operations Manual; it's not lost - it never existed. Instead, there's AVaStar - a better, more comprehensive and profitable solution that will help hoteliers self-manage event technology services and deliver professional AV services with efficiency and confidence. And if you have questions, you won't be left stranded. Help is just a click or a phone call away.
Article by Eric Bracht

How Hoteliers Can Be Responsible with the Owners' AV Technology Investment

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 14 February 2019
It's been a decade since the hospitality industry emerged from the depths of the economic recession. It took some time, but today hoteliers are experiencing a strong U.S. economy coupled with one of the lowest unemployment rates in history. According to the Deloitte 2019 US Travel and Hospitality Outlook, "unprecedented growth, driven by a robust economy, rising global consumer purchasing power, and digital innovation, however, comes with strings attached." Mounting operating costs, fuel costs, wage increases for staff, and real estate appreciation are just a few of the obstacles staring down hoteliers and putting them under immense pressure to operate leaner this year. With a downturn on the horizon, the Deloitte report is advising that hoteliers focus on operating more efficiently, saying that "creating leaner, more efficient businesses may require bolder thinking in 2019."How's this for bold thinking: Be responsible with your hotel owner's investment in AV technology systems and equipment.The event space infrastructure is a big expense, and it's not optional for owners who choose to buy into a major brand franchise. This expenditure includes audio amplification and sound systems, lighting and dimming systems, digital signage and display devices, control systems, infrastructure and related technologies. These technologies are a critical component of the meeting experience, but the owner's investment also extends to the background music systems, digital signage and televisions in the lobby, lounge, spa and pool, and food & beverage outlets, and these are often forgotten until something goes wrong.To compete effectively for meetings business today and in the future, hoteliers are requesting additional owner investment in capital funds for technology systems and infrastructure. But then it's up to those hoteliers to ensure that the investment is responsibly managed, and to understand the return that can be brought back to the bottom line. Investment in built-in technologies can enable hoteliers to provide higher quality basic services with internal staff. A truly responsible operator will go the extra step and make sure that preventative maintenance of AV equipment and AV service contracts, repairs, and upgrades are budgeted as part of the hotel's operating expenses.Whose job is it anyway?Before determining how to protect the owners' AV investment, hoteliers first need to determine who, or which department will take on this challenge. An outside third-party AV company will not look after a hotel's built-in, brand-required equipment or any supplemental portable equipment purchased by the hotel; their responsibility lies only with the equipment they bring to the property. Engineering doesn't manage AV; if it's a small property, manpower is probably an issue, even if staff knows how to run the equipment. And with today's property technologies operating in the cloud, on-site IT staff who had once dabbled with AV now manage systems remotely - oftentimes regionally. Therefore, AV is not part of the IT realm. This means that the owner's AV investment is being left in the hands of unsupported event setup or catering staff whose primary job responsibility is something other than managing AV.Maximizing an owner's ROI on their technology investment requires oversight of multiple events simultaneously and the juggling of large amounts of information dealing with meetings management, and multiple systems that track and communicate meeting needs. It requires the ability to plan meeting technology needs, manage AV equipment and resources, coordinate with vendors to order additional equipment as needed, and ensure that portable and built in equipment is serviced and repaired and that expenses are controlled. So how can hoteliers optimize their owner's AV technology investment?Here are 10 steps to maximizing ROI and protecting a hotel owner's AV investment:Evaluate Installed System Capabilities - determine who is responsible for the equipment and if it works, needs need fixed, upgraded or replaced. Should additional equipment be purchased to complement or complete the system to meet planners' requirements?Budget for Portable Equipment Inventory - develop a budget, issue an RFP, research local AV vendors and develop pre-priced packages of advanced AV services from the local vendors that complement your hotel's systems and services.Develop Management Systems - Create a P&L, track costs, review performance, create SOPs for equipment set-up, operation and removal, train staff, and create collateral for pricing guides, service packages and outside provider guidelines.Add AV to the hotel's Preventive Maintenance Plan - Find local AV contractors to repair installed and portable equipment; define scope of work for PM; develop and implement a tracking system for PM and break/fix service and repairs.Create a system to schedule and forecast equipment and resources for events.Create a system for identifying shortages or non-inventory requirements.Create a system for contracting/scheduling additional equipment and services from local vendor(s).Create a system for tracking costs associated with securing outside equipment and services.Create training for planning and operations staff on above systems and procedures; include in SOPs.Invest in a dedicated cloud-based event-technology platform that will conduct all AV technology activities listed above easily and affordably, enabling the hoteliers to demonstrate responsible management of the owner's asset and optimizing a return on the owner's AV investment.
Article by Jeff Loether

Forecast Shows Event Technology is Driving Meetings Success

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 29 November 2018
Its a great time to be in the meetings business. According to the American Express 2019 Global Meetings & Events Forecast, the meetings industry is settling into a new normal. More meetings will be planned for 2019, and they will be longer in duration and will attract more attendees. Of importance to hoteliers is this excerpt: We need to create within a meetings and events environment the same experience that meeting attendees and owners are able to achieve within their personal lives. We need to continue to drive for a more seamless and consumer-type experience for the meeting attendee and owner.Welcome to the consumerization of technology. For years the industry has been working towards creating home-like environments in their hotel guest rooms so that guests experiences are at least as good as but preferably better than those at home. The Global Meetings & Events Forecast shows us that its time this same philosophy is carried into the meetings space. Outside production partners will always be valuable to create customized, large-scale events in ballrooms and flexible spaces. But is it still necessary to have portable equipment and cables taped all over the floors just to provide basic presentation support?One way that planners will judge their events success is by measuring the level of attendee engagement. They will be demanding newer, sexier technologies to gain a competitive advantage in this increasingly consolidated environment. Mobile apps, facial recognition, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics are just a few of tools that will be used in 2019 to stimulate attendee interaction, according to the report. But here is the problem. For smaller properties that self-manage event technologies and those that rely solely on portable equipment and temporary setups, meeting these advanced technology demands will be nearly impossible. Yes, the hotel can certainly bring in an outside vendor to assist but making sure the overall event is flawless can place a lot pressure on an employee whose has a limited understanding of audiovisual equipment and event technology.If technology continues to transform the meetings and events industry by making functions more immersive and exciting, then hoteliers need to do whatever it takes to improve the processes for how audiovisual equipment and event technologies are being bought and sold to planners and how they are being maintained in house. This means training staff how to select, sell and implement technology. It means knowing how to measure revenues and costs. It also means evaluating revenues and expenses on a regular basis and reacting as needed. Planners reliance on technology to enhance their events will only continue to grow, as attendees continue to demand it to keep them engaged. The good news is that event technology can actually increase event attendance by 20%, increase productivity by 27%, and decrease costs by 20-30% (Enterprise Event Marketing).So, whats a hotel to do if it doesnt have the physical space or financial resources to hire a full-time, onsite AV technical crew? The answer may be found in technology itself. AudioVisual technology that is built into the event spaces is more reliable, easier to use, and much more cost-effective than portable equipment. New tools are available that enable meetings venues to self-manage basic AV services that require less labor and are easy for in-house staff to operate. They provide the framework to guide and support the planning and event phases, as well as provide responsible management of assets and inventory. Moreover, providers now have access to funding that allows the shift of CapEx to OpEx and enables hotel management to increase return to ownership while driving more revenues to the bottom line.Implementing an event technology management program can help with the following:Building responsible stewardship of owner assets; Optimizing return on investmentDriving revenues with guided, pro-active sales toolsMeasuring all revenues and expenses; Increasing staff productivityEnhancing existing Sales, Catering and Event Management SystemsManaging services provided by third-party vendors; Ensures profitabilityManaging all AV inventory through one system; Reducing down-time due to service and repairsPlacing operational and financial performance information at your fingertipsAs the meetings business continues to ramp up across the globe, its time to invest in technology designed specifically to help hotels and facility operators better manage the audiovisual equipment and event technology process. Not only will they discover new sources of revenues, but they will become more competitive in the market and begin capturing new meetings business that they didnt have before. And, meeting attendees and planners will have the elegant, integrated, technology experience they are asking for.
Article by Jeff Loether

While 'Celebrating the Past and Charting the Future' Don't Overlook Event Technologies as a CapEx Investment

Electro-Media Design, Ltd. 10 October 2018
This week in Miami, the International Society of Hospitality Consultants is celebrating its 30th Anniversary. Three decades ago, this association was founded by 19 members; today it's a society of 229 members in 29 countries. The theme of the 30thAnniversary event is is "Celebrating the Past, Charting the Future." 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 consulting with hoteliers and conference center operators to better manage their AV technologies. This year's Annual Conference theme is extremely relevant to users of AV technologies. Here's why:In the past, it was easy to self-manage AV solutions. When setting up a meeting room, a banquet houseman would typically wheel in a projector on a cart, set up a screen, add a mic to the podium, and lay a few lavalier mics at the head table for speakers. That was pretty much it. Today, however, event technologies are far more complex, and things like lighting and acoustics are of paramount importance to planners and attendees. According to the recent surveys, meeting planners are looking at integrating more interactive technology to create more personalized experiences for delegates. When accessing venue viability, the top three criteria for meeting planners included the availability of high quality broadband, quality lighting and meeting room acoustics.How do smaller hotels chart a course for the future when they are still self-managing their audiovisual equipment as they did in the past? Perhaps three ISHC Annual Conference session titles can to used to start a meaningful conversation:"You Can't Know Where You're Going Unless You Know Where You've Been: 1988 to 2018 and Beyond"Today's AV technology landscape has changed; we've shifted from an analog to a digital environment. Sound systems that used to occupy seven-foot-tall racks are now collapsed into a single "Digital Signal Processor" (DSP) occupying just seven inches of rack space. Going digital means far fewer connections, less labor, less space, and far more performance capabilities. Better yet, digital sound processing and control equipment is far less expensive to buy and maintain.We've also seen a shift from analog to digital when it comes to control systems. Technology has moved from switches and push buttons to touchscreens and apps. When it comes to great control systems, the secret lies in the craftmanship of the control-system programmer. Here we're exchanging the cost of labor to fabricate and assemble analog control and processing systems for the cost of labor to program the DSPs and control systems to function as needed.When it comes to cabling and infrastructure, the shift from analog to digital video has had a more significant impact on CapEx budgeting for hotels and conference centers that were designed and built 15+ years ago when complex and expensive infrastructure cabling and processing was required. As video shifted from analog to digital, that infrastructure was not backwards compatible, and miles of costly analog video cabling and related processing and switchers were rendered useless.The good news is that the infrastructure cabling and processing for today's digital audio and video components is far simpler than the old analog cabling. Properly designed analog/digital tie lines and input/output panels installed today will easily provide reliable service for decades into the future."Hot Topic: Labor Issues Today and Tomorrow"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. Today, it is the responsibility of the hotel management and the owner to provide, maintain and update these systems using in-house staff who have little to no AV/Acoustics technology experience.Who at the hotel level should be responsible for the preventative maintenance, managed operations, balancing and adjustments, troubleshooting, updating software, break-fix repair, service subscriptions, and reinvestment of AV technologies to stay current? These activities require awareness, skills, systems, procedures, and budgets. So, the question remains: at each hotel, who OWNS the AV systems? Is it Engineering? Catering/Convention Services? Information Technology/Resources? Who is responsible? Who OWNS these systems?More importantly, who will provide the training to in-house staff on how to properly sell, maintain and forecast AV technologies. 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. There needs to be a solution that enables hoteliers to self-manage these processes without rigorous or costly training. Perhaps the answer will be found in a new managed-services solution that gives non-skilled AV staff step-by-step instructions in how to manage the process."Your Passport to the Future: Key Challenges Facing our Industry Around the World" The challenge of managing AV in-house is not something new. It's a global problem impacting hotels of all segments. A significant trend that is impacting CapEx budgeting is "Techorating" or decorating with technology. Until about 10 years ago, interior designers and architects insisted that the meeting and event technology should disappear when not in use and be minimally visible when used. Now there is a ubiquitous integration of AV technologies in hotels, reflecting the home world and work spaces. Video wall arrays are showing up in lobbies. Digital wayfinding and signage are scattered throughout the hotel. Subscription services provide digital art content. AV has shifted from a problem to hide, to a feature that enhances the guest experience.Meeting attendees are expecting more built in, easy access, available technology like they have at home and at work. The hotel design industry is responding accordingly. This means that newly built and newly remodeled hotels will be seeing more AV technologies built-in to the architecture. But, how will this be responsibly managed and maintained?Building in more easy-to-use AV technology is trending, phasing out the need for external AV service providers to operate portable AV systems. This means it will become more appropriate for the basic AV services to be provided by hotel staff. The outsourced AV services providers will still offer the more advanced AV services that rely on their portable equipment. This is a hybrid approach to providing AV services to the guest efficiently and cost-effectively.As 2018 winds down and hoteliers begin to prepare 2019 budgets, considerable thought needs to be given to making a hotel's AV systems serve the event spaces they are designed for. As ISHC attendees sit in on these three sessions, perhaps they will raise some questions about charting the future of AV technology self-management.In January, ISHC will release a new CapEX Book. In that book is our article titled: "Top 7 Trends in AV Managed Services Impacting CapEx and OpEx Budgeting." It's a good read, if I must say so myself. As the famed Yogi Berra once said: "The future ain't what it used to be." This ISHC CapEX article explores how the convergence of several waves of change in the field of audiovisual event and entertainment technologies is fundamentally changing the way we think about planning, budgeting, managing, and offering these technologies to guests. It also looks at how the flow of revenue is shifting from CapEx concerns to OpEX opportunities.To my friends attending ISHC this week in Miami, "Make it Memorable!" and "Cheers" to another 30 years!
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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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