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AV

'AV you got it?

Is your preferred venue as tech savvy as it could be? AV and associated event technology has progressed over the last five years, and it's important for venues to be able to keep up with the pace of change.

While AV is something a lot of event bookers take for granted, the difference made by well maintained and good quality AV equipment can have a drastic effect on any event.

Venue booking agency Inntel’s, meetings and events operations manager, Anna Snoep, thinks a lot of venues lack top quality equipment, and that the user experience is enhanced when these facilities are farmed out. She says: “Venues tend to only have the very basic equipment in house such as LCD projectors, screens and flipcharts.

“From my experience, the quality of the equipment tends to be better if the venues source these elements from an external supplier. Equipment tends not to be looked after and stored very well in venues and, therefore, more prone to not functioning perfectly on the day.

“In general, there are fewer problems with AV equipment on the day if venues source from an external supplier. I do feel venues should have some of the basic equipment in house as they can then offer this as added value and/or include it in their packages, they just need to implement a process which ensures it is well looked after.”

Judy Elvey, senior marketing manager, at Cvent says that, overall, AV facilities are improving, however she adds: “Some older venues are lagging behind and often bring in tech whereas newly built venues have all the mod cons as standard from big screens to projectors and touch points.”

Are perceptions of what constitutes ‘good AV’ different across generations or, rather, are those above a certain age having to adapt more than younger delegates? Gareth Brown, production manager at full service agency drp, believes there is a gap. He says: “At a recent conference a presenter was talking about generations and how the use of technology and the way we engage and deliver key messages to our audience is ever changing. This is ever more apparent with the explosion of smart devices, social media and use the of digital technologies, now reaching out to much larger audiences anywhere and anytime. The use of digital technology and smart devices within the AV industry is becoming more commonplace, with figures suggesting that 98% of adults own a smart phone.

“The way in which people interact within businesses has been and is ever changing. It is now essential for companies to act and adjust their marketing and programming strategies to engage younger generations that form an ever-growing portion of the work force.” 

Rose Padmore is the chair of ABPCO and director of agency Opening Doors and Venues. As a professional conference organiser and agency owner, Padmore is well placed to appraise the current AV scene in the UK. She says: “In my experience venues’ AV offering can vary hugely. Bigger venues tend to be fab with a great team and reliable equipment. However, the mid-sized venues can be very limited in their AV offerings. More frustratingly, it is often these that are sold to PCOs as having state of the art equipment when in reality that’s not the case. We are, however, wise to this and frequently contract external suppliers to come in and provide us with the professional look and service our events require.”

How has the need for efficient AV changed in recent years? Padmore believes there has been a noticeable shift in awareness of how important AV can be in delivering high-quality meetings and conferences. “Expectations from our clients are higher than ever and we as event managers continue to raise them still.

“Conversely, many venues simply provide the absolute basics, leaving the organisers to provide the rest. Alongside this, the current pace of change in AV technologies makes it difficult for many small to medium venues to keep up.”

Keeping up

How do venues ensure their equipment can handle evolving event technology?

Lee Dobson, head of event management, Barbican

We aim to be ahead of the curve as much as we can but like all venues there’s always the risk that what we install now could very well be out-of-date in six months. Investment into our AV team and equipment is constant and significant, allowing for high standards. We also use recurring investment to make sure we’re buying energy efficient technology such as LED production lighting. Most importantly, though, our highly creative team have worked on some of the world’s most exciting stage shows and events and so are very experienced in what they do.

James Orton, general manager, AJ Bell Stadium

We keep on top of the trends emerging in the event and AV industries to make sure our technology is up to scratch. In the last 18 months, there has been a big move to laser projectors and as a result, implementation of these into the stadium was part of our upgrade last year.

As well as ensuring our technology can handle and evolve with the fast-paced innovation of the industry, we also make sure our team are up-to-date with the latest systems, equipment and standards of best-practice. We have seen a huge increase in live streaming and social media wall requests for events, so our team have been investigating the best technology to embed in our offering.

Pretty fly for Wi-Fi

How often do clients insist on excellent Wi-Fi; how hard is it to get Wi-Fi working correctly?

Emily Boylin, marketing assistant, Warwick Conferences

Our IT infrastructure is managed internally. The on-site IT department deliver a fast and reliable service, which, over time, the University has evolved to continually be able to deliver a seamless service. As our campus is ever-growing, the University has shifted its advancements from maximising the availability of Wi-Fi on campus, to maximising the Wi-Fi capacity of new buildings when designing them. This, therefore, not only meets the internet needs of our every-growing student body, but also creates no issues for the Warwick Conferences clientele.

Ryan Moroney, operations manager, East of England Arena

Wi-Fi is a big challenge, especially with a venue as large as EEAEC. Our clients insist on excellent Wi-Fi, almost without exception, so we have invested heavily over the last 18 months to upgrade our services and internet connection speeds. Our indoor event spaces are all serviced by our existing Wi-Fi and cabled infrastructure, but for our 220 acres of open air event space, we have used the expertise of Attend2IT, the event IT specialists, to provide solid Wi-Fi coverage over the whole site.

Investment

How much, and where, have venues invested in AV?

Claire Pastore, head of commercial, The Mermaid London

Our decision to partner with White Light has come at a time when our clients’ needs, and expectations are growing. The £750K partnership allows us to show clients how to use the venue to its full potential and appoints them with an expert in-house team.

White Light invest £3m capex every year in new technology and as part of being their partners, we benefit from their constant updates.

Alun Pomfrett, food and beverage manager, Imago Venues

Our investment in AV is ongoing with new equipment and upgrades always under consideration.  However, we are currently undergoing a feasibility study that should see in the region of £250,000 invested across Burleigh Court and Holywell Park.

Paul Southern, managing director, Central Hall Westminster

Since 2014, we have invested just under £121,000 in all our AV facilities in a continuous programme of improvement. We also have a further £89,000 allocated for 2018. In addition to our current investment, our in-house partner, White Light, invest annually £3m capital expenditure in new technology, meaning that we are given access to the latest AV technologies. This is in addition to White Light spending over £500,000 on new AV facilities in our conference rooms.

Mark Field FIH, operations director, Victory Services Club

We have invested more than £250,000 in AV, including in market leading software and  hardware. Our AV systems are controlled by Crestron, a leading manufacturer of control systems. The Barco ClickShare presentation system is available and provides clients with wireless connectivity for presentations, but that said we also installed traditional connections such as HDMI or VGA. Our lighting desk ties into the Creston system, and the project team has many pre-set AV options to make everything user friendly.