Event Staging

Day in the Life of Director of Audio

Posted on: June 5th, 2017

This is the fourth installment of a new series of “Day in the Life” articles featuring IMS team members and how they spend their day in the office or on the road supporting our clients.  This is the recent “day in the life” of Chris Leonard, Director of Audio.

My day can be drastically different from one day to the next as I split my time between office duties and onsite roles.

Regardless of where I start my morning, it typically involves getting a Monster drink as I don’t drink coffee but want that caffeine kick. My commute is not very long to the office but I like to jumpstart my day with music, and currently The Classic Crime is a band that I listen to daily. My average day in the office starts around 7:15am, as I like to get my head ready for the day before everyone shows up at 8:00am.

During this period of prep time, I continue with music (maybe some Emery or Willet this time) as it helps me focus. I prep a to do list with a program called Wunderlist as I peruse the numerous flagged emails from the day or days prior. This 30-45 minute window can often be more productive than a typical 2 hours of regular office time, due to chaos that can ensue during busy seasons.

9:00am rolls around and it’s time to go into one-on-ones with my audio team. I do this bi-weekly and they are some of the most important meetings I have. We spend some time just catching up on life, as we all have adventures and families outside of work, and I highly value them. We then spend some time looking back a week or so on the good, the bad, and the ugly in order to discuss ways of improvement for them and for the company. We wrap up with looking forward to the upcoming shows and their development as well.

Just as I finish one of those meetings I receive a video conference call from our director of lighting, Scott, who needs an ASAP change to a rigging plot, as we just found out that the venue-supplied drawings were not accurate. We look into Vectorworks together to see what solution we can identify. In the meantime, I open my Line Array Calculator and make sure the new location doesn’t require a change in the original quantity of boxes needed. Once a solution has been made, it is time to update the quote and the production manager.

As I am about to move onto my next project, I receive a call from a tech who is on-show site. He needs some help with a piece of gear that appears to not be working correctly. We talk it though and work out a solution to resolve it. Now that the phone and video calls are done, it’s back to the background music to keep my afternoon going. I’m sure you are sensing a theme here, music means a lot to me and it is therapy just as much as it is motivation and inspiration. I pound through a few emails, booking freelance A1’s, and review some shows quoted by our PM’s.

The next Outlook meeting notification lets me know it’s time to head to the airport. So, I jump into my car and get on my way. While traveling, I love listening to podcasts. I love learning new things and deep discussions that stretch and intrigue my mind. Podcast like The Break it Down Podcast, Bad Christian, Manager Tools, and Don’t Feed the Trolls. This trip is for training as I head to San Francisco to attend a 3-day Rational Acoustics Smaart course. Smaart is the software we use to help us analyze and tune sound systems. I can’t say enough about how much continuing the education in my job means to me. Partly because of my drive to be the best I can, but mostly because what I do is so much more than just a career, it’s a passion I’ve had ever since I was a little kid doing shows every weekend with my Dad.

That was a long day and probably only covers half of what a possible day looks like for me. But, now you know a little more about the Day in the life of The Director of Audio at IMS Technology Services.

Hospitality in the Trump Era

Posted on: June 2nd, 2017

The following are excerpts from an original article from Meetings & Conventions Magazine

Hotel executives weigh in on what lies ahead this year and beyond

Hoteliers have been riding high in recent years, basking in the glow of record increases in vital categories such as occupancy and revenue per available room, and with demand growth outpacing supply growth since 2010. But with a new U.S. president in office and a world in flux for myriad reasons, will the good times continue to roll?

M&C recently reached out to several luminaries in the hospitality realm to discuss their outlook for the coming year, particularly when it comes to group business and whether geopolitical and/or economic factors will bring major changes to the industry.

Sources project that supply will outpace demand in 2017 for the first time in eight years. Will this affect the meetings market?

Chris Cahill: The supply side in the luxury and upper upscale in the U.S. and Canada is not really robust. Even if you look at New York City, with the amount of growth there, not that much is at the luxury tier, or even the upper-upscale tier; it’s mostly limited-service or boutique product.

Michael Dominguez: Yeah, there is more supply, which is going to help in certain markets, but for meeting planners looking for space? There’s just no space available in the U.S., because we haven’t built anything significant on an average year-over-year basis since we were back in the peak of 2007. So it’s great that we have some extra guest rooms, but that’s not going to help if we can’t have a meeting.

Frank Passanante: Meeting space actually has seen a continual decline over the last several years. Based on data we have from 2000 to 2009, the hotels that are being built now have 24 percent less meeting space per room. While room supply is catching up with the demand, we’re building hotels with less meeting space. As we talk to customers, a common concern that they share is the lack of ability. So we’re working to find solutions with our customers, taking a broader look at bundling their meetings business over the next 12 to 18 months or more.

Michael Massari: We’ve enjoyed somewhere between three and five years of an expansion market, depending on your segment. And it appears that 2017 will add a year to that, and 2018-’19 might add two more. So that would be six to eight years — one of the longest, if not the longest, expansionary markets seen in the hospitality business. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it’s not normal. But the indications we have today are that the next three years are going to be quite good.

Peter Strebel: Group business is strong, but we’re seeing some challenges in some markets — it’s really specific to the new supply. For example, in Texas, growth is happening in Austin, Houston and Dallas, so we’re seeing some more competition in those markets. The same thing goes for a market like Nashville; we’ve been open there for three years, and it seems like every day there’s a new hotel opening there, so that market is under a little pressure now as well. Where we see some pressure on group demand, though, we’re able to replace that with surging leisure business. The outlook is still very strong.

Are Trump-administration actions affecting your business?

Strebel: We haven’t seen anything positive or negative yet. I think what could be affected is the relationship we have with key inbound countries. I think the rhetoric has a psychological impact on people wanting to travel here. People in many places around the world have in some ways been fascinated with the U.S., and I hope that still remains true.

Massari: International travel is down, so we need to figure out why it’s down and how we’re going to get it back up, because it was a run of 12 to 15 straight years’ worth of increases. We need to continue on our path of 100 million visitors to this country.

With respect to President Trump’s executive orders on travel and immigration, we’re concerned that the conversation doesn’t have enough balance to it. You have to think about what people are hearing. We need to figure out a way to add balance, to be both secure and welcoming.

One thing that gives me promise is that we’ve got a president who’s still doing rallies — he clearly understands the value of face-to-face meetings. Another thing is that without international travel, our trade deficit would be 20 percent larger; I think a president who is borderline obsessed with exports is going to come around.

I’d be shocked if the president didn’t also want there to be 100 million international travelers to the United States. That’s good for employment, businesses, tax income and the U.S. trade balance. It’s good for everybody. And if you can do it in a safe and secure manner, it’s nearly perfect.

Dominguez: There’s a lot of confusion out there about the executive orders, and the government has been doing a poor job of communicating them effectively around the world. But international travel started to dip last year, long before the executive orders were issued. I personally think that eventually this will be a small blip in terms of the overall effect on travel, but there’s a lot of uncertainty around the world, and uncertainty is never good for travel.

The industry is going to make sure the administration is well-educated about travel, just as we did many times during the Obama administration. But there’s a lot of noise in Washington right now, and we want to make sure we’re approaching the administration while they don’t have several different fires going on.

Passanante: I’m based in Washington, D.C., and I’ve been around Washington for 25 years. The reality is that with every new administration comes a level of change, and we’re obligated to look at all the potential effects of the legislative agendas, and we watch it just like everybody else. Do we expect some things to change as a result of that new agenda? Yeah, probably. Have we seen any impact thus far? No, not really — not more or less than we would expect to have seen with any other change of administration in the past.

Cahill: People keep thinking this volatility — on a global basis — is going to stabilize somehow. But there’s a fundamental paradigm shift. I believe there will be increasingly dramatic swings in that volatility, whether because of geopolitical or financial issues, or the threat of terrorism. I don’t think our abilities to predict will be as reliable as they were before. People need to be agile, to be able to shift with the changing issues.

Click here to read more responses from the panel, including their thoughts on booking room blocks for large events, commissions, industry trends, and more.

AV 101: Industry Terms Explained

Posted on: June 2nd, 2017

ASPECT RATIO

Suppose you are having a meeting for all of your top executives and they have spent a lot of time putting together presentations with spreadsheets and charts and graphs. The day of the event, the first executive loads her slide deck but the image doesn’t fill the screen. There are gaps along the edges. You’ve got pretty big screens but the actual presentation seems smaller. What’s the problem? The aspect ratio of the source material and displays don’t match.


Image shown with a 16×9 aspect ratio, and same image shown with 4×3 letterbox

The aspect ratio is how wide an image is compared to how tall it is. For example, if a screen has an aspect ratio of 16:9, it could be 16 inches by 9 inches, 16 feet by 9 feet, or 32 feet by 18 feet. Ideally the aspect ratio of your source material and screen will be the same.

Why should you care about aspect ratio? It’s possible you could pay for a wide screen TV but then only show standard 4:3 material, leaving gaps on the left and right. That’s space your presenters could have used for charts. Or graphs! You might order a large projection screen and not use the top and bottom due to widescreen content. Not only is there a question of unused space, but some people don’t care for it aesthetically.


Image displayed with a 4×3 aspect ratio, and same image shown with a 16×9 letterbox

As you are putting together materials, ideally you’ll communicate to both your presenters and AV partner what the desired ratio is. That way you’re getting the most bang for your buck, using the screen you paid for and presenting the best version of your content.

In the past, the most common format for slideshows like PowerPoint in the U.S. was 4:3, but because of the popularity of wide screen TVs increasingly the standard is 16:9. I’m actually simplifying a bit, there’s a huge range of aspect ratios, but these will be the most common for basic event audio visual in the U.S. If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a great Wikipedia article with more info.

IMAG

You’ve probably heard people joke about getting nosebleed seats at a game and how they would’ve had a better view at home. Big meetings can feel like that too (except there’s no TV coverage of the meeting at home). There’s more to a game than being super close to the players, and there’s more to a meeting than being super close to the presenters. But you can help keep attendees engaged using IMAG.

IMAG stands for “image magnification.” Once you reach a certain number of attendees in one room, not everyone will have a great view of the presenter. To compensate, you can set up a camera with a live feed of the proceedings being sent to the screens. If you only have one primary screen, you can switch between presentation content and the video feed, or if budget allows you can have multiple screens, some for content and some for IMAG.


An event with IMAG projection on either side of the stage. (The center screen has a 3×1 aspect ratio)

GOBO

A gobo is a stencil or pattern placed in front of a light source and projected onto a surface. It’s commonly used on walls, floors, and drape. It’s a relatively cost effective option for branding events.

You might consider using a gobo for a logo, or something specific to the occasion or event. As an example, some internal projects have their own logo, or a quarterly slogan or motto. Gobos can also be used for decorative purposes, either graphics related to a theme (“Christmas”, “James Bond”) or abstract patterns.


An IMS event from the Democratic National Convention using star gobos

Most audio visual companies will be able to get a gobo made for you, or if you anticipate using them often you can get some yourself and travel with them (they are typically small – only a couple inches in diameter. The lowest cost gobos are monochrome steel stencils, but it is possible to get glass gobos with fine detail and many colors.


An example of what a star gobo itself would look like. A common size would have a 100mm diameter.

Article written by Greg Kamprath, IMS National Account Manager.

Laser Projector Shutdown and Restart

Posted on: May 20th, 2017

Testing out our new 5K laser projectors! Watch it shutdown instantly and get an image back on screen in under 15 seconds! No cool down needed! Amazing!

Day in the Life of a National Account Manager

Posted on: April 4th, 2017

This is the third installment of a new series of “Day in the Life” articles featuring IMS team members and how they spend their day on the road supporting our clients.  This is the recent “day in the life” of Greg Kamprath, National Account Manager.

“Suppose for a second I can help you with all of the things we just talked about. Reducing stress on-site, improving the attendee experience and providing consistent pricing/staffing from location to location. I’m sure that will be good for the organization. What will it mean to you personally?”

My day has started with a site visit to a meeting venue. I’ve been talking through the program with a prospective client. Before the meeting I’ve done my research on the organization and this same event from last year. I looked up pictures on Facebook and twitter. All of the specific technical questions we’re covering are important. But in these client interviews, asking open ended “who / what / where / how” type questions uncovers valuable information about their goals and objectives, and what really matters to my contact. It helps us generate suggestions that may not have occurred to an event owner. Based on these conversations it’s actually not unheard of for our team to come up with suggestions that result in a smaller bill, but a happier (and repeat) customer.

In many cases, I have one of our production managers along for the conversation. In this case, I meet up with the team afterwards to convey the vision for the event. With sufficiently large events this might involve the director of audio, director of video, director of lighting and so on to spec gear for their respective disciplines. For today, the production manager and I have a less formal conversation. He will spec the gear. The creative team will generate renderings to show what the set will look like, and how much space AV will take up. We agree on deadlines and any check-in calls.

I’ve blocked some time between meetings to prospect: to find more people who might benefit from our expertise. I start to build a list of people to reach out to. I think of our repeat happy clients – what industries are they in? What sort of events do they have? What services have we provided? Then I build a list of similar organizations. Once I do that, I think of the contacts for our repeat clients. What are their titles? How did we come to connect with them? I start building a list of people with similar titles at the target organizations, using the company website, social media and web searches. In some cases their contact information is on the official website, in others I use my internet detective skills to find email and phone numbers.

When I reach out to potential clients it’s important to be respectful of their time – if I can’t approach someone with a clear and brief message, why would they have reason to think it would be any different when we’re actually working together? So I try to boil it down to an “initial benefit statement”. What are the benefits of working with IMS for our clients? There’s a temptation to talk about features – “We have this piece of gear with this amazing capability” – but ultimately why should the person I’m talking to care? Because it saves them time. Because it makes them look good to their boss. Because it reduces risk, and lets them focus on their responsibilities instead of having to keep an eye on a subpar AV supplier. So I focus on how the benefit to the client.

What’s more, what matters to one person may not be important to another. A meeting planner may find time savings on-site more valuable. A director of sales may care that attendees at the national sales meeting go back home motivated and ready to close deals. When I reach out, I want to have something of real value to suggest as a reason why a client would want to work with us. Once I have that, then I start making calls and sending emails.

Next on the schedule, I need to finalize putting together a proposal. There is the scope of work: a plain English description of what is included in the quote. While a detailed line item quote is important, for the average client they will not recognize (or need to recognize) all the pieces of equipment. The scope provides an overview of the key points and how we plan to achieve their goals. The proposal incorporates renderings of the event, and a ground plan showing how floor space is used. It includes references from similar clients, and answers a variety of questions the client listed in their RFP. It includes an executive price summary tying together costs from multiple quotes for different facets of the event. Due to this being a particularly large even, the summary also shows costs not incurred from IMS, but which the client will want to know about: venue rigging, internet, union labor. Normally a proposal might be a few pages, but the one I worked on today was 89(!) pages.

I head out again to a client’s office and we make a presentation in their boardroom. In terms of prep, before we create a slideshow we find out who is going to be in the meeting, and what their role as a stakeholder is. We try to find out what will be most valuable for them to take away from the presentation – some folks want to see specs, and ask specific detailed questions. Others want to see the big picture or talk vision. Once we have an understanding of what is important to cover, we create a custom presentation covering those points. We also identify who is handling what – often I’m covering a majority with a production manager jumping in on technical details. The planning pays off and our presentation generates some great conversation. The organization’s staff are talking amongst themselves and with our team coming up with ideas to expand on our proposal. We thank them for investing time with us and head out.

Lastly I drive over to a venue where our team has been setting up an event for several hours. I check in with our staff to see how things are going. Then I find the client and check in. “How is everything?” She gives me a hug and says, “Everything is amazing!”

Creative Production Trends for Meetings/Events

Posted on: March 30th, 2017

As everyone knows, talking heads and basic PowerPoint presentations at meetings are almost extinct. EVERYONE (not just Millennials) wants to be entertained and be brought personally into the meeting experience. This has been proven to be most effective with carefully planned video pre-production and on-site live streaming. It is crucial to work with your AV/Video Production team at the very beginning stages so that you get the best possible ROE – Return on Experience – for your meeting attendees. Some video options may include making the once a year meeting live on for the entire year through the use of professional video production, or planning for video conferencing to engage attendees who cannot attend in-person.

Many surveys over the past few years have continued to note increasing trends in technology integration in meetings. Streaming video, web conferencing and on-site video production are typically the most common uses. Some less common but very impactful forms of video production include video projection mapping, augmented reality, and interactive video.

What is Projection Mapping?

Projection Mapping can be as extravagant as you can imagine, but it doesn’t take much budget to transform a room into a unique environment with stock video elements. Perfect for promoting a theme for awards dinners, galas and product launches, you can use a wide variety of video looks to cover walls and ceilings, which is more immersive and engaging than conventional lighting. The next level is 3D objects and set designs for the ultimate in WOW! Factor; projection mapping on 3D objects and set designs is truly a sight to behold.

What is a Show Opener Video?

Typically a fast-paced video piece designed to energize your audience and prepare them for the day’s events. Your video production partner can create dramatic, attention-grabbing videos with graphics, text and live video.

What is a Walk-Up or Sizzle Video?

Very brief snippets of video designed to accompany or introduce a special guest, award winner or presenter as they make their way to the stage. Especially useful for events where a large number of people are presenting and bios would rather be seen than read on-stage.

What is an Interactive Video?

A great way to engage attendees and reveal a special theme or logo beneath a “scatter video” which can be on a floor, a wall or a trade show booth.

What is a 360 Video?

a 360 video is a cutting-edge interactive marketing and informational tool. The ability for users to manipulate their own perspective creates the ultimate user-created, personalized experience that opens up a whole new dimension of bringing the world to life. It has been widely used for tourism and travel promotions, conference and exhibition center marketing and university campus tours. Explore some 360 tour videos

One caution about video production: keep it brief. People are much more likely to view a one-minute video to completion than a two-minute video. With the popularity of Snapchat, Vine and Instagram and with more and more video being consumed on smartphones, this trend has serious staying power and gives longevity to meeting content.

Article written by Donna Baldino, Global Account Manager at IMS.


 

Free Download: 4 Focus Areas for Creating Effective and Memorable Videos

Effective video content has the ability to deliver substantial and memorable impact on its viewer, but it can also be a double-edged sword, as your audience may remember you for the wrong reasons if your content is not impactful. Thoughtful and deliberate planning and strategy are required elements in creating a relevant, creative and engaging video that your audience remembers for all the right reasons.

This eBook provides you with a four-part structure to help you plan and design an effective and memorable video for your audience.

How Do I Approach Scenic Design For My Events?

Posted on: March 30th, 2017

When incorporating scenic elements into your event for the first time or when expanding upon your strategy, there are a million-and-one things to think about … but here are a few to get you started!

1. Logistics

  • Ceiling height. Basically, a 16’ set will not fit in a room with 11’ ceilings.
  • Obstructions. Soffits, change in ceiling heights throughout the room, pillars, oddly configured rooms, even built-in stages (not always a perk) should all be taken into consideration.
  • Do I have enough room to do what I’m looking to do? Ask your AV partner to draw the room with the appropriate seating, stage size, backstage area if necessary, and any technology… especially if you plan on doing rear projection. Then work on scenic design.
  • Do I have enough time to set this up based on my room contract? Setting up scenic takes time and while light programming can take place during preproduction in your AV partner’s shop, it will need to be fine-tuned on site.
  • Prioritize. How valuable is the scenic to your message? Are you designing an immersive space that integrates the AV or will AV dictate the shape and size of the set?

2. Budget

  • Adding in scenic to an event may require you to book your room for an extra day depending upon the complexity of the event, and maybe even several install days, dependent upon the rigging plot, lighting elements, etc.
  • Many custom sets need to be “retouched” after they are set up, meaning a Carpenter could need additional time before and after meetings to make adjustments (i.e. if air bubbles are forming, seams becoming visible, etc). The venue’s HVAC or environment can easily affect this and are considered unknowns.
  • Additional crew, and specialized crew, will be needed to build the scenic. Additional light will be required to make the set visually appealing and more power may be required too. Also, while some sets and lighting can be ground supported, it is sometimes required to rig your design … and all of these cost money. IMS can help you budget for these expenses.
  • Are any special actions necessary on my part? For example, do I now need a Fire Marshall through load-in? The entirety of the event? Will this require me to get a permit?

The FUN stuff

  • What am I looking to achieve by adding scenic into my event? How will this complement the event theme and event goals?
  • With what emotion are attendees walking into the room, and how do I want them to leave feeling?
  • What type of “look” do I want? Remember, your venue may dictate this slightly. Don’t fight the aesthetic of a room, work with it!
  • Am I looking to do digital scenery, a hard set, soft goods, custom branded materials, modular pieces, or a combinations of mediums?
  • Make sure your partner can provide you with to-scale renderings or conceptual visualizations of digital scenery elements.
  • Where can I go for inspiration? I KNOW, IMS’s Scenic Portal!
  • Who ya gonna call?!?! GHOSTBUSTERS! JK, IMS. Specifically, Julie Renninger. 610-883-6162.

Article written by Julie Renninger, Director of Sales at IMS.

How Does the Global Economy Affect the Meeting Planning Industry?

Posted on: March 30th, 2017

The meetings and events industry is affected by many factors, and the global economy is a big one. Even if your events are held only in the U.S. or even in one region of the country, the global economy has an impact on your budget.

The global GDP (Global Domestic Product), is expected to grow 3.4% in 2017. Not all regions in the world are experiencing growth but some are facing a smaller downturn than previously expected. For example, in the America’s, Brazil’s recession is recovering faster than expected with a potential of positive growth by the end of 2017. However, Canada is feeling the impact of cheap oil prices and this is having a negative impact on its tar sand exports. The APAC region is doing well with Japan and China both experiencing new growth due to policy changes and BREXIT not impacting their growth as previously expected. EU/Middle East/Africa are all experiencing growth, roughly 2.2% for the year with a higher demand for domestic products. The UK is the only country in this region dealing with a large down turn because of their exit from the EU, and Russia continues to stay flat due to sanctions imposed from the Ukraine crisis. Africa and the Middle East as a whole are dealing with cheap oil prices and turmoil in countries like Libya, Somalia, Iraq, and others who are still suffering from crippled or corrupt governments.

Around the globe, hotel room rates are expected to vary greatly based on market-specific supply and economies, major industry consolidation, and investments in renovations and new construction. Major hotel mergers haven been front and center in the marketplace as hotel chains strive to increase their global footprint. This will not impact pricing today but some forecasters are predicting a noticeable increase in 2018.

Meeting technology is not immune to the consolidation theme, witnessed by the purchase and merger of Cvent by Vista Equity Partners, which also owns Lanyon, Cvent’s major competitor. This acquisition has some concerned that innovative technology in the global meeting arena may slow now that Vista has cornered the market. Regardless, the demand for event technology continues to grow globally and the marketplace is still fragmented enough for developers to devise new technology to better connect and integrate attendees with meeting content and activities.

Regarding event spend, a Bellweather report predicts almost a 10% increase in event spend for the remainder of 2017. Marketing budgets have nearly 25% of the spend allocated to events, which are seen as a highly effective marketing strategy.

One area that is having a major impact on meeting and event budgets globally is food and beverage. Price inflation is expected to outpace all other aspects of the industry, and contributing factors are as follows:

  • The increased costs of production due to weather conditions – U.S. wheat exports are increasing due primarily to excessive rain in Europe. In Canada, corn and barley yields are down due to drought-like conditions. Drought conditions have also severely impacted rice production in Asia. Also affected by climate changes, environmental impact, and global demand are coffee, palm oil, sugar, chocolate, and vanilla.
  • Increasing requests for special dietary options – gluten-free, low-carb, low-cholesterol, vegetarian, and vegan dishes all cost more to prepare. Requests for non-GMO and/or organic certified foods have also increased the costs. These requests have hurt some industries, like pasta manufacturers, where the low-carb craze has crushed sales.
  • With an ever-growing global population and an increase in globalization of food production, specialty, more expensive items are in higher demand. Examples include kaniwa, a high-protein/high fiber seed, and soursop, a tropical fruit in South America.
  • Beverages are not immune to these cost increases either, as a skyrocketing demand for craft beers and spirits is having a major impact on costs. No longer are Miller Lite and Coors Light the beers of choice for many. Trillium’s Four Point (a double hopped IPA) or Russian River’s Pliny the Elder are now the types of beer requested by attendees and their costs are typically double (if not triple) the big brewery costs. Driving cost factors for these new, innovative beers are production volume and ingredients. Hops, a main component to beer production, are imported now from around the world. Whistle Pig, Bullit, and Rutherford to name a few are now common requests for spirits, as Maker’s Mark, Jack Daniels and other large distilleries are not the “IN” for this new, more sophisticated palate.

For better or worse, the global economy impacts our industry. The savvy planner will be able to take advantage of all the upswing this economy has to offer while avoiding the areas that could negatively affect their meeting budgets.

Article written by Mark Steinmetz, National Account Manager at IMS.

Tech Day in the Life: Neil Kurtz

Posted on: February 16th, 2017

This is the first installment of a new series of “Day in the Life” articles featuring IMS team members and how they spend their day on the road supporting our clients.  This is the recent “day in the life” of Neil Kurtz, Event Staging Technician.

ims-neil-kurtzI hear a faint beeping in the background. What could it be this time: a truck reversing? A scissor lift navigating the ballroom? A forklift rumbling by on the dock? No, it’s far too early for any of that.

Rolling over, I blink my sleepy eyes open and try to focus on the alarm clock. 3:30. Did I oversleep? Can’t be, the room is far too dark to be mid-afternoon. I swing my legs out from under the comforter and my feet hit the carpet. Time to get this 16+ hour day started.

My crew starts trickling in and the driver is calling to let me know he’s here, but can’t get onto the dock because another vehicle is blocking the way. A call goes out to find someone from hotel security to get the other truck moved.

Finally on the dock, the crew is present and accounted for and gear starts flowing into the room. Once we’re done unloading the equipment, some of the crew peels off and starts working with the lighting director, others with audio. I task two of the utility crew members to start building screens as I focus on my switcher. After consulting my wiring diagram for the 100th time today to make sure I’m not missing something, I start setting up my graphics machines. I get pulled away because lighting can’t find some of their instruments. Were they on the pull sheet? Did we leave them on the dock? The back hall? Never mind, they’re inside the case; someone just misread the tape label on the lid.

Back to the laptops. T-minus 2 hours until the client walks in the door. Laptops placed: check. Cables labeled: check. Inputs patched: check. The screens are up, and my crew members are starting to put projection together. I check on audio and lighting, to see how everyone is progressing and get a status update. All green lights!

Break time. Well, let’s be honest: the crew gets a break. I get a break from the crew in exchange for some precious quiet time to get ahead on things.

Next project: networking. Projectors, recorders, and graphics computers are all wired up, but one of the laptops can’t ping the rest of the network. After checking the connections on the switch, I see where I left off earlier; an air gap. Things usually work better when they’re plugged in. Let’s try that ping again: success! I set up a file transfer to all the laptops and begin configuring my recorders.

My audio engineer starts ringing out the room, making sure the microphones don’t feedback if someone walks in front of a speaker.

Lighting has fixtures in the air and they begin their tedious task of focus. The projectionist is having trouble with a projector lamp, so he swaps out lamps. Unfortunately, that doesn’t solve our problem. After a few phone calls, double checking things, crossing our fingers and an ounce of hope, the lamps finally strike! The projectionist starts his convergence as the drape line starts to go up.

The client walks in the room, introductions are made and status updates are provided. Everything is good for rehearsals, and still on track for a noon start! The client sits down and we start going over changes and additions. There’s a new set of PowerPoints and a change in the order of the videos. For the Q&A, they’d like to have 5 lavaliere microphones for the panel and 3 handheld microphones for the audience. I make a note to tell the audio engineer later. Also, the colors for the drape should be red and blue, but not blue blue. Maybe a nice shade of cool water blue. I make another note for the lighting director to figure out what color cool water blue is.

After a brief lunch, we dive into rehearsals. The first presenter is confused by the downstage monitors and keeps talking to the next slide. We take a brief time-out so I can pull out my handy laminated monitor labels from my tech kit and put them on the appropriate monitors. The presenter thanks me and resumes his rehearsal. Video 1 fires and runs as it should, and we make a graceful transition back into the presentation. He wraps up and practices his toss to the next presenter, taking direction from his colleagues and the production team. The second presenter hasn’t arrived yet, so we have an unscheduled break.

The crew steps away for a few minutes, and I start checking emails. There’s a show next week that needs my attention, so I send the project manager a note, telling him we’ll chat at the end of the day. Since the home office is on the opposite coast, I add 3 hours to the local time and remind myself to not let it get too late before calling. I also check the schedule, looking for my next day off. Thankfully, there’s only a show day and travel standing between now and some R&R. ‘Head down and power through’, I tell myself. Now the client is waving at me from across the room. Our next presenter is here, so the crew rallies to knock the rehearsal out.

It’s now been 12 hours since I left that wonderful cocoon of a bed. Load in, set up and rehearsals are done. Just a few short hours until I can have a cold, adult brewed beverage in my hand. But those short hours are probably the most critical. Doors open in 30 minutes, and there are about to be 400 people in this room that I’ve had all day to construct. Will everyone enjoy the show as much as I enjoyed putting it together? I’ve just had a whirlwind day putting all the pieces where they belong and I couldn’t be happier. Thankfully the show goes off without a hitch, and the client is thrilled. The crew takes care of a few odds and ends before powering down for the day. We’ll be spending all day tomorrow in this ballroom, so no one lingers. My FitBit alerts me that it’s time to start winding down for bed, but I brush it off in exchange for that hard-earned frosty beverage.

How to Create an Event Diagram on a Budget

Posted on: February 1st, 2017

When planning meetings and events, it is useful to have a diagram or floor plan. In some cases, venues or suppliers will provide a diagram, and there are great paid services like Social Tables that have a rich set of features. But if you’re on a budget and would still like the flexibility of creating a room diagram yourself, here is a comparison of some cost effective options.

Meeting Matrix Express

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Many people reading this will have heard of Meeting Matrix. At one time, it seemed to be the only software used for floor plans. The software has been acquired a couple times and this program doesn’t seem to be seeing a lot of updates, likely because parent company Amadeus is focusing on a new platform, Amadeus Hospitality Diagramming. (It supports 3D walkthroughs and is integrated into Amadeus’ other hotel software, SalesPro and Delphi.fdc, but since we’re creating a diagram on a budget we will move on.)

Pros

  • Meeting Matrix has pre-made room diagrams for a huge number of venues, just search by name.
  • There’s a library of items to use in your setup diagram, including tables, chairs and staging. The software is simple to use with a drag and drop interface that’s not overwhelming. Once you place an object, like a table, you can select the edge and drag to auto-fill the space with that object type.

Cons

  • This is an older program. The installation process in particular makes it apparent this is not modern software, and the item library includes things like “slide projector” and “VCR”.
  • The software is limited to a “top down” overhead view.

Because Amadeus is focused on a new software brand, I wouldn’t be surprised if they phase out Meeting Matrix entirely in the future.

AllSeated

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Pros

  • AllSeated also has a searchable database of venues where you can pull up floorplans. The list of available venues is not as extensive as Meeting Matrix yet, but still worth checking out.
  • For certain venues, it supports a 3D walkthrough. (I assume this is based on which venues can supply 3D files to AllSeated).
  • The software automatically transforms a 2D table into a 3D table when you switch viewing modes.
  • There is an item library including furniture from AFR and Cort. Users can request an RFP from Cort directly through AllSeated.
  • Users can create guest lists and assign seating to guests.

Cons

  • The interface is not always intuitive; you have to look around to find what you want to do.
  • The method for drawing tables is not as convenient as Meeting Matrix. You can click the “clone” button one by one, or drag and drop one by one.
  • It also does not seem to convert all 2D objects into 3D. For example, the item library included a “food truck” which I decided to go ahead and drop in the middle of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But it disappeared as soon as I switch to 3D.

Sketchup

sketchup---Starbucks1

Pros

  • The “Sketchup Make” version is free.
  • It is a very powerful tool to create 3D models of anything, from small objects to massive buildings.
  • Sketchup pulls from a large online library of user submitted objects, not just tables and chairs but also famous landmarks and consumer products. In addition, Sketchup has the flexibility and power to create complex objects from scratch. With Meeting Matrix or All Seated you’re confined to the library of items provided, or creating basic objects. But in Sketchup there’s no limit.
  • It is easier to learn than some other 3D software, for example, AutoCAD. There are a ton of online tutorials and walk-throughs. There are also extensions such as Kerkythea which allow you to go from 3D drawings to photorealistic renderings.

Cons

  • There is a big learning curve with Sketchup. Years ago when I was picking it up, there were times I wanted to quit in frustration. While it’s easier than professional drafting software like AutoCAD, that doesn’t mean it’s Easy.
  • The software is not made specifically for the meetings and events industry so while you’ll find things like tables and chairs in the online item library you will likely need to do some curating.
  • In most cases, you will have to first draw the meeting space which you’ll be using. But it may be worthwhile if you’re looking to create a unique design or present an idea that needs visuals to be conveyed.

Bonus: Magic Plan

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If you’d like to create a floor plan but don’t have the dimensions of the room itself, check out Magic Plan. It makes a diagram by taking a series of pictures using your mobile device. There is a charge to export your plan – the low end being $1.99 for one plan or $9.99/month for unlimited plans and going up from there. In my experimenting, it seems likely to work better for a simple empty room, rooms with unusual shapes or items obscuring the walls/corners could require more fine tuning.

Article written by Greg Kamprath, IMS National Account Manager.

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