Success as an event manager is often considered a mix of strong organizational skills, savvy negotiating, and bubbling creativity, but some days it's simply knowing all the right questions to ask.
Here is the second installment of a two-part column on the audiovisual issues to consider as you talk with facility managers and conference services representatives. In this issue, I cover questions regarding connectivity, pricing, and service levels. For a discussion of sound and projection systems, see our July/August issue, archived on the Web at www.meetingsnet.com. Upcoming articles will expand these first two columns, and I also hope to answer your own specific audiovisual questions. Let me know where you have concerns or doubts, or would like definition. I'll be happy to dig up your answers.
Communications Telephone. What is the nature of telephone service to the meeting room? Is there a house phone to permit easy calling for help? Does the phone access go through the facility's switchboard or is it a direct line? How many analog lines are available? What is the nature of ISDN or T1 service? Are there any lines to other areas in the facility?
Internet. How are Internet services provided? Is the facility re-selling a local provider or does it have access to first-tier providers? Some facilities are establishing their own ISPs (Internet Service Providers) in-house for their guests. This can provide high-speed access at very competitive prices.
Computers. How does the facility handle multiple computer events? Do you or does the facility have access to a computer instruction system (in which each attendee or small group of attendees is provided with a networked computer and the instructor can view and manipulate any student's computer, displaying anyone's screen for the group to view)?
When the facility arranges with an outside company to rent computers, what is the financial arrangement? The property either (1) gets a discount that it keeps as a commission, or (2) marks up the rental price as a commission, or (3) both of the above. It is appropriate to charge a reasonable service fee or commission to compensate the property for making these arrangements, but know what the arrangement is and what percentage is being charged. Will there be a technician available at all times to resolve problems?
Services * Does the facility offer in-house expertise or does it have an outside audiovisual services and/or equipment vendor? If the facility has an in-house department, is the staff solely responsible for AV or do they also serve as catering or engineering staff? What is the quality of the in-house equipment?
* How flexible is pricing? Is everything included or will you be charged a la carte for accessories such as projector carts, skirting, and slide trays. If the facility is a conference center, what types of audiovisual services and equipment are included in the CMP (complete meeting package) price? Can you trade elements of the package you don't need for those you do?
* How does the facility handle meeting clients who bring their own equipment?
* Will there be a dedicated conference services representative before and during the event? Will an audiovisual services technician be available? Is that per- son dedicated or on-call? What is his or her skill level? Is that person certified by an independent association, such as the International Communications Industries Association's Certified Technology Specialist?