Referred to affectionately by locals simply as The Book, the best-selling Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt put Savannah on the tourist map. Now Savannah is working its charm on meeting attendees as well. Microsoft and Oracle were the first tech groups to take advantage of Savannah's new conference facilities. IBM has booked for next year.
The Savannah International Trade & Convention Center opened in May. On Hutchinson Island, a two-minute water-taxi ride to the city, the center fronts the Savannah River, offering fascinating views of huge ships slogging by and the port's skyline. The facility offers planners 100,000 square feet of exhibit space and 50,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, a 400-seat multi-media auditorium, and 17 classroom-size meeting rooms and intimate boardrooms. The center is equipped with Category 3 and Category 5 cabling and multifiber-optic connections. An under-the-floor conduit system allows planners to run ancillary cables without cluttering the floor. The facility is ideal for meetings of up to 2,500 people, says Mark J. Leahy, general manager. Since a Savannah citywide means about 750 guest rooms booked, he noted, a small group can take over the town. "The mayor will cut your ribbon," Leahy promises.
Next door to the Savannah International Trade Convention Center, the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort offers 403 guest rooms and three flexible meeting areas--the largest is an 11,500-square-foot ballroom.
REAGAN CENTER: READY FOR PRIME TIME Do you have an event that is really ready for prime time? If you're confident that broadcast networks are going to want to pick up what your CEO has to say, it would be hard to find a better venue than the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. Consider this: When the boss steps in front of the camera to announce a technological breakthrough that will change the way Americans do business, the video signal carrying his image will go directly to the Bell Atlantic Audio-Visual Operations Center where AVOC can switch it directly to CBS, NBC, ABC, C-SPAN ... all the major broadcast and cable networks.
"AVOC is a local switch operated by Bell Atlantic that handles all the fiber links in the city," says Michael Viljoen, director of production at the Reagan Center. "We have a permanent AVOC switch. This is a big deal to fiber providers. It's sort of like being in the big boy's club, to be able to have a direct link to all these news agencies and get a signal out."
In addition to video and satellite broadcasting capabilities, meeting rooms are equipped with high-speed Internet connections and ISDN lines for videoconferencing. Interestingly, the Reagan Center does not operate an Ethernet network. "A lot of the data we're sending in and out of the building is compressed audio and video," explains Viljoen. "An Ethernet basis wouldn't work for us. Of course we do have enough cable in the facility to set up a mini-LAN anywhere in the building, with some point being the hub."
Viljoen says he has nine fiber lines in place, three of which are always lit. "Everything is patchable; I can get from any point to any other point in the building. But there is no inherent technology that's active all the time."
Physically Impressive, Too There are 15 meeting rooms in five suites, divisible for handling events for as few as 20 or as many as 1,000 people. Each meeting suite offers a pre-function area with adjoining pantry, and video monitors for broadcasting meeting schedules, satellite channels, or live conference events from other rooms in the building. According to Giles Beeker, vice president of the Center, an ideal size for a group planning to use the entire building for a meeting is about 600; that way all attendees can be accommodated at, say, plenary sessions in the 625-seat amphitheater. For computer or video presentations, the room has a powerful Sony G-70 rear-screen projection system.
Other public spaces include the 9,800-square-foot Atrium, the 11,473 square-foot Atrium Hall, and the Atrium Ballroom. The amphitheater, hall, and ballroom all have dedicated loading docks and service elevators.
Beneath the Reagan Center's trademark dome is the Pavilion, another public space that can be used for receptions or similar events. Attendees standing directly under the dome can look up and see the ceiling 54 feet above them.
For those who care as much about the neighborhood as the venue itself, the Reagan Center sports a fancy address, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, just two blocks from the White House.
Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the executive directors of technology associations will be able to not only hold meetings and events in Washington, D.C., but also stop in for a little professional refreshment at the Center for Association Leadership. A project of the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives, the proposed Center will have a research center, a high-tech conference room, a club-like lounge in which association executives can meet and do business, a space for holding GWSAE's professional development programs, and a showcase displaying the benefits associations provide to their members and to society at large.
The Center has no address yet, although GWSAE intends to find a convenient downtown location in Washington. To date, more than $4 million has been raised for the project. To learn more, call (202) 312-429-9370, or visit www.gwsae.org.
WINNIPEG'S PRESENTATION WINNER Need to meet in the middle? Think about this: Just about equidistant from San Jose, Calif., and Cambridge, Mass., is the Winnipeg, Manitoba, Convention Centre. Winnipeg only sounds like it's off the beaten track. Actually, if we were holding a meeting at which our CFO was expected to tap-dance through a session with venture capitalists, the city would be our first choice. First, because it demonstrates fiscal responsibility--the U.S. dollar is still almighty in Canada. Second, because it's the home of the world-famous Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and managers could get in a dance lesson or two before heading for the podium.
OK, a real reason to meet in Winnipeg is to use the Convention Centre's Presentation Theatre. This 300-tiered-seat room comes with just about everything today's road warrior needs, including laptop connections (with Internet access) and generous work space at every seat. The room is set to handle live presentations, satellite downlinks, DVD, video, film, and a host of other multimedia configurations. A wireless audience polling system is in place, ideal for focus groups or votes on contentious issues. Three booths for simultaneous interpretation are available. Add a multipart configurable screen, and you've got a winner for tech presentations.
On the floor above the Presentation Room is an exhibition area with 78,000 square feet of pillarless space, capable of handling up to 425 10-by-10 booths, all with full services, including electrical, water, compressed air, gas, steam, drainage, sound, and telephone.
The main space can also be divided into two rooms, one 50,000 square feet, the other 28,000 square feet. A 30-foot open-grid ceiling has provisions for adding another 20 feet of vertical space. The Centre brags that it has accommodated sailboats with full masts raised.
On the floor below the Presentation Room is a 21,600-square-foot space that can be divided into 13 separate meeting rooms. On the same floor are some special-purpose rooms, including a VIP suite with its own bar and private restrooms.
The Centre has cold-weather operation all figured out, including a heated indoor loading dock with space for seven trailer trucks and heated indoor parking for drive-in attendees. As further protection from the elements, a second-floor skyway directly connects with the 389-room Crowne Plaza Winnipeg Downtown Hotel. Also conveniently located on the second floor of the building are the offices of convention services suppliers, including AV companies, independent event organizers, and a few retail shops and services.
Winnipeg is still a bit behind the big American speed demons when it comes to connectivity. The network is only a 10BaseT Ethernet, although it is built on a state-of-the-art fiber backbone that was installed last year. Local ISP service is available through the Centre, as is phone service, according to Harvey Cohen, manager of information systems. "When the technology changes, we'll have the backbone to accommodate it," he says. To learn more, visit the Web site at www.wpgconvctr.mb.ca.
Winnipeg Resources Here is a selection of conference event services, organized by name, service, and phone number. * Berkowitz Ltd.,Management, (204) 228-3193
* Bowering (Int'l) Group, Event Planners, (204) 958-7540
* Cedars Communications Services, Public Relations & Special Events Management, (204) 453-5770
* Conexsys Registration Systems, Computerized Registration System & Show Management Co., (204) 269-3543
* Corpav Presentation Group, Audio/Video Services (204) 989-2592
* Frontline Associates, Events Management, (204) 254-2293
* Northern Lights Meeting Planners Inc., Meeting & Conference Planning, (204) 925-3000