special report REAGAN CENTER: READY FOR PRIME TIME From the podium to the world: The Reagan Center takes events straight to the networks.
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.