Marriott International has been in the news a lot in the last few months, specifically in regards to whether or not it has the right to block personal Wi-Fi devices on its properties. Many think the matter has been resolved, with Marriott “caving in” to consumer backlash and criticism from the likes of Microsoft and Google. But this story is far from over if you go a little deeper, and isn’t nearly as cut and dry as some sensationalist headlines and Tweets may have led you to believe.Read More
Filtering by Category: Production
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE First Ever Live Radio Show for the Event Industry Moves to Video, Adds New Team Members, Changes Air Day
Weekly online talk show will address challenges and bridge the gap between planners around the world in a new format, reaching thousands of event professionals each year
WASHINGTON, January 15
After 46 audio episodes last year, weekly online talk show Event Alley (www.eventalleyshow.com) is teaming up with new sponsors Eventsforce and HighRoad Solution to advance the event industry through a new video format.
Launched in January 2013, Event Alley offers business professionals the opportunity to ask for advice on challenges and current event projects, learn about new and exciting tools for planners, talk to leading authorities interviewed on air, hear about news stories affecting the industry, and give opinions on topics important to the community. The show will now air live weekly on Wednesdays at 10:00 AM PST / 1:00 PM EST / 7:00 PM CET, with recordings available in video and audio formats on the web.
Lindsey Rosenthal continues as the show’s executive producer and host, and will be joined weekly by Brandt Krueger, an event technology specialist based at metroConnections in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Canadian event producer Tahira Endean, CMP, of Cantrav Services in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Event Alley will return on Wednesday, January 22, with hosts Lindsey Rosenthal, Brandt Krueger, and Tahira Endean addressing recent events, industry news, and engaging live with audience members about experiences at The Special Event in Nashville, Tennessee, and PCMA’s Convening Leaders in Boston, Massachusetts.
About Event Alley Lindsey Rosenthal is the chief strategist of Events For Good (www.eventsforgood.org), a consulting firm helping nonprofits learn how to more effectively raise money through events. Rosenthal combines customized and memorable event experiences and effective and successful fundraising campaigns to yield impressive results based on the practice of fundraising event strategy.
Brandt Krueger is the director of video and production technology at metroConnections (www.metroconnections.com), which offers a single source for creating and managing the entire event experience from conferences and meetings to stage productions and transportation. For more than a decade, Brandt Krueger has been instrumental in the technology and production aspects of delivering client “wow” moments.
Tahira Endean is the director of creative and production at Cantrav Services (www.cantrav.com), a people-based organization that brings together the knowledge and passion of a team built over 30 continuous years of serving meetings, events and incentives to create smart, memorable and relevant programs.
Audience feedback is one of the most important ways you can improve you meetings and events. Comment cards or surveys can help guide you when it comes to crafting your next event, but why not take advantage of the group while you have them and get real-time feedback? When you’re looking for a rough idea of how an audience is feeling, just having a show of hands might be sufficient. When it comes time for an exact vote count, or if you just want to add a splash of technology to your meeting, you may want to consider many of the great interactive polling options available.
Interactive polling technology goes by many names and comes in many packages. The most common of the options is still, by far, the wireless keypad. These are handheld devices with a number keypad on them and perhaps an LED display to let the voter know their vote has been counted.
Different people refer to these keypads in different ways. Here’s just a few of them:
- APT (Audience Polling Technology)
- ART (Audience Response Technology)
- Voting Keypads
- Reply System (A brand name of voting keypad)
- Audience Clickers
- Voting Doohickies (I have a client that won’t call them anything else)
There are scores of different makes and models of these keypad devices, but they all pretty much run the same way. The presenter will ask a question and usually display a slide with the answer options. An example might be “Which of our products do you think has the highest profit margin? 1) Wrenches, 2) Hammers, or 3) Screwdrivers.” Sometimes this slide is displayed via specially designed software. In other systems the options might be embedded in a PowerPoint deck.
Note: Many of the dedicated software systems for APT haven’t been updated in a long time, so they can look a little dated. However, with a few modern exceptions, I haven’t found embedding the polling in PowerPoint to be very stable, and can cause crashes. I’ll take a little dated and stable over pretty and likely to blow up, any day.
Once the question has been posed, the audience members take their keypads and enter in the number that corresponds to their answer. If the keypad has a display, the number they entered will display to indicate that their vote has been registered. The keypads operate on a closed wireless network, and send their signals to a base station located backstage or at the tech table. This base station is hooked up to a laptop where the data is crunched and the results can be displayed- again via dedicated software or embedded in PowerPoint.
The speaker is now able to address the results in real time. If the audience chose screwdrivers as being the most profitable, but in actuality hammers are, it can serve as an educational moment for both the speaker and the audience. It’s not difficult to imagine that this kind of real time information can be extremely valuable to C and D level executive wanting to know if their corporate messaging and education are actually sinking in with the rank and file.
The biggest advantage to this type of interactive polling is that is is a closed network, compared to some of the options we’re about to look at. It should come as no surprise then that these types of hardware solutions are popular with financial and medical groups, where security and confidentiality are extremely important. We recently provided polling keypads for a group that was so secure that the techs had to leave the room during deliberations, and only allowed back in to run the equipment during the “Is the motion adopted? Yes or No” phase.
Many of the handheld solutions have been around a while, and as such can look a little dated in the era of smartphones. There are a few high end models, however, that offer their users a whole new level of interactivity. These new models feature full QWERTY keyboards, color display screens, and even built in microphone and wireless audio support. If the voting needs to be tracked, attendees can insert a special encoded badge into the keypad, identifying them. To return to anonymous polling, they simply need to remove the badge. This kind of tracking allows this hardware to do more than just polling and relaying audience questions. It allows them to manage other portions of your event, such as silent auction bidding.
While they can be quite a bit more expensive when compared to the old standby keypads, they can replace many other expensive systems at an event, such as wireless translation headsets, and audience QnA microphones. When used to their full potential they can be worth every penny and provide a rich, fully interactive experience.
Just as conference and trade show brochures are being phased out in favor of mobile phone applications, so to are the old polling keypads. With the majority of meeting and conference goers walking around with a wireless supercomputer in their pocket, more and more planners are exploring the world of mobile and web-based polling technology. There are many services out there, and they’re all a little different, so it’s extremely important to know your audience and know at what level of interaction they’re mostly likely to participate. Some Internet-based services even allow users to vote through multiple options, increasing the response rate dramatically. These options include voting via text message, a mobile web site, or even via Twitter.
Many mobile event apps are building in the ability to push polling to their users in an attempt to be the “One App to Rule Them All”. Others use stand alone polling apps, and still others use mobile web pages. Whichever route you go, be sure to take into account how that data will be gathered and displayed. Almost all of these services are going to require internet access of some kind in order for the attendees to send their responses, so there either needs to be quality cellular data services or WiFi available. This is where text message polling can come in handy, as the cellular connectivity level for sending texts is much lower than data. In other words, you can send a text message with “only one bar” of signal much easier than you can access a mobile web page on the data network.
Much like the keypad network, the responses are sent to a central location, only instead of a wireless base station, the responses are sent to a server provided by the service. Results can then be accessed via the web, so once again you’ll need to make sure whatever machine needs to display the results has a solid internet connection in order to retrieve the data.
Note: Be sure to get an idea of what the results display will look like, too. Many of the mobile apps that have built in polling don’t have an effective way of displaying that data live in the room, and are designed more to replace comment cards than to be truly interactive polling. Even in full screen mode they might have scrollbars, links, and logos (other than yours) on the results page.
These services are growing in popularity exponentially with our customers. We find that once they dip their toes in the interactive polling pool, they become addicted (in a good way) to that instant feedback. Everything from educational quizzes and game shows, to voting on what to name their internal network, customers are finding more and more creative uses for live interactive polling.
It is no secret that being a good communicator is key to success in business. We value those who have the ability to communicate well, and that often includes public speaking. One proven tool to aid in the delivery of a speech or presentation is the teleprompter. However, knowing when and how to use one may be just as instrumental in earning that standing ovation.
History of the Teleprompter Simply put, a teleprompter is a device that “prompts” the person speaking with a visual text of a speech or script. This allows the reader to read the text word for word, ensuring a consistent and accurate speech, while maintaining the illusion of spontaneity.
In the 1950s, Fred Barton, Jr. came up with the idea of a teleprompter as an actor. He later helped found the TelePrompTer Corporation, which built the first devices. Although in some countries it may be referred to as an AutoCue (a UK brand name), the TelePrompTer name has become the generic term for these devices in most of the world.
The earliest teleprompter was nothing more than a scroll of paper with a script printed on it that was then run over a mechanical device operated by a hidden technician. It wasn’t long before the initial version was improved upon by becoming automated and mounted on a television camera. These improvements, though better than cue cards and a standalone prompter, were not enough because the speaker was still looking slightly off camera. Thus came the next, and most important improvement: reflective glass.
Instead of being mounted facing the speaker, the prompter was mounted below the camera and facing up, or mounted above the camera and facing down, with the text reflected off a piece of glass directly in front of the camera lens. The placement and construction of this glass prevented it from being seen by the camera and allowed the speaker to look directly into the camera while reading.
The computer revolution in the 1980s brought many advances. Scrolling paper rolls were replaced with monitors and computer-generated text as early as 1982, but were still in use as late as 1992. The advancement of technology has also enabled teleprompters to become lighter and thinner, straying away from old bulky ray tube monitors to ultra-slim flat screen monitors. Voice recognition software has also played a part. For example, high-end news organizations are testing teleprompters with the ability to be voice activated, ensuring that the prompter is always going the right speed for the speaker.
Today’s Types of Teleprompters The three main modern types of teleprompters are camera mounted, presidential, and floor or stand mounted.
- The camera mounted teleprompter, as we’ve already discussed, works with text being bounced off special glass placed in front of the lens. This type of prompter is used mainly for pre-recorded videos for speakers, guests, or top-level management. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, weights and need to be coordinated with the AV provider to make sure that the right type is used and matches the camera.
- The presidential teleprompter works basically in the same manner as the camera mounted monitor, except the mirrored glass is mounted at the end of a thin pole instead of on a camera. However, just like the on-camera models, the speaker is able to look directly at the audience through the glass as if it were not there. This is great for a live event. They are almost always used in pairs - one to the left and one to the right of center - encouraging the speaker to change focus and look at the entire audience.
- The floor/stand teleprompter can be placed at an angle on the floor, mounted on a stand, or hung from rigging points in the back of the room. When using them by themselves, floor mounted prompters can be just as good as presidential prompters but it can cause the speaker to look down more or make them appear as if they are only talking to the first two rows of attendees.
In addition to the actual teleprompter itself, there are some other components that are also essential -- the software and the remote control. Both camera mounted and presidential prompters require images to be reflected off of a piece of glass, which then requires that the original text be reversed. All professional prompter software should have this feature. Teleprompters also require a way in which to stop, start, and manipulate the speed of text.
When should/shouldn’t you use a Teleprompter? Using teleprompters, such as a presidential monitor, infers professionalism and makes a speaker look more “presidential.” In general, prompters make the speaker look better as they allow them to connect with the audience, whether live or prerecorded, through eye contact, and studies have shown that eye contact can be a major factor in whether or not we trust someone.
The average person (not a trained actor, or someone with a photographic memory) has a difficult time memorizing large chunks of text. This is why many speakers use PowerPoint or notecards to keep them on-track. However, these methods can be cumbersome and make the presenter feel the need to add graphics or slides when they may not be relevant or useful. Teleprompters are also used when a speaker needs to convey a lot of detail or technical specifications.
Just as knowing when to use a teleprompter is important, knowing when NOT to use one is just as essential. The budget of an event can play a very big part in the use of a teleprompter, because you not only have to pay for the equipment but you have to pay for the person to operate it. Cost is not the only factor when considering a teleprompter; the environment is just as important. If the room and audience are small, the use of a teleprompter might be awkward. Imagine being in a small breakout session and having the speaker behind a pair of presidential monitors.
Preparing Speakers for a Teleprompter Picking the right equipment is only half the battle when it comes to delivering a good speech. The speaker and the speech itself have to be a finely tuned machine. Options include hiring a speechwriter, which is surprisingly inexpensive, and they can work with the speaker to hone a message and to use language comfortable for the speaker. It is very important to write as one speaks, because if the language isn’t familiar, it often sounds stiff and awkward.
Not only does the speech have to be well written, the speaker delivering it has to also be well trained. The speaker should rehearse in the space before the event and allow plenty of time with the prompter itself. Even the most experienced speaker can find a prompter a little unsettling for the first time. Otherwise, a prompter will likely hurt the presentation, rather than help it.
One of the most important tips is to make sure that the speaker knows they are in control, not the teleprompter. It’s the operator’s job to make sure the speaker has the words they need, when they need them, not the job of the speaker to try and “keep up” with the prompter.
Conclusion In conclusion, knowing your audience, your prompter equipment, and your speech will ultimately reward you with a successful presentation. It is wise when budgeting to accommodate for not only the equipment itself, but for the operator and a possible script writer as well. Also, make sure that plenty of time is allowed for rehearsal and practice. Practicing with the equipment and with the operator can help make or break a perfect prompter presentation.
Originally published at metroConnections.com
This is the tale of two clients. The names and details have been changed to protect the innocent.
The question: Which client got the better value for their money?
The show: Both clients requested pricing for almost identical situations- a 500+ person sales conference, including AV, stage design, meeting room decor, graphics and PPT template design, special event design and decor for their awards banquet, and production support, including show caller, technical director, and production manager. There would also be some post-meeting video editing of the footage. Both bids were full scale meeting productions, but were based on some smaller work we’d done with each client, so this was a big inroad for us in each situation. As such, very reasonable pricing was given out of the gate to help sweeten the deal, in order to get the larger portion of the total event expense.
Client A- The Negotiator. Even given the initial generous pricing, the client negotiated the price even further down, until a lot of what we pitched was dropped down to at cost or below cost to get the business. Many services were even thrown in for no-cost, including the post production editing, which is my time. Hey, we all know this happens a lot, especially with new clients. Once you get the business, you hope to recoup over the long-term relationship you build with the client.
They continued to question every single price in the process, citing non-realistic consumer level (think Home Depot) and internet pricing for room decor (which did not include labor, setup, delivery, etc). They changed one of their conference days from a half day to a full day, and seemed outraged that we’d charge more for labor for the AV crew. They questioned the roughly 10% (a couple hundred bucks) in profit we sought to gain for arranging the hanging of several thousand square feet of ceiling treatments. They tried to cut staff that we weren’t charging for anyway in hopes of further discounts.
On top of the negotiating, they also kept requesting more and more of the “free” services we were providing. More graphics, more video, alternate edits, and “oh by the way”s galore. We finally had to put our foot down and start line item-ing each and every addition, which inevitably meant more price negotiation on each and every item.
On site, and throughout the conference, there was even more of these add-ons, and truth be told I couldn’t help but feel like they thought they owned me for the run of the show. We continued to line item every item, every request, and we only did what was asked of us and no more.
I also got the feeling they were looking for mistakes, cataloging every minor detail and filing it away, so that after the conference they could come back for more money off the bill. We always strive for the perfect show, but in my 15 years in the business, I’ve only seen maybe one where absolutely nothing went wrong and this was no exception. Additionally, a lot of equipment and crew redundancy was cut due to the budget concerns. Unfortunately there are some clients that you can't help but feel that they count on trying to get money back at the end of a program, by accumulating a list of things they're dissatisfied with and disputing the bill. The entire conference run was one of stress and anxiety.
After the show I was tired, cranky, bitter, and feeling a little used.
Client B- Minnesota Nice. Almost the polar opposite of Client A. While budget conscious, there was never the feeling of constant nit-picking or chiseling. They seemed to understand that things A) cost money, and B) we might make a profit on them. Whenever things were added, they were always amenable to adding to the overall bill. Above all else, they were always extremely polite, and very understanding of the time and effort that goes in to putting on a conference. As their conference went on, I genuinely came to like the people involved- the conference committee, the executives, the attendees. As a result, as I look back, I actually did a lot more for them than Client A. All the little add-ons didn’t feel so bad, and I found myself wanting to help them make their conference better and better for their attendees. They added a rush order to the post-production, and even after a week of travel I found myself wanting to work through the weekend to get it done for them so that they could get the conference materials into the hands of their folks in the field.
Due to hotel restrictions, we were forced to use the in-house AV, and unfortunately for our client, they really stunk up the house. Tons of equipment and crew issues. In the case of Client A, we might have been tempted to just shrug our shoulders and say, “Not our fault”, but instead we were right there in the fray, passionately advocating for our client, making sure they were dealt with fairly in the end.
Since the program, we’ve even provided some “at cost” services to help them out with the post production distribution. Why? Because they asked nicely.
After the show I was tired, but really looking forward to the next time we work with Client B.
My Take: While we all agree that, in theory, all clients should receive the same treatment, I think we can also agree that that’s not human nature. In the end, the two companies' bills, minus the differences between the two shows, were probably only a few thousand dollars different. I’d be curious to know, if they knew each other, which client thought they got the best deal- the best value for their money. My guess is that they both would think so. In my heart of hearts, I’d have to say that at least when it came to my time, my effort, Client B got the most value for their money, and will continue to do so as long as we have the privilege to work with them.
I am not anti-negotiation. Around the office I have the (occasionally derogatory) nickname “Consumer Brandt” because I detest bad customer service and have no trouble telling people when I believe they’re giving it to me. I will not hesitate to ask for fees to be waived, prices matched, or things to be thrown in. But there is a line, and it’s largely a matter of tact, manners, and polite civility to know when that line's been crossed. There’s working the system, and there’s abusing the system...
As I move forward, I’m going to try and keep all this in mind as I work with our vendors. I’d like to think to a certain extent that I do already, but it never hurts to try harder, right?
So what do you think? Who got the better value? Does it matter who the client is and who the vendor is? Why?
The number one question that I've seen come out of Event Camp Twin Cites regarding the technical side of things is, "Dude, what happened at the end?" For those that did not see it, there was an almost comic meltdown of the Skype connections to the Pods. A kind and well written summary from Mitchell Beer can be found Here.
Some of this is conjecture, as we had to tear down and vacate the venue in very short order, so further testing could not be done. What follows is a rough compilation of the many things that contributed to not only the bizarre ending to ECTC11, but the Skype problems in general throughout the conference.
It has been asked, rightfully so, why didn't we test all of this before going live. I can tell you that as far as we were concerned we did. They tested the lines, they tested the calls to all the pods, we tested the inputs, we tested the outputs, we tested the video inputs, we tested the video outputs. It's a valuable lesson in something we all know- that there's no such thing as too much testing, or taking those test too far. Sometimes it's just not enough.
All of the following contributed and played off each other, and unfortunately it is the interplay that caused the most serious problems- most of which would not have shown up in anything other than full scale, live testing, with the actual participants in the actual rooms with the actual equipment. And probably the correct alignment of Mercury thrown in just for good measure. ECTC, in essence became the full size test. At least it's an environment that's theoretically set up for that purpose...
So here it is, to the best of my ability:
1) The number of pods- Last year there were two pods. In true Event Camp Twin Cities fashion, they pushed the envelope and tried to have 9. Eventually that number reduced to 7. Because of the number of pods, especially the original 9, it seemed impractical to have nine dedicated machines, and we decided to try the group calling feature of Skype and had 4 pods on one computer, and 3 on another. So having so many pods is why we started combining them on machines, which leads to...
2) Combining Pods 1- Combining the pods created a lot of noise on each of the two Skype machines. Instead of one person at a time, you now had bunches of people talking, waving, saying hi, and I think that Skype was clamping down on some feeds to "promote" others. It's certainly the way it sounded in the headphones of the audio rig. The wrong pods were being brought to the front of the mix. It would make sense that Skype is geared towards what it's generally considered use is- chat between one or more individuals. When individuals are chatting, we tend to wait our turn. The noise from some pods seemed to be canceling other pods out, much like a Google Hangout tries to "decide" who's talking, and that can be overridden by someone typing to loudly. To make matters worse, there was the problem in #4, but we'll get to that in a second. All of this would be fixable if only we had the ability to somehow mute the audio of some of the pods when one was speaking, which leads us to...
3) Combining pods 2- According to the Podmaster (as I desperately probed around for a solution to stop the madness), there was no way to mute individual pods on Skype. I do not know this for sure, as I don't personally have the premium version of Skype with the multi-person chat. What I do know is that the recent redesign of the interface for Skype is a bloody mess, and if there were controls to mute the audio, good luck finding them. You're more likely to accidently bring up and call your Aunt Judy trying to figure out the right combination of hidden rollovers and hieroglyphs.
It should be noted at this point, that in a further attempt to salvage the segment, we hung up on all the pods and tried calling a couple of them one at a time. When we knocked it down to a single call to Amsterdam, though, their audio feed was clearly being cut in and out by the noise limiter on Skype. I am again not familiar enough with Skype to know if there's a setting that could have been changed on their end, but it was again very obvious when listening via headphones. It may have been possible to overcome with some time, perhaps by having someone come closer to the mic on the computer and by having all other hush, but before we got to that point I was told we had Silicon Valley on the line on the other machine. When we connected on a single call to Silicon Valley, Mike appeared to be on a headset, and it sounded awesome. I plugged and unplugged the audio jacks on the Mac so I could talk to him- the drawback of routing the audio signal through the house was that we didn't have a good talkback method, and we were all set to go back to him. Unfortunately, though, we just plain ran out of time. We had a hard out at 2pm, Kurt was wrapping things up in the room, and the decision was made to scrap it.
4) Pod instructions/Combining Pods 3- (sensing a common thread?) Despite meticulous instructions, and without throwing anyone under the bus, it seemed like every time we went to a Skype machine, at least one of the three (or four) would have their audio turned up on the Sonic Foundry feed. This contributed to the confusion, and exacerbated problems 2 and 3 because we couldn't mute them. People still weren't listening to the right feed, and the delay ate us alive. Furthermore, the audio in the room then contains the potted-up Skype audio, which contained the audio of the delayed webcast feed, which is now being sent back to the other pods. Yeesh...
5) Panic. I regret having to put this one in, but it's true. When things go south, your mind is racing, and you try everything you can think of. Sometimes, though, the moment passes and it just wasn't enough. You don't think of a solution until the next day. Or the next week. It's like that great comeback for an insult that you don't think of until the jerk's walked away.
I can't imagine what it was like up there for Sam, and he kept his cool very well. The best description I heard was that he was the straight guy in a comedy routine that he didn't know he was in. My suggestion in perfect 20-20 hindsight, however, is that when the first one wasn't answering, we needed to just stop and wait to see how long it took them to respond. Discover their delay and deal with it. Some have suggested some kind of in-room clock or audio cue in dealing with delayed audiences, as continuing to speak (while a perfectly natural reaction) only adds to the confusion.
If an actual 30 seconds went by, which I know is an ETERNITY, then we'd know that something was wrong beyond them just being on the wrong feed. As it was, it felt like Sam would move on in what seemed to me to be less than 20 seconds, and then we're suddenly being answered by the Pod he'd just left. He'd try and go back to that one, only to be answered by the one he'd just moved on to.
So that's what happened. Feel free to pick it apart and tell me what I may have missed. And if you know where it is, for the love of God please share where the mute button is in Skype.
Otherwise, my recommendations coming out of this are:
1) Reduce the number of Pods if at all possible to 4, and put them all on their own machines. 4 inputs is where the lowest levels of video switchers tend to hang around, so you can have a dedicated switch just for flipping between Pods for not a lot of money. That switch then sends its signal to whatever your main video switcher is. If you need to scale up, scale at that point and get a bigger Skype switcher, but I really feel like 1-1 machines might be imperative to making this all work.
2) Maybe to reduce noise, perhaps you give "voice" to the leaders of the pods and give them a headset? Just spitballing... It might overcome the limitations of combining pods.
3) If the machines are separated, your audio feeds will need to be separated, so again your going to need more channels on your audio mixer, or a completely separate mixer for the Skype machines. Either way, it gets you individual control over the audio feeds, and you can mute whoever's mixing margaritas in the background.
4) Did any of the pods notice they were being fed the main video feed instead of looking out the I-Sight cameras in the MacBooks? What's your feedback on the video quality, other than any buffering or obvious Skype-related things? I'm still experimenting, and if I figure it out I'll share. We may try it again at Event Camp Europe. Suffice it to say that it's remarkably low tech and inexpensive, and I think could be a really nice key to making this all work.
5) It should go without saying, but I will. When it comes to trying new tech, try and emulate the final use scenario as closely as possible during testing. We thought we had, but clearly there were factors at work that we didn't anticipate. At least now you know to...