Thursday, March 27, 2014

Smartphone as Crowd Mic? We’re Not there Yet

There was a buzz in the events industry this month over a new app that allows attendees to use their smartphone as a mic at presentations.

This sparked a lot of interest, and rightfully so. We all hate that downtime and awkwardness that comes when a moderator hustles around the room with a mic during Q&As. Or when we have to repeat questions or shout them in the room.

Crowd Mics App
Crowd Mics is a great idea, but it's
not a solution for large events yet.
But as good as it sounds, I’m sorry, as a tech and AV guy I have to tell you that the technology just isn’t there yet for people to use their smartphones as microphones at events.

Launched in February 2014, Crowd Mics is an innovative smartphone app that allows members of an audience to connect their smartphones to the event’s sound system. With Crowd Mics, your audience’s smartphones can now be turned into wireless microphones.

It’s free for 20 people or less, but if you want 50 people to have access to Crowd Mics then you will have to pay $25.

The app works simply. The presenter first needs to plug their smartphone in the room’s sound system, then create a name and access code unique to the particular event. Both are given to the members of the audience, eliminating the risk of “rogue” commenters in the process. The presenter then directs the audience on how to download the app and join the event.

Throughout the presentation, the presenter (or the moderator) is offered several options—either to let someone speak, mute them, or enable an “open mic” mode that lets members of the audience comment at the same time.

It’s a great idea, and it could be great for small events or booths, but it’s not a large-scale solution yet.  
Anyone who wants any type of professional audio is not going to want to use it yet. For one, it works off of bluetooth and IP protocol, and the technology just isn’t there yet to work seamlessly. If that connection drops or drags at all it’s going to stall the show.

It’s the same reason you can’t do a full wireless show yet. You have 500 devices or more trying to connect over wifi, you’re going to have inconsistency. Even if you saturate the floor with airports they’re going to drop signals.

The tech is just not there for a pro style conference Q&A. If a conference came to me and they had more than 50 people in a room and wanted to use it, I’d make them sign off that there’s a 50/50 chance this isn’t going to work.

But first I’d try to talk them out of it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Does Google Glass Mean for Events?

Since its introduction it in 2012, Google Glass has been the subject of discussions and debates. The wearable, voice-controlled Android device that was made available for beta testing to a handful of applicants in 2012 has now become one of the decade’s most anticipated gadgets. 

With its commercial release scheduled for 2014, everyone is talking about Google Glass and—more specifically—what it could mean for events and trade shows.

Google Glass
Google Glass could revolutionize the event experience. 

What is Google Glass?

Before going any further, let’s first take a look at what exactly Google Glass encompasses. If you have been following the evolution of this device for a while, you know that this wearable computer can be worn just like any other pair of regular glasses. What sets Google Glass apart from those glasses, however, is its ability to respond to commands—and this is when things become interesting.

Many people refer to Glass as a hands-free smartphone. From what we know so far about it— thanks to this video—it is. The tiny, head-mounted display screen set above the eye allows you to perform a wide array of everyday tasks without ever requiring you to move a finger. 

It does not matter whether you need to find information, translate a sentence in English, take a picture or even record a video—Google Glass does it all for you.

Attendees and Google Glass

Let's say you are attending a technology trade show next year. While wandering around the venue, you come across a product that you think could potentially benefit your company. Had you still been in the year 2013, taking out your smartphone and finding the appropriate app—namely, the camera—would have been necessary. Now you can simply talk and let the magic happen. 

“Google Glass, take a picture.” (If you're comfortable talking to it in public, of course.)

For attendees, Google Glass would mean a revolution in simplicity. This enhanced event experience would promote conversation on social networks, and it would be easier than ever for attendees to share their newfound knowledge with the entire world…
Or simply with people back at the office.

Event Organizers and Google Glass

What does it mean for event organizers when on-site content is being shared on Twitter and Facebook? More exposure, of course—and for event organizers there’s never enough of it. As more and more content is being shared on social medias, the event organizers—and even the exhibitors—definitely benefit from the increased interest shown by the public.

Google Glass, however, might not only simplify the process of sharing on-site content online—it might even simplify the process of finding that content (in real life, that is). By downloading an event app with a full Google Glass integration, everyone at the event would have a clear idea of where locations of interest are situated on the premises.

Drawbacks of Google Glass

As with every new technology, it is impossible to say that Google Glass is without its potential drawbacks. For one, event organizers would have to become really good at social networking to reap the full benefits of increased exposure. They would also need to find a way to handle the ever-expanding need for Wi-Fi connectivity.

The possibilities are endless, and with its commercial release just around the corner, it is quite likely that this device ends up revolutionizing the way we not only see and organize events—but the way we experience them as well.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Most Frustrating Trends in the Events Industry

I posted a simple question in an attempt to gauge how people feel about where things are heading in the events industry. "What's everyone's least favorite trend in the event and trade show industry?" I asked. 

That elicited quite the response, and yes, much of it was venting. But among the dozens of answers from pros in our field were some incredibly thought-provoking responses. I've picked out some of the best, most interesting responses here, with a few thoughts of my own where I have something worthwhile to add. 

Marguerite Esrock, Director of the St. James Court Art Show
"As cities fight to keep their budgets in line, I'm finding they pass on additional city service increases to event planners with out any notification."

JD:  This is happening everywhere and it's a real issue that's only going to get more noticeable as cities face up to years of pushing off budget problems. Event organizers are being asked to foot more of the bill for security, traffic control, trash collection, or higher fees for renting public spaces. 

Nathalie Lajoie, Manager of Conferences and Special Projects for Electro-Federation
"The saying that Event Planning is easy, pick a date and a hotel, and everything magically happens."

Anne Thornley-Brown, Team Building and Retreat Facilitator  
I am noticing that many companies are planning everything in-house without the input of professional event planners. The result? A packed agenda crammed with wall-to-wall content that satisfies no one.

JD:  This one is all too true. Something will happen, but without planning, without the right tech, and certainly without the right people, that something will probably not be very impressive. When a show goes well, you can bet there was a lot of planning and experience that went into it. Thornley-Brown actually wrote a great post about this specific topic for CVENT here>>

Matthieu Chaumin, Le Public Systeme
"Here in France event management is one of the only remaining communication businesses that is still most of the time a "one shot" operation (without long term contracts enabling real strategies to be set). "

Conference Table
Speaking here doesn't make you a great speaker for an event. Photo
courtesy of
JD:  At Rentfusion we have some venues that we've worked with for a decade, and relationships like that are invaluable. Not just because it's consistent work, but because it allows you to do great work because you can build on the past and know each other so well. This is rare in our industry. 

Joan Elsenstodt, Hospitality and Meetings Industry Trainer
"Modeling everything after TED or TEDX and thinking it's the only innovation out there."

JD:  Joan's point yielded a lot of response on its own. As Joel A. Feingold, a meetings and events producer, pointed out:

"There are certain elements to a successful presentation in what folks understand as TED Talks. TED Talks are concise, well practiced delivery of information supported by visual aids that make sense, executed within the short time frame that is an average attendee's attention span. A stellar TED Talk results from the speaker performing a ruthless edit to their content to whittle it down to its essence. One specific thing is the single focus of the presentation, supported by appropriate detail. It's way more than staging or style. It's rigorous planning and rehearsal by the presenter, resulting in a superior learning experience for the attendees."

Finally, John Lowe, a speaker at Be Compelling Now, brought up the lack of training for so many speakers.

"This is not a trend but a constant. There is no concerted effort to help speakers, especially this conducting breakout sessions, to be better communicators. Most conferences are educational in nature, and most breakout presentations are dreadful. If event planners would provide effective presentation support, not simply AV help, it would increase the overall attendee satisfaction and make those events that much more effective and popular. Most panelists don't understand, it's not about them. It's about the audience."

This is just a small sampling of a great, ongoing discussion.

If you'd like to join similar discussions, you should join us on Linkedin in the Event Planning and Event Management group. There are lively, educational discussions here daily!

John Dubielak is the Vice President of Operations for Rentfusion, which offers AV rentals, computer rentals, and all manner of equipment for meeting planners, tradeshows, convention hosts, exhibitors and event planners nationwide. Follow Rentfusion on Twitter at @rentfusion and on Linkedin.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Best of 2013 - Our Most-read Posts

When you write a blog post, you never know if it's going to catch people's attention. Some you love don't go anywhere. Some you toss together go crazy!

Now that the year is done and the results are in, we give you the best from the Rentfusion blog in 2013, in order of popularity.

1. iPads for Events, 3 New Ways You Can Use Them 
No surprise here, as iPads are increasingly becoming must-haves to get the most out of conferences and meetings.

2. How Technology Has Changed Trade Shows
We're always talking about these changes, so it's no surprise to us that the rest of the industry is too.

3. 8 Reasons Video Sells At Trade Shows
OK, it's a list post. Who doesn't like lists?

4. How to Get Conference Goers to Use Your Event App
The popularity of this post DID surprise us. We didn't realize so many people were struggling to get people to use the apps they had put so much work into developing. Hope this was put to good use! Thanks to Heidi Thorne for digging into this for us!

5. Venues Face Google Glass Adjustment
Few things sparked as much conversation in person or on Twitter as Google Glass did this year. We took a look beyond "cool" and into what this fascinating new technology could mean to venues in our industry.

6. Being an AV Pro in an IT Centric World
This seed was planted in a Linkedin discussion, and we asked Eric Byrd to hop onto our blog to flesh out the debate for us. Not surprisingly, it sparked even more debate after we published.

7. 5 Cities You Didn't Know Were Great for Meetings and Events
A personal favorite because we got to highlight a few of our favorite under-rated cities like Nashville, St. Louis, and Little Rock.

8. Women in AV - A Q&A With An Advocate 
One of the most important topics in our industry is the lack of female candidates to fill our AV positions and seats in classrooms. Big thank you to Jennifer H. Willard for taking the time to answer our questions and give some challenging responses.

John Dubielak is the Vice President of Operations for Rentfusion, which offers AV rentals, computer rentals, and all manner of equipment for meeting planners, tradeshows, convention hosts, exhibitors and event planners nationwide. Follow Rentfusion on Twitter at @rentfusion and on Linkedin.

Friday, December 27, 2013

2014 - What's Ahead for Events and Tradeshows

The year that passed has been one of massive change in our industry.

We went from tablets being a nice-to-have in January to a ubiquitous, indispensable accessory by year's end. We've seen the mobile app become a pre-requisite for events. We've been fascinated by how quickly even older workforces have adapted to the latest technology to make events, meetings, and tradeshows more interactive and personal than ever. In fact, it has become such an important part of the industry that we launched a website specific to mobile devices in 2013.

With 2013 nearly in the books, most of us are looking ahead to 2014, so we took a quick swing around to find a few of the best resources for what's to come in 2014, and a little inspiration for you.

Image courtesy of

What's Coming in 2014 for Events and Tradeshows

Kieth Nelsen makes a great point in his year-end post of digital screen trends he sees ahead in 2014. "It's no longer OK to put a screen on the wall and expect the consumer to pay attention," he writes. "The shopper is no longer wowed by the HD screen on the wall."

Just a few years ago a hotel with flatscreen TVs would leave a guest raving for weeks. Today it's expected. An event mobile app was groundbreaking just a year or two ago - today it's a given for large conferences.

What does that tell us? Well, for one, if you haven't started using digital screens in your booths and events, you better start just to catch up! You'll also want o put a little more thought into what you do with those screens, making sure you have content there that attracts eyeballs.

The ever-insightful Julius Solaris over at the Event Manager Blog chimed in with his predictions for 2014 as well. Among the 10 great ideas for things you should be on the watch for in the year ahead is social seating at conferences and events.

Look for this to pick up this year, allowing people to get seated at conferences next to people with similar backgrounds or interests. Now, one of the great things about a conference is the serendipity of meeting people you never thought you'd run into, but there's also comfort in familiarity. It's worth experimenting with in your event planning.

Finally, for those searching for inspiration, BizBash published a list of the 50 best event innovators of 2013. "The people - marketers, fund-raisers, designers, producers, and other professionals - that with new ideas and smart strategies are setting the standard for events and meetings today."

The short profiles of each of the honorees are worth a read and might just give you that extra kick of motivation you need for 2014!

Have a happy new year everyone, and an even better 2014!

John Dubielak is the Vice President of Operations for Rentfusion, which offers AV rentals, computer rentals, and all manner of equipment for meeting planners, tradeshows, convention hosts, exhibitors and event planners nationwide. Follow Rentfusion on Twitter at @rentfusion and on Linkedin.