5 Venues Embracing Innovation

Innovation is not only a tech companies game. Here are the top 5 venues we met at IMEX who really embrace innovation, technology and sustainability.

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I feel I talk on behalf a few of you when I say that we are tired of hearing just about centrepieces and decor when it gets to event venue selection. The needs of attendees are evolving. New generations could not care less about how many chairs a hotel has. They want power sockets, fast wifi, sustainable practices and a constant desire to be wowed by tech.

That is why in December for the first time we introduced venues in our Annual Trend Report. This is why you will see us talking more and more about the subject, with a twist. We are not in the business of sparkly things, we are in the business of giving you the latest and the greatest tools to hack your event and make it better. We will keep doing that with venues.

As we were at IMEX, we took the opportunity to get to meet those venues embracing innovation.

WIFI Is Not Enough

Apparently a lot of venues think that having wifi that works means they are high tech. Of course we did not have any meetings with anyone who had this approach.

Having reliable, fast wifi is a requirement that innovative venues matched at least 3 years ago. We are in 2015, we carry at least 3 devices when we attend events. Wifi is hygiene. Not having working wifi is like not having toilets.

We are all a bit tired of talking about this so either you are in or you are out. Several venues inform us how smart event professionals do venue inspections with wifi measurement tools as they don’t like to be tricked.

It’s either you have it or you don’t. It’s hygiene, not something to brag about. You don’t hear a venue sales person saying: “oh and we have chairs”. Of course you do.

Innovation Should Be a Priority

A lot of venues have refrained in the past from investing in technology. Technology evolution is so fast that a substantial investment may be irrelevant in a couple of years.

Well, my dear venue friends, there is no simple solution to that. Some players are accepting this reality. They are pouring investment in technology that probably won’t be cutting edge 5 years from now and it looks like they don’t seem to care.

They spend a lot because they know how important this is becoming for event professionals. Giving just a room with some chairs is not enough anymore. Also transferring the costs of revolutionary AV on the event professional budget is not really popular.

Smart venues work hand in hand with strong AV partners and tech providers to offer more to #eventprofs, not necessarily impacting on their budget.

Enough said folks, let’s have a look, in no particular order, at some really innovative venues…

NH Hotels

I was impressed looking at the depth of commitment these guys have towards innovation, technology and sustainability.

Starting from the brochure we were given, we understood something cool was going on at NH.

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The highlight of this chain with almost 400 hotels in 29 countries around the world are its hologram powered meeting facilities available at specific locations.

NH hotels can host meetings with pre-recorded or live holograms of attendees who could not be present in person. Also very cool was the 3D presentation capabilities which made us think about what presentations of the future are going to look like.

Birth by PowerPoint is the definition of what they have to offer. You send them your slides and they make a 3D version of it to give attendees incredibly immersive presentations. See the video below:

Amsterdam RAI

Amsterdam’s Exhibition Centre, RAI has traditionally been at the forefront of most innovative technology and sustainability practices. They really get what innovation is.

Amsterdam is home of the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, one of the largest exchanges worldwide. RAI directly links to them therefore having a speed capacity that few venues can experience worldwide.

What really amazed us was the iPad app they developed for a virtual venue tour. While this is not something revolutionary in itself, the implementation is just incredible.

You can select specific areas of the venue and move the iPad around to look at the space with different lay out and production of previous events. The rendering was so real I thought they were pointing the camera at the actual booth where we were talking, while in fact this was a 360 degree picture of an exhibition they had that year.

See the video below:

Swiss Tech Convention Center

I looked at the animation of what this incredibly flexible congress centre does as if I was a 10 years old seeing colour television for the first time in the ’60s.

Once again referring to our annual trends, I talked about drag and drop venues. While I had this level of flexibility in mind for temp venues, I was not expecting it in a theatre style conference and congress centre. In 15-minutes they can completely change the configuration of the venue

See it for yourself in this demo video.

Another innovative aspect of the venue was sustainability. The Grätzel photovoltaic panels at the venue simultaneously produce energy and prevent the centre from overheating via transparent, coloured glazing.

The energy of water from Lake Geneva and geothermal pillars supporting the building are used for heating and cooling.

Disneyland Paris

We recently talked about how Disney is committed to creating magic experience. Their European cousins are no stranger to innovative approaches.

While they have immersive 18 metre digital screens and wifi for 10k without interruption, their approach to the community of event professionals is what impressed us.

Disney Business Solutions, the meeting department of Disneyland Paris, took the decision to heavily invest in content and social media as their way to connect with the community of event professionals. In one of the few industries where there is still a proliferation of sometimes sad print media, this is a bold, gutsy and admirable decision.

Disney Business Solutions has also created strong partnerships with local French start ups to deliver innovative offerings and AV solutions to their guests. I struggled to believe what I was hearing while having a meeting with their forward thinking crew.

The strong community approach that fosters innovation and supports local technology is something I’ve always dreamt of seeing but rarely encountered. Chapeau.

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

The Melbourne Convention Centre won the INCON award for best Digital Infrastructure. We felt compelled to have a chat with them and understand what they offer to event professionals.

I was very impressed by the in-house approach that the centre has. The proliferation of event tech tools is sometimes also the result of poor venue offerings. It is not the case of the Melbourne Convention Centre that built a whole set of tools in-house that the average convention or exhibition would source from external suppliers.

One of these tools is a social media feed inclusive of ipad moderation which can be displayed on LCD screens, room door cards and slides within event sessions. While this is far from being the latest cool technology, the fact they are offering it as one of their services without subcontracting is quite remarkable. Look at that, this is the wildest fantasy of an event social media manager.

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Within the MCEC visualisation studio you can work with the in-house technology team to create a virtual 3D representation of your event space, previewing layout, audio, visual and lighting ahead of your event.

In Conclusion

Venues are taking technology and sustainability very seriously. While there is surely more out there than the five venues we presented (as we were limited by the offering on the showfloor), we were impressed by the attention and respect they had for you, dearest readers, and their commitment to innovation.

There is a new breed of venues committed to satisfy the need of a modern event professional, who care for reliable and innovative technology while saving the environment. Our commitment going forward is to bring you more of those who are changing the rules of venue selection.

EventMB will present the Most Technology Friendly Venue (NEW) at the Event Technology Awards 2015. If you run a tech-friendly venue details of how to enter can be found here.

About The Author
Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker and author of The Event App Bible, Engaging Events, Social Media for Events, The Good Event Registration Guide and The Annual Event Trends Report.
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