January 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio January 2000 Current Issue
January 2000 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By John Potterton, CMP


Basic knowledge and clear communication help an event go more smoothly

Meeting day is here. The planner arrives on site at 7 a.m., and already there is a minor disaster. Executive Joe Smith has been testing the setup, and he is upset because the images in his PowerPoint presentation appear dim and some of the graphics are difficult to read. The planner suggests closing the blinds and dimming the lights. “That’s unacceptable,” Joe insists. “This is a presentation to our top clients, and we need it to be interactive. We can’t have our guests sitting in a dark room.”

Similar scenarios happen in meeting rooms hundreds if not thousands of times a day. Expectations are not being met by the available A/V, and money is being wasted because meeting planners and suppliers do not know what questions to ask to get the most out of presentation technology. Here are some tips that can save aggravation and embarrassment.

First, be sure you know the meeting’s purpose. In the situation above, the executive should have made sure the planner knew to whom he would be presenting, and the planner should have asked for this information up front. It seems like such a simple and basic step, yet I am amazed at how infrequently this communication occurs.

Once you have a clear understanding of the purpose, you can choose the perfect piece of equipment. What Joe needed for his presentation was an LCD or DLP projector. For the moment, LCD is the industry standard, but hard on that technology’s heels is DLP, or digital light processing, a prismatic- mirroring system created by Texas Instruments.

For sharpness, the feature to look for in either an LCD or DLP projector is XGA, which is compatible with virtually all laptops. Do not accept a projector that is SVGA. These models compress the 1024-by-768-pixel image coming from the laptop into a projected image of 800-by-600 pixels. This can distort colors, and letters and numbers might appear to be missing parts, leading to complaints from attendees that the image is not focused.

For brightness, be sure the equipment offers at least 800 ANSI lumens of light, although 1,000 to 1,500 is better. Do not accept a projector that uses fewer than 800 lumens. The higher the number, the clearer the picture will be when the lights are on.

If your meeting includes video, request an LCD or DLP projector to display it on a large screen. The image will be more impressive than if it were displayed on a video monitor, and chances are you will be using the LCD projector anyway.

To further enhance the video presentation, ask a technician to bypass the built-in audio speaker in the projector and connect the output of the audio to the facility’s in-house sound system.

Now that videoconferencing is more affordable, you could be asked to plan one of these events in the near future. Do not be surprised if you experience difficulty establishing and maintaining a connection via phone lines. Have personnel on site who are well versed in setting up and troubleshooting the equipment you have rented.

For a picture that is close to TV-quality, insist on using three ISDN phone lines. Any fewer will result in a choppy, distracting picture.

Finally, keep up with the trends in presentation technology, and ask questions when you do not understand. What works now most likely will be outdated in a year or two. The more knowledgeable you become, the easier it will be to do your job and the more valuable you will be to your clients.

John Potterton, CMP, is director of business development for the Summit Executive Centre in downtown Chicago.

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