Greater international competition, higher client demands and continual strong technology growth is seeing many convention centres significantly investing in their digital infrastructure to provide delegates with a better meetings experience.
Arinex Chief Information Officer (CIO), Daniel Branik who is also a judge of the INCON Digital Infrastructure Award shares his perspectives on the emergence of this welcome trend that sees more emphasis on digital infrastructure in convention centres around the world.
In the past, if you were checking your emails on your mobile device at a conference and it was a bit slow, it was frustrating but you did not really mind so long as you could do it, but try having a slow connection if you are registering for an event or voting on a question from a speaker and you will quickly learn that it is a different level of frustration entirely. Multiply that frustration by 1000 delegates at the one conference and you will likely have a very unhappy and unfulfilling conference experience.
Today’s delegate on average has 2.5 devices – a phone, tablet and laptop which they want to connect to a network at any given time during a conference. Coupled with this meeting planners are requiring delegates to be "switched on" and committed to the conference by being able to register, vote, comment and contribute in real time on their device to speakers and organisers throughout the event. Faced with this new reality, venues need to implement and maintain a robust backbone infrastructure with enough bandwidth at reasonable cost to provide the best conference possible for the delegate.
An additional strain on IT resources within venues is the advent of cloud computing. Delegates whose companies use the cloud may be required to download software updates to their devices -- wherever they are in the world. If they are attending a conference when the update is due then they are going to be using the venue’s Wi-Fi to do so.
The challenge for meeting planners in this new age of cloud computing is vast and complex. Aside from a desire for greater connectivity between delegates is the need to connect with those who have not attended the meeting. Many planners now run "virtual conferences" in which they stream presentations to others who could not attend the meeting. This is yet another challenge where video presentations have to be uploaded to a hosting platform, meaning that the organiser has to ensure they have enough bandwidth to be able to do this while keeping in mind that delegates will also be using the system at the same time. Meeting planners therefore have to know the right questions to ask venues when it comes to digital infrastructure to match their own and the delegate requirements with the solution.
On the whole, most major convention centres and meeting planners are progressively meeting these challenges. Hotels in some instances are stepping up, however generally they are falling behind their convention centre counterparts. Many are failing to upgrade their facilities either through a lack of investment or due to constraints from the need to get the best return on investment (ROI) on the equipment they have in place. Some hotels use third-party providers who are not located on-site which remains a challenge to conference organisers who have to reconfigure what is available to meet the requirements of the conference they are managing.
Even if a hotel has in-house tech support they are invariably more junior than those found at convention centres, and often do not have the knowledge that is now required for many of the high-level meetings. With the growth of cloud computing and the ever-present need by delegates to stay connected with other delegates, their offices, and families, particularly when travelling, these venues will have to step up and expand their digital infrastructure and knowledge base or they will likely be left behind.
INCON Award Case Studies
For the past three years, INCON has awarded best in the class venues that offer truly connected and innovative digital infrastructure to their delegates. The judges have found that the venues exceeding expectations are those that are reinvesting in their digital infrastructure and have the right staffing who understand client requirements, and how to configure their system to those requirements. In 2014, the winner was a smaller venue Darmstadtium in Germany. It could be clearly seen that they had invested a lot of time and energy into the configuration and technical support of their digital infrastructure. The winner in 2015 was Australia’s Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, which rated extremely highly in all facets. INCON has just published a case study about this year’s winner the Austria Vienna Center, which surpassed expectations in terms of accessibility and cost.
INCON 2017 Awards
The call to entry for the 2017 Global Digital Infrastructure Award will open on 17th of October. An application can be completed on the INCON Award page. There is no entry fee. All it takes for a venue to be considered is to fill in an application with full details about your venue and return it by 28th February 2017.
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Chief Information Officer, Arinex Pty Ltd
Daniel Branik became our CIO in 2016 after leading the Technology team at Arinex since 2003 and after two years in the role of General Manager. Daniel uses his extensive experience to drive technology at Arinex, ensuring a broad range of cutting edge technology services are available to our clients and to our staff across offices spread throughout Australia.
Daniel is the driver behind the development of an industry changing cloud application, eOrganiser a global first specifically designed to streamline and entirely automate the conference paper and program management process.
Daniel is currently on the judging panel for the INCON Digital Infrastructure Award, a global award for convention centres and conference hotels which is presented at IMEX Frankfurt each year. Daniel provides his technology and event experience to key events, including Malaria, LNG18 and annually to IEEE 802 Wireless Interim Meeting.