Are you ‘techorating’ event spaces wisely?
Electro-Media Design is working with interior designers and architects to create event spaces that support AV technologies without diminishing the guest experience.
Over the last 30 years, Jeff Loether, founder and president of Electro-Media Design, has met some of hospitality’s most accomplished designers and architects while creating ideal meeting and event spaces for sound and visuals. In that time, he said no one ever introduced themselves as a “Techorator” or an “ArchiTechnologist” of hotel event spaces. Perhaps that’s because these are terms coined by EMD in the early 1990s as the team began consulting with hotels and conference centers on building and integrating sound and visual technologies into the facility’s infrastructure and interior design, particularly in rooms used by groups.
“ArchiTechnology” is the study of how technology, interior design and people work together. An “ArchiTechnologist” considers the room’s architecture, physics, acoustics, light, built-in sound systems and visual technologies and how they need to work with human factors (seeing, hearing, listening, thinking and remembering) to optimize these technologies and prevent problems. With more and more planners judging their event’s success by measuring the level of attendee engagement, they are demanding newer, sexier technologies to gain a competitive advantage in this increasingly consolidated environment. Therefore, it’s more important than ever before, Loether said, to hire skilled “Techorators” and true “ArchiTechnologists” to build spaces where memorable experiences are delivered, and cognitive learning takes place.
As hospitality’s leading audiovisual and acoustics consulting group, EMD is working with design and architect teams to conceptualize spaces that meet or exceed the standards of hotel operators. In fact, EMD is responsible for authoring and updating the audiovisual and acoustics Master Design Standards for several flags, including Marriott, Fairmont, Loews, Hard Rock, Hyatt, and others, as well as the International Association of Conference Centers. The company has been engaged by facility management and developers to consult on more than 1,000 projects globally, including providing quality control and value-engineering reviews for renovation and new construction projects. Performing these activities ensures the development of comprehensive and coordinated ArchiTechnology-based designs.
‘ArchiTechting’ Event Spaces
Typically, event spaces are grand rooms with high ceilings, movable walls, carpeted floors and an abundance of lighting. Rooms adjacent to outdoor spaces or on top floors may also have large windows to provide natural light and stunning views. But event spaces can’t just look good, they need to sound good and operate even better. To properly conceptualize a space, Loether said operators need to see it through the eyes of an ArchiTechnologist and look beyond the four walls for anything that can distract people from communicating or hearing the message being presented.
While hearing is a function of volume, understanding is based upon intelligibility, and this intelligibility relies heavily on the acoustics of the room. An ArchiTechnologist understands that hard surfaces (wood floors or walls, windows or glass, hard ceilings) create reverberation while soft surfaces (carpet, padded walls, acoustical ceiling tiles) absorb sound. An event space filled with people is also filled with the noise they generate. Add to that noise – which is bouncing around the room – the speaker or group of panelists talking above the clamor via microphones. The hard surfaces are simply amplifying the noise in the room – and so too are portable speakers on sticks often requested by planners. The ability to understand (intelligibility) the message of the speaker or panelists will not be improved by increasing the volume.
An ArchiTechnologist also understands lighting and the importance of seeing relevant messaging being presented. Downlights can wash out a projection screen, and glossy surfaces on direct-view displays cause reflections. If a person is sitting in a chair and is seeing the traffic in the street outside the window reflected in that display, he or she can’t comprehend the visuals, and the presentation message will be lost. And, while a room with a view is great, operators should invest in blackout curtains to block out light.
Finally, an ArchiTechnologist will take the room infrastructure and building equipment into consideration. If there is an HVAC duct in an area where a presenter will typically require a screen, the airflow can make the screen wave and cause distractions. Problems will also arise if a rooftop HVAC unit is placed above a ballroom or meeting space vs. above a service corridor, kitchen, or other area that is already noisy. Rooms that aren’t designed with technology in mind will be problematic for planners and guests.
One of the best ways to ensure that technology doesn’t negatively impact event spaces is to use built-in equipment wherever possible. Stationary equipment is more reliable, more flexible and faster to turn. It also does not require constantly being transported from room to room, and therefore there will be less damage to the equipment. When built-in equipment is selected and executed properly, it leads to more successful events.
‘Techorating’ with a Twist
Here are two hotel projects conceptualized and executed by EMD using the principles of ArchiTechnology and properly Techorated by designers under the direction of its consultative experts:
St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort and Conference Center, Abu Dhabi, UAE
This premier luxury resort hotel and mixed-use development includes a five-star hotel, state-of-the-art banqueting and conference center, restaurants, retail stores, serviced apartments and villas, a spa, health club, marina and other outdoor facilities. The huge 32,290 square feet Regal Ballroom features a unique open ceiling that EMD helped to design for maximum flexibility of event technologies. Equipped with state-of-the-art lighting, projection and sound equipment and complemented with the St. Regis bespoke service, this venue is ideal for conferences, exhibitions, grand occasions and weddings. The conference center also features multiple flexible meeting rooms, and a presentation and video conference equipped high-tech boardroom.
Cloud Nine at the ITC Grand Chola Hotel in Chennai, India
EMD created a virtually themed, immersive entertainment venue concept called Cloud Nine for the ITC Grand Chola Hotel. This first-of-its-kind, flexible dayclub / nightclub is designed to maintain 24/7 operation. Cloud Nine is a “black-box” technology theater, ready to entertain and amaze guests. The entire space is “Techorated” to be virtually themed, and features a six-foot high by 40 inch wide, edge-blended projection wall, an interactive LCD bar top, fabric ceiling panels backlit with chromatic LED lighting instruments, a video ribbon display across the ceiling and a “HotSpot” ceiling cluster of speakers over a dancefloor area with sub-woofers discreetly located in banquette seating. The essence of the venue is that it is ever-changing, utilizing color, images and video to create any environment that can be imagined. The venue can appear to be an outdoor space, a courtyard or park during the day and a high-energy club at night. Inspired by theme park technology the venue is truly immersive, touching the guest on all levels; sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.
Techorating + Self-Managing Technologies = ROI Success
In addition to offering a full range of audiovisual systems design and acoustical consultation, EMD has expanded its service offerings to also includes audiovisual operational and management consulting to address the entire AV systems lifecycle. Last year, EMD developed a new operating system for hotels that effectively plans and executes efficient AV services in a public or private venue. Called AVaStar, the Software as a Services platform enables staff to self-manage the presentation technology needs of meeting and event planners from virtually anywhere. Already it is proving to boost revenues, decrease costs, protect owners’ investments and enhance the planner and attendee experience.
Loether said it is EMD’s mission to equip hotels with the technologies they need to achieve better meetings and better bottom lines. They do this through EMD’s ArchiTechnology consultation – including developing Managed Event Technology Service departments for hotels that provide great guest service and experiences – and through AVaStar which enables hoteliers to gain control and confidence over their AV technology services. It is these two paired components that create the highest ROI for owners and operators of facilities that host events. By “Techorating” spaces with equipment that supports events without diminishing the guest experience and empowering owners and staff to self-manage their day-to-day AV service processes, EMD is elevating the owners’ technology investment to create more memorable meetings.
― About Jeff Loether ―
Jeff Loether is president and founder of Electro-Media Design Ltd., an AudioVisual systems design and Acoustical consultation group with expertise in audio, video, control, and related presentation, entertainment, and communications technologies. Loether is the 2018 recipient of the Mel Hosansky Award for Distinguished Service presented by IACC, formerly known as the International Association of Conference Centers.
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