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Conference venues: balancing simplicity and flexibility

Picture: Pure AV

Having previously detailed how conference venues are increasing technology spend, before revealing the elements providers need to consider to match the right device with the right environment, here Ian McMurray looks at the spread of networked AV within centres’ infrastructures.

“With expectations from business at an all-time high, it makes it a challenge for venues to ensure that their AV infrastructure is flexible,” says Lucy Meredith, regional marketing manager, Panasonic Visual Solutions. “For instance, a requirement for 4K projection is something that some, but not all, customers would have. Having the ability to swap out AV technology dependent on the requirements is increasingly more important.”

It’s not, however, just about the choice of ‘end device’ – whether projector or videowall. Andy Truswell, systems integration manager at integrator Pure Audio Visual, makes a distinction between small/mid-sized centres and their larger counterparts.

“Larger venues continue to focus on infrastructure and the creation of a flexible backbone for video, image and audio distribution that will integrate easily with hired-in equipment and offer maximum flexibility for the needs of third-party events companies,” he asserts. “The change with the larger venues is the increased adoption of AV over IP, a solution ideally suited to maximising the flexibility of video distribution between rooms, around and even out of the venue.”

Colin Etchells, who is group technical director at integrator Visavvi, sees a similar situation – and solution.

“AV over IP can help with the flexibility required by these multifunction venues,” he believes. “The ability to move projection and display systems around and then just connect back into the network to receive content is a must.”

“Distribution of high-resolution content has often been a huge consideration,” he goes on, “but with the advent of AV over IP and a near total requirement for modern AV systems to be network-centric, this is becoming less of a problem. The network focus can also add value with signal distribution and remote operation and monitoring being easy to achieve.”

Simple, flexible
Truswell returns to develop the theme.

“The challenge is getting the right level of simplicity and flexibility,” he says. “To exploit fully the commercial potential of the conference space, you want a solution that is as flexible as possible, but at the same time easy for venue staff and clients to manage and control. It’s no use having multiple configurations able to accommodate every eventuality if the team can’t use it and the ultimate client experience is poor. This is where we’ve been able to add significant value to our designs for this sector. A well-programmed control system with an intuitive user interface, perhaps delivered via an iPad, means that a simple training session for venue employees can open the full potential of their conference spaces.”

Of course, there is far more to a conference centre than just the meeting room screens – and the quality of the overall AV infrastructure can be a significant asset.

“We’re seeing conference centres explore new ways to communicate through digital signage,” notes Carl Standertskjold, corporate segment marketing manager at Sony. “Customisable signage can be used for wayfinding through hallways or providing adaptable event and room details.” He explains how Sony’s TEOS Manage solution can be used to control all the display devices over a network and play out customised signage to them.

Visavvi’s Etchells points out how smaller videowalls – in 2×3 or 4×3 configurations – can also have a place throughout a facility.  

It seems likely that location, facilities and catering will continue to be among the top criteria for choosing a conference centre. However, increasingly discerning conference organisers are now looking hard at whether a facility’s audiovisual setup will impress delegates with the quality of the images they will see as much as they’ll be impressed by the other three criteria – and conference centres, with the help of the projection and display industry, are responding.