As technology needs grow more complex, Browne notes that an increasing number of convention centers, among them the Minneapolis Convention Center and Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Convention Center, have added built-in features such as giant LED screens and digital signage.
“Digital signs are not only environmentally friendly and a cost savings for planners, but they can be a nice revenue source,” she says. “A sponsor can create a 30-second video that runs all day—it’s much more effective than just displaying a logo.”
For planners, perhaps the most important and trickiest issue to negotiate with a convention center is bandwidth, according to Browne. To determine how much is really required, she recommends consulting with an IT expert and also checking data on how much was used during the last event.
“A convention center may advertise that it provides free Wi-Fi, but that doesn’t mean it applies to everything,” she cautions. “People may be able to check their e-mail, but you may not be able to do things like on-site event polling. You really need to understand how much bandwidth you need and get that ironed out during negotiation.”
As green awareness gains momentum, more convention centers, following the lead of such facilities as Portland, Ore.’s Oregon Convention Center and Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center, are making structural and operational changes to gain LEED certification. While not usually their top concern, a growing number of planners and show organizers are taking sustainability into account when choose a venue, according to trade show consultant Barry Siskind, president of International Training Management and author of Powerful Exhibit Marketing.
“Convention facilities are leading the way in sustainability, with even some of the older facilities going for certification,” he says. “A lot of corporations have strong environmental policies, so this is coming through in their exhibit programs. And show managers are becoming more conscious of green initiatives in their planning.”
While he believes technology to be a more important issue for show organizers than sustainability when selecting a venue, Casey notes that technological upgrades such as digital signage are often environmentally friendly.
“Technology and sustainability can go hand-in-hand,” he says. “And we see a lot of facilities making strides in both areas.”
Maria Lenhart is a frequent contributor to Meetings Focus and has covered industry topics ranging from technology and budget tips to SMERF events.