Sound systems vary widely. At larger venues, the built-in system may be more adequate for a meeting presentation. But it's not unusual
to find older buildings or smaller spaces that have a poor-quality system—or even no proper public-address system at all.
Either way, you should always visit the facility and check the sound quality before you sign the contract. Also, given the
huge push for company podcasts, planners should consider attaching a recording device to the mixing board for quality recordings.
Some larger facilities even have the capability of burning the recording onto a CD, but you should ask the facility beforehand.
Lighting is another area where venues vary tremendously. Some lighting systems are rather basic, but many can be surprisingly complicated.
For larger events, one option is to rent stage-lighting rigs, which give the show a concert feel. For more pizzazz, there
are moving lights (also known as intelligent lighting) that display different colors and patterns—for example, your company
logo. Green-minded companies should consider using LED lights, which draw less power yet release a very bright color.
Security is particularly important at pharma events, where proprietary information must be guarded closely and attendees must be cleared
before they enter certain areas. Most event halls, especially the more upscale ones, have basic camera monitoring and some
security staff, but the quality and the number of security personnel you request depends on what the client needs. Staff at
higher-profile events, such as prelaunch drug meetings, have begun making on-site photo IDs that are created either by scanning
the guest's driver's license at check-in or by digitally photographing the attendee. The hotel can store the information and
photos until the end of the meeting or after the guests check out—just in case they misplace their cards.
Communication systems and a communication plan should be designed to let key personnel easily reach staff and security guards. Start by asking
the facility manager what the options are—some hotels and convention centers have house phones throughout the building that
might meet your needs. Walkie-talkies are cheap, powerful, and run on a standard frequency; they're an almost universal choice
for meetings. Cell phones have a significant drawback: Coverage from different carriers can vary by location, and some hotels
actually have dead spots where there is no reception at all.
Remote or group check-in options are useful when you are checking in a large number of people and want to keep them from waiting. Group check-in locations
are a solid option, especially if you want attendees to remain sequestered in a particular location. Some hotels offer remote
check-in kiosks that can be moved closer to the meeting hall and controlled wirelessly.
Parking is neither a technical nor a sexy issue, but it must be given consideration. Venues in major cities such as New York offer
little parking, often at a premium price. Hotels that cater primarily to conventions and meetings are usually located outside
of major metropolises. They have more parking but are often harder to reach. Resort hotels, like Connecticut's Mohegan Sun,
are self-contained facilities that offer both parking and enough amenities that attendees don't need to leave. One option
isn't necessarily better than another, but you must inform guests in advance of the parking situation, noting any local parking
facilities that offer validated parking at a discounted price.
George Koroneos is associate editor at Pharmaceutical Executive magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org