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Technology on Campus: Technically Possible

By Selena Fragassi


If you build it, they will come. In today’s modern times, that is the guiding principle for meeting and event spaces when navigating the ever-changing world of technology. Just as everyday people pitch tents on sidewalks overnight to secure the latest Apple technology, it’s just as essential for venues to keep up with the joneses in the business sector—and that means providing the latest in A/V, upgrading bandwidth and introducing new tools that make meetings easier.

Yet, if you think that colleges and universities can’t handle the challenge as well as more traditional outlets, think again. Campuses are often at the head of the tech class with routine upgrades that have to appeal to a very demanding audience: their students. In the process, benefits trickle down to conference guests as well.

“I think there’s this impression that a campus space will be maybe less clean, a little bit more run down, a little less customizable, but that is certainly not the case, especially when it comes to technology,” affirms Jennifer Cucura, a director at the New York Institute of Technology’s Auditorium on Broadway, which offers a comprehensive 262-seat theatre space for multimedia events, screenings and panel discussions. “I’ve had clients who have held their events in other locations and had to bring in far more equipment to get their meetings done. And they complain that’s just one more thing to rent and pay for and worry about. Here, the full breadth of our A/V capabilities really shows how seamless and convenient it can be.”

Onsite, NYIT offers state-of-the art enhancements such as an HD projection for Power Point presentations, movie-grade Dig- ital Cinema Projector and 7.1 Dolby Dish full surround sound. As well, the venue is currently in negotiations with RealD to be the “largest private screening facility to be 3D compatible in Manhattan,” says Cucura. “It makes the quality that much more impressive, which is important for our clients.”

Sometimes, colleges and universities are the trendsetters. Such is the case at the University of Denver with the addition of the impressive Cisco Tele- Presence technology at the Morgridge College of Education. With this fully immersive video conferencing system, three large side-by-side screens and high-quality video feed brings together conference guests in different states (or countries even) and lets them feel like they are in the same room.
“The quality is really unbelievable,” says Mary Kay Mauro, manager of client services for conference events and special programs, noting that a meeting with the Denver Business Journal helped spread the word about the service. “It’s called a QOS, the highest quality of service. When the feed comes through, it really does feel like you’re all sitting at the table together in the same room without the separation of miles.” As well, the video is audio activated, which means that whenever someone is speaking, the camera will automatically turn to focus on him or her, which allows for fluid conversation.

The Big Wifi Debate
The best part is, both parties don’t have to own the TelePresence technol- ogy in order to connect. “There is free software that can be installed on any computer, which will plug into the TelePresence system,” says Mauro, further stating, “we have a full technology support team during all hours of operation who can support the planner and make it an easy process.”

The Big WiFi Debate
No matter how complex and state-of-the-art colleges and universities become with their latest gadgetry, however, there is always the eternal, simple question all planners ask: Do you have free Wi-Fi?

According to Corbin Ball, meetings technology expert, Wi-Fi and broadband are becoming the lifeblood of events and communication. “Nowadays, every attendee has mul- tiple devices (3.6 in 2013, up from 1.4 in 2010), and the demand is on the event planner to choose a venue accord- ingly,” he says, noting that when polled, 64% of planners said the availability of Wi-Fi affected their choice of venue.

At the University of Denver, complimentary Wi-Fi is available campus-wide, “and we just switched to ‘always on access’, which doesn’t require a password,” says Mauro. “It’s become a huge asset to the planner and the meetings industry we attract.”

Likewise, the Miller Conference Center at SLCC has a policy of “Wi-Fi for the people,” and the school just added 500 access points, says Hilton. Although it does require a username and password in order for the IT department to ensure nothing inappropriate is conducted over their firewall. “Otherwise, we are very open-minded to allowing this access to everyone.”

It came in handy for one planner who used the Miller Conference Center at SLCC in the past: “Without a dedi- cated Internet connection for presenters, the success of our live demos could be greatly affected,” says Michelle Kolbe.

There’s even further reason for Wi-Fi, says Cucura, and it has to do with social media. “When our planners come through, they want to make sure their attendees are able to Tweet or Facebook content from the sessions,” she says, noting that when the former spotty service in their theater was brought to her staff’s attention, they addressed the problem right away.

“It’s assumed that this technology will always be available.”  At the University of Central Oklahoma, Tucker notes that the department can
switch screens over to a live Tweeting session so everyone can see what is being said. This interactive service is just one way the school has been able to attract more and more planner interest, which has resulted in their success. “In this last year since we initiated our upgrades, the usage of our A/V equipment has almost doubled.”

More is Less... In Co$ts

Rest assured though, all the upgrades do not mean increases in price for usage, says Hilton. “We review our costs every four to five years, and it’s not indicative of whether we’ve enhanced our technology,” he says, noting that most of the A/V amenities are included in the cost of the room rental.

Which is one of the reasons why Kolbe chose the university: “Cost is the most important factor for our group. We like that at SLCC the A/V is already in the room rental so there are not added costs that we might not be budgeting for.”

That’s the win-win for groups, especially the non-profits that Cucura hosts. “Not only do we have the best technology,” she says, “but often we have the best rates, too.”

Armstrong Center (912) 344.2953

Miller Conference Center
Salt Lake Community College (801) 957.5222

New York Institute of Technology
Auditorium on Broadway (212) 261.1615

University of Central Oklahoma (405) 974.2715

University of Denver (303) 871.4333