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July 24th, 2012

In the first days of the Information Age, when home PCs were still pricey novelty items, “computer user” was synonymous with “programmer.” It was not possible to get a PC desktop computer rental stuffed full of applications for writing, design, database work, engineering and so on. In fact, if you needed a new program, you either wrote it or paid someone else to do so.  Today lets consider three ways to get the unique software you need – by writing the code, paying for it or some combination of the two – in this introduction to custom conference apps.

DIY (Do-It-Yourself) methods to coding

The first commercial software packages to appear were operating systems, but the 1980s brought productivity programs, the 1990s saw hardware breakthroughs and the early 2000s gave us total connectivity . As the years passed, off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all software couldn’t cover all the bases, so custom apps – at first only for desktops, then for laptops and now for tablets (like our iPad rental) and smart phones – began growing in popularity. With the power and flexibility now available on mobile devices, they have become the latest, greatest platform for custom conference apps. So, how do you get exactly what you need?

DIY methods range from really doing it all yourself to leveraging various technologies like WordPress to simplify the process. In the first instance, either you or your “code head” need solid experience as developers – on multiple platforms, with various programming languages – to build the apps you need for specialized conference use. For a fully integrated, works-anywhere strategy, your apps will need to have versions for tablet PC rentals, Apple and Android smart phones, netbooks and laptops.

Plug-in and play option for Conference Apps

One option is use a WordPress plug-in developed by Top Quark. Working together, this plug-in can create a custom mobile app for Android, Blackberry and iOS. Without having to deal with any original coding, you simply make adjustments on a settings page to create custom apps for conferences. A smart phone can now download all the conference data so conference attendees can run the app even in “airplane mode.”

IntoMotion, Zerista, TripBuilder EventMobile, Conference Compass and other firms can provide a menu of services for building a custom conference app, doing either a little or a lot as you decide. With some firms advertising $20,000 custom app “bargains” as others promote $99 specials, it is important to look into all possible alternatives for creating a custom conference app.

Even though we don’t develop custom conference app, CRE can help keep you moving forward with everything from trade show convention rentals to special post-production gear. A single call or e-mail, or a brief visit to our Quick Rental Quote form, gets it all done. Call now!

May 8th, 2012

The National Real Estate On­Line Convention and Exposition in April 2002 is typically cited as the world’s first “virtual conference.” Produced by the Real Estate CyberSpace Society, it attracted 10,000 pre-registered real estate professionals from 28 countries and drew another 15,000 “online walk-ins” over the event’s five days.

In 2009, one Microsoft division made its annual industry analyst event a virtual one. Sessions streamed over the web, meetings between executives and customers took place via tablet PC rentals, and the keynote featured slides with LiveMeeting. Surely one of the premier tech firms of all time would revolutionize the virtual conference, right? Wrong. Seven years after the first one, virtual conferences just weren’t catching on, although they’re starting to now.

Video Conference

Psychology, not video conferencing technology

After a decade of declining prices for videoconferencing technology – plasma display rentals, wall-sized screens and media-friendly computers – it turns out that it’s not technology, but psychology, that is holding up progress. User forums and corporate networks have their share of rants, raves and predictions (“Real-time 3D full-wall HD surround-sound conferencing coming soon!”) but much of the talk is about “intangibles.”

A common refrain is that there is “no substitute for personal interaction,” and that talking is still more efficient than iMessaging with an iPad rental. People pay attention to much more than the words they’re hearing, too, reading body language, interpreting “vibes” and observing how folks relate to one another. If you reflect on the number of intriguing conversations you’ve had in hallways, elevators and lunch lines, you know the intrinsic value of informal conversations.

Characteristics of virtual conferences

Virtual conferences save on obvious costs like air fare, hotels, dining and so forth, but you will still need event production rentals – just different ones than usual. Still, before there can be successful, smooth-running virtual conferences, they have to evolve the following characteristics:

• Excellent planning and execution. A virtual conference is a big, complicated production. Don’t underestimate the effort.

• Fail-safe technology. Streaming media is great, but everything needs to work regardless of what the attendees bring to the event (MacBook, PC laptop, smart phone).

• New model. There is still no consensus on the best model for virtual conferencing, although “informative” and “interactive” are two buzzwords that echo across the Internet. (Ideas, anyone?)

Perhaps in 2012 we will finally see the emergence of a workable virtual conferencing model. Most people need to be engaged and drawn into the action, but how this will get done virtually is still a mystery. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted as “virtual” turns into “reality” in the conference industry.

Here’s a dose of reality for you: CRE is your one-stop shop for trade show convention rentals, high-tech and high-powered post-production gear, potent laptops and desktop PCs, Macs, mass storage and more. A single call or e-mail, or a trip to our Quick Rental Quote page, puts an expert Account Executive to work solving your problem. Call now!

October 4th, 2011

When you develop marketing strategies for events – the trade shows where you’re exhibiting, the presentations or company conferences you put on – you always need to pause, consider the current “best practices” and adapt them to your message. Then, too, there are always new technologies popping up to assist your marketing efforts. Don’t get caught up in the “new toy” excitement, though. Yes, those iPad rentals are very cool, but what’s even cooler is that they’re powerful tools for promotion. Let’s get up to speed with the latest new technologies and strategies for marketing events.

Social sales

Social Media

Social media is where strategy meets new technology head on. While some marketing experts always capitalize it (“Social Media” seems so much more important) and act as if it’s the only technology you need, it is but a part. Not only that, but certain parts of social media may be more valuable than others – like the parts you don’t write, such as positive comments on your blog. Use them in your marketing materials, splash them on our eye-catching plasma rentals at your booth and “re-tweet” any that come from Twitter.

Speaking of Twitter, it is great for strategic marketing campaigns and lead generation, too. In fact, you want to combine/leverage all of your communication channels to build better relationships with customers, stakeholders and the media. The quickest way to get a handle on all this may be to take a gander at successful competitors. Early adopters (and bigger firms) can blaze the way for you, while saving you from costly errors.

Don’t forget that you have a legion of experts to assist you – your customers. You should poll them on an ongoing basis – even use Audience Response System rentals at one show to get ideas for the next one. Customers will let you know (right away!) if you need to optimize your shopping cart, tweak your service model or make other improvements. Listen to them. They’re your “partners in commerce.”

Quick codebusters

The Postal Service plans to use QR Codes and other high-tech tools, so why don’t you? You can easily create your own QR Codes with low- and no-cost applications. These codes are among the most effective ways to engage customers, as they are easy to scan with webcam-equipped laptop rentals or smart phones.

Richly relevant

Video animation and “rich media” can draw people into your exhibit area, as well. LCD touchscreen monitor rentals fairly beg to be touched and used, and exhibits are only one place they shine. You can use them for customer service training, too, to improve sales results and efficiencies.

Fact is, CRE has many ways to help you improve sales results and efficiencies. Our high-tech rentals support you on-site with your workflow, while our expertise with event production services supports you off-site with trade shows and conferences. One call or e-mail (or a few clicks on our Quick Rental Quote page) gets the ball rolling!

August 10th, 2010

Participants continue to report that some of the most animated discussions and valuable education at conferences take place during meals, breaks, receptions and other unstructured time. Taking a tip from the growing popularity of speed dating, some conference organizers are getting good results from integrating these accelerated “structured networking times” into the event schedule.

In his book Participatory Workshops, Robert Chambers presents the notion of “the buzz,” where participants are invited by speakers and session leaders to “take five” and chat with their neighbors about whatever has just been presented. This simple “learning by talking” approach is based on observed human behavior – like watching conference participants stuck in long, boring speeches champing at the bit to get out to the hallway and talk! (You should consider one of CRE’s digital recorder rentals to capture all the brilliant repartee you’ll find there.)

Speed mentoring

Speed Networking at EventsSome early adopters have been using these new conference models already. One association replaced its old-style “panel of experts and keynote address” format a few years back with what it called a “speed mentoring” model. The first move was to divide the attendees into two groups, the more and less experienced managers. Worksheets were developed by having the less experienced managers list the problems or issues they were facing, while the more experienced describe three major lessons they’d learned about managing their markets.

Then, the groups stood at different sides of the room, and the inexperienced managers chose veteran partners for a discussion. After 10 minutes, right on signal, the groups would rotate into new combinations of discussion partners, with five of these rotations producing an hour of what most participants described as incredibly useful interaction with excellent results. If you equip your conference team with tablet PC rentals, they could document every mentoring session easily. Or consider polling the audience with an audience response rental to find out what they would like to discuss.

Breaks and breakouts?

The great thing about this kind of conference model is that it is quite flexible. One possible version of it could reverse the usual keynote/breakout formula where long speeches are followed by quick breakout sessions. In this model, the speechifying would be kept shorter and punchier, and the breakouts may be a bit longer but well paced to keep up the interest and the momentum. With audio visual rentals and plasma rentals and everything else you need for a great breakout session, CRE could help you organize a very successful speed learning conference. You could also introduce elements of the speed methods into your breakout session even if you are at a “conventional convention.” There are lots of ways to leverage these new approaches to learning.

CRE has experience in strategizing and equipping companies to host conferences of all sizes, or outfitting you for exhibiting or leading breakout sessions. With everything from self-service interactive kiosk rentals to all varieties of computer rentals, CRE’s got you covered, A to Z. Call or send an e-mail to an experienced Account Executive, of fill out the Quick Rental Quote form, and we’ll help your event be a success.

May 27th, 2010

The 2010 Event Solutions Conference & Tradeshow, attended by event planners, show operators and industry leaders, is one of the top annual shows in the conference industry.  This year, the state of the industry discussion, “Where We Are Now & Where We’re Headed,” was presented by a panel of top industry professionals addressing concerns about design trends, green events, pricing and shortened production times.  In addition, educational sessions featured topics such as customer loyalty, green events, social media and more.

Trade show riches, green niches

The trade show portion of the Event Solutions Conference was, as always, overflowing with new ideas, technologies and trends. Exhibitors showcased such creative event ideas as entertainment-centric presentations, portable ice arenas, the latest display and gaming technologies, and future directions in décor and design. During an exhibitor debriefing session, many noted that new event professionals are continuing to enter the industry, pointing up the power of networking and relationship building.

Green Statement - CRE RentalsThe “greening of the events industry” continues to be a ‘hot topic’ and has already produced numerous money- and environment-saving practices. In addition to affecting conference planning, environmental concerns have spurred a great deal of new research into electronic devices that both use and waste less power, are easily recycled, have eco-friendly components and are not designed for obsolescence. “Going green” is one of the strongest trends in business today, and shows now sign of abating.

Real-world solutions for greening events

From holding events outdoors, maximizing natural light and leveraging wireless technology to replace printed materials, to reducing food waste and recycling every possible item, green goals were widely discussed at the conference – and used by exhibitors and attendees alike. Many made use of Wi-Fi to reduce the distribution of paper programs, just like CRE can equip conference teams (again, both exhibitors and attendees) with laptop rentals or other devices to save on paper, printing costs and cleanup. CRE is serious about enviro-friendliness, too, as its corporate green statement makes clear. The balance is a tough one to strike – business growth along with environmental stewardship – but it is worth our best efforts.

CRE always gives you its best efforts, too, recommending appropriate solutions to your workflow bottlenecks and advising you on everything from technology to outfitting your trade show exhibit booth. Call or e-mail one our Account Executives today, or fill out the online Quick Rental Quote form, and let us help you make your next move towards ‘greening’ your event.

February 25th, 2010

Google WaveThe easiest way to explain Google Wave is to call it an “online collaboration platform”.   Various features of chat, texting, e-mail, Wikis, photo-sharing, blogging and instant messaging are brought to bear on a “hosted conversation,” or “wave.” Created by the Google brain trust, it is an open source product that will be integrated in zillions of ways with Facebook, Twitter, other Web sites and other software services. The software is in beta testing and will be released to the public sometime in 2010.

Wave has the potential to be a great tool for conferences and events by offering a  collaborative environment.  The “waves” — discussions, pictures, drawings, audio notes — can be “threaded” separately and can help event organizers, booth staff and conference attendees manage meetings, develop agendas, share content, capture data, record audio and video, and interact with one another in both planned and improvised ways.

Using the Wave with technology rentals

Google Wave is, of course, a computer tool and users will need good internet access and the right hardware, like CRE’s  tablet PC rentals, to make the most of it. With the ability to capture handwritten notes, audio and even video with a small, USB Flip camera, tablets are perfect for staying plugged-in while strolling about a convention or meeting facility.  In a seated seminar, laptop rentals would integrate perfectly with your “mobile tablet team,” and your booth in the exhibit hall can be “command central” with a computer rental.

As Wave matures, it is likely that mobile applications will emerge to make “waving” (perhaps there’s a better verb available) possible on cell phones, PDAs and iPads (here is our take on the iPad). During this process, Google will also have to address the various criticisms of Wave, which are to be expected in any new software product. There is a fairly stiff learning curve, although there are a lot of online tutorials from Google and third parties. With the plethora of options and tools, Wave can be a bit daunting at first glance, and there is no way to master it without jumping right in and devoting the time needed.

When you have questions about new technology – especially tools that can help you work more cost-effectively – give our Account Executives a call or send an e-mail. They stay abreast of all new products and services that can help you get your jobs done better. If you know what you need, use our Quick Rental Quote form. It may take time for everyone to catch this Wave, but it looks like it promises to be quite a ride.

February 11th, 2010

The breakout session is a mainstay of the modern conference. It is a chance for exhibitors, sponsors and invited speakers to bring good, usable information to attendees, who can range from special guests and industry colleagues to possible collaborators and potential customers. Media events, presentations, panel discussions and such audience participation activities as Q & A sessions and polling involve various (and numerous) pieces of equipment, all of which need to be in place and ready to go. For smooth sailing, you need a basic breakout room package that will fill the bill.

Audience Response System for Breakout RoomContent is king

In the process of familiarizing yourself with some pretty nice audiovisual equipment and computers, never forget that the most important thing is the content. In many cases it will be a PowerPoint presentation and/or some Flash animation. One of CRE’s laptop rentals with the Microsoft Office installed will be plugged into the 3K projector, set on a cart/stand with a power strip and locking wheels. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a backup laptop running the presentation simultaneously on its own screen. If the presenting PC crashes, the other will be in sync to continue.

With all the included cables and power cords properly attached, you’re ready to roll. On a 6-ft. tripod screen (with skirt) you can showcase your product or service with a presentation including video clips, bullet points that follow your script and/or a slideshow, all controlled by a cordless presenter. If your message is as high-quality as the presentation system, you have the ingredients for a great session.

Stepping it up a notch

If you anticipate a large crowd, you may need to consider some supplemental equipment, for starters a cordless microphone and powered speakers, and other kinds of audiovisual rentals. Depending on the room, you may need some lighting equipment, too, and for archival and/or training purposes you could also bring in some video recording gear. CRE’s digital recorder rentals can be used to hold digital media for use in your presentation, record the session or capture attendee contact information.

If you’re going to have a table in the room for registration, collecting business cards, getting contact information or providing sell sheets or brochures, CRE’s office equipment rentals could be a big help.

Some of the best help you can get in a breakout session, of course, is from your audience. With one of CRE’s Audience Response System rentals, you can interact with attendees and poll them during and after the presentation – or base the presentation around an audience Q & A session in the first place. Whatever your breakout room plan, our experienced Account Executives are ready with the ways, means and expertise to bring it to fruition. Call, send an e-mail or fill out a Quick Rental Quote form and we’ll break out, bring over and set up whatever you need, whenever you need it.

January 28th, 2010

In 2003, the Green Meetings Task Force of the Convention Industry Council (CIC) was asked to create minimum best sustainability practices for event organizers, vendors and participants. The task force included representatives of industry, government and think thanks, from the EPA, the Ocean’s Blue Foundation and the World Travel Organization to convention and visitor’s bureaus, hotel firms, convention centers, meeting planners and other organizations. The Task Force’s work resulted in a set of guidelines for event organizers and suppliers for producing “eco-friendly” events.

CRE Rentals Commitment to Green

What is a green event?

The CIC Task Force defines a green meeting or event as one that “incorporates environmental considerations to minimize its negative impact on the environment.” Once the principles were established, it was thought, the continuing march of technology would provide ever faster, cleaner and more sustainable methods for reducing the negative impact. This has, in fact, occurred. Since 2003, wireless networking has found its way into every laptop line, like MacBook Pro rentals, and with inexpensive wireless access readily available, event organizers can reduce their use of paper for programs, maps and schedules by emailing or using Twitter to keep attendees informed.

Digital recording has progressed leaps and bounds. A Digital Recorder rental, like the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96, offers a professional, 2-channel, mobile digital recorder that records WAV and MP3 files to Compact Flash (CF) cards and fits in the palm of your hand. Event organizers can record sessions and upload them, making it easy for attendees to listen to sessions missed;  add PDF files of session handouts and notes, and you’ve created a greener event.

High-Tech Convention Centers

Advances in green meetings are being paralleled by advances in convention technology, which we will cover in an upcoming blog. There is another trend, however, that is most exciting, and that is the new generation of high-tech convention centers.

When the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) built its new Boston convention facility, the goal was to create a high-tech convention center that would serve as the centerpiece of the city’s waterfront revitalization program. Designed as a totally wired facility, it provides visitors with site-wide Internet access and exhibitors with under-the-floor boxes for easy access to all utilities and communication. Setting up a networked PC to run presentations on an LCD monitor rental is a snap with this kind of pre-planning.

Convention center management used the facility’s Ethernet backbone network to design the Building Automation System (BAS). The BAS allows third-party systems to inter-operate with its single front-end system,which has over 5,000 control points. Convention center staff can manage and monitor the entire center’s operations and systems both centrally and remotely — everything from HVAC equipment, fire alarm interfaces, A/V systems and more. When a problem occurs with any of the systems, the BAS alerts convention center staff via cell phone or e-mail.

Looking for a partner that is committed to “green” and is a leader in convention planning and rentals? CRE Rentals is ready to help you plan, implement and equip your next event. Give our expert Account Executives a call, send an e-mail or fill out the Quick Rental Quote right now to start “greening” your next event.

January 21st, 2010

In Part 2 of “Let There Be Lighting” (read Part 1 here), we will give you some suggestions when setting up lighting for a presentation in a mid-size room (conference breakout, company meeting). Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable with lighting, CRE Rentals’ technical staff can assist to get you what you need for your particular situation.

Lighting Rental for Events

Scouting locations and lighting needs

When movie makers scout locations, they check more than just “look and feel,” and immediately assess the place, inside or out, in terms of lighting. This is what light meters are for – a great all-purpose tool for checking light levels, and assisting in developing lighting setup plans.

Depending on the meeting type – screen presentation or speech, a dais up front or a podium – you will set up lights in a particular way. If you can’t hang lights from the ceiling to illuminate a podium, you can use freestanding spots from the sides. If the focus of the audience is a presentation on a large-screen,  then you would keep that area dim and perhaps throw a small spotlight on the speaker.

Interactivity needs light

If you are using an Audience Response System rentals, your challenge is to keep lights low enough not to interfere with the screen image, and high enough for people to see their handheld response devices. This can be accomplished, somewhat counterintuitively, with more, not fewer, lights. With sideline lights every few rows, keep the rear lights a bit higher than the middle ones, the middle ones a bit brighter than the near-front ones and create a “lighting gradation” to achieve your goal.

Alternatively, you can use an indirect approach, such as illuminating the room walls with bottom-up spots, even colored ones (choice of color matters). All of these maneuvers, of course, will depend on what the built-in room lighting offers, but if they are not “dimmable,” it is better to leave them out of the equation entirely.

Speaking of control…

Today’s lighting components, from ceiling-mounted spots to colored ones on stands, all connect to central control panels that can also run the audiovisual equipment – including a  high lumen projector rental if you need one.

The basic lesson is that more lights means more control, and greater flexibility in directionality, brightness, color and other variables. You don’t have to believe in Feng Shui to know that such room characteristics as size, paint and carpet color, seating arrangements and ceiling height affect your lighting plan – and mood, too.

Our expert Account Executives can put you in a good mood by helping you put together a great meeting, so give a call, send an e-mail or fill out the Quick Rental Quote right now. CRE is in the solutions business, and we have one for you, too.

January 19th, 2010

Whether it’s a presentation, seminar, conference or trade show exhibit – in small rooms, large halls or a stadium – good lighting can make or break an event. As a leader in trade show management and convention rentals, CRE knows the importance not only of good equipment, but good information. Here’s some on basic lighting.

Good lighting gives presenters a more dramatic, more impressive stage presence, and also ensures that video or film recordings are clear and usable. Armed with a PowerMac G5 with Kona card rental from CRE, an artist could adjust lighting and contrast “in post,” but you always want to capture the best possible original image.

Different strobes for different folks

Lighting RentalThere are many leading specialty lighting makers offering a world of lighting products for every situation. Event lighting can include fluorescent, incandescent, strobe and LED lights, and are available in banks, spots, tubes and other shapes, in all sizes and wattages. No matter what type of lighting you need, there is a light that will meet your needs.

For large meeting halls or dinner events, theater-style lighting adds color and drama to the atmosphere, and can transform “the usual thing” into something truly memorable. Many of the new, smaller, integrated systems can be controlled by computers available to rent from CRE.

Let there be light

Consider these basic lighting tips as you plan your next event:

  • Color is proven to influence audience mood, and it’s fascinating how it works, so do a little research before your next big meeting.
  • Different colors and textures can attract or redirect people’s attention.
  • You can project graphics across the stage or wall using gobos, etched disks inside the light fixtures.
  • Make sure presenters suffer no distracting facial shadows. Do a dry run.
  • Stage “washes” keep presenters well lit as they walk the stage
  • Follow spots will pick out award winners or notables from an audience.
  • Powerful psychological effects can be achieved by lighting the entire room.
  • New, “intelligent lighting” can be programmed to sweep the room, create effects and change colors.

In Part 2, we will show how to set up lighting for a press conference or presentation in a mid-size room (think conference breakout or company meeting). In the meantime, if you’re planning an annual shareholder meeting or exhibiting at a trade show, CRE is the one-stop shop. Our experts can help you with everything from lighting to computers, audience response system rentals to kiosks– just request a Quick Rental Quote today. We can definitely throw some light on the subject for you.

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