Today’s Tech Trends, Tomorrow’s Essentials for Business Meetings

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When Best Buy booked a room at the Holiday Inn-Boardman so it could train its managers on a new app, it informed hotel staff it would need a significant amount of bandwidth as well as its own login.

“The last thing you want is a three-day meeting with 100 people and the whole thing goes down,” says KayLou King, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.

So hotel administrators worked with their Internet provider, Broadband Hospitality, to dedicate the required amount of bandwidth and set up the login.

Best Buy’s three-day session went off without a hitch, a reflection of the growing demand meeting and banquet centers are meeting for high-tech equipment and expertise.

“The basics are the Wi-Fi and the broadband, the wireless microphones,” King says, “and now everybody needs an LCD projector.”

But many of the technology venues in the area are investing more to provide the latest meeting technology for their customers.

At the NEW Center at Northeast Ohio Medical University, in Roots-town, the administration is focusing on making it easier for guests to connect their devices to the center’s equipment.

“Mac computers are becoming more widely used in the business setting,” says Chris Mettee, director of auxiliary operations at NEOMED. “Having the configurations available to make that work has been a challenge.”

The NEW Center is only three years old, so it’s equipped with many of the amenities expected in a modern venue. The grand ballroom, which can hold up to 325 guests, has drop-down screens embedded in the soffits and high-definition projectors. A second ballroom has several large flat-screen TVs that can be used to display what’s happening in the main ballroom should it be needed for overflow.

The NEW Center has four boardrooms, all equipped with touch-screen video boards and software for video conference calls. Teleconferencing is also available “so that people can call in and be heard on the audio system,” Mettee says.

And although the venue is new, improvements are underway. Andy Malitz, general manager for Sequoia Wellness, which manages the center, says last month NEOMED reconfigured most of the seating in the atrium. “Each seating area has been smart-equipped so people can plug in at their seats and do their work,” he explains.

Pictured: Sequoia Wellness’ Andy Malitz manages NEOMED’s conference centers. The college’s director of operations, Chris Mettee, is looking to upgrade the technological capabilities.

A similar feature is used in some of the business meeting rooms at the Holiday Inn. The plugs are concealed beneath a silver panel that sits flush with the table. When pushed, the panels flip over, revealing the outlets.

Meanwhile at the Courtyard Marriott in Canfield, software is helping to draw customers. “As we get into the slower time of year, we’re trying to capitalize on more of the meeting business,” says its director of sales, Tanya Cruz.

One way the Courtyard Marriott is doing that is making it simpler to book a meeting.

On its website, guests can put in all the information about their needs, from the number of people to audiovisual requirements. The information is then sent to Cruz so she can guide the guest.

Once the event is booked, Courtyard provides guests with a custom reservation link that’s sent to their emails. “They just put in their arrival and departure date and they’re booked,” Cruz says.

Guests can also use the meeting services app. The app is sent to the client three days before his event, allowing him to connect directly with hotel staff at any time.

“That way you can request more water,” she says, “or have the temperature of the room changed without having to interrupt the meeting.”

As changes in technology accelerate, venues find they have to spend more time and effort to keep up.

“We don’t want to be an establishment that has less or knows less about the trends,” says Mike Moliterno, general manager of the Holiday Inn-Boardman.

One trend Moliterno is considering is whether to invest is “casting” or “mirroring,” which allows users to display their devices’ content on a TV screen.

“There’s a lot of competition for the dollar and everybody’s trying to be creative,” he says.

While it would seem venues should try to be all things to all people, Moliterno says that’s not always true.

The Holiday Inn has several projection screens, but none descends from the ceiling, a common service at many venues.

“One company sets the screen up over here,” he explains. “Another sets it up over there.”

In addition to the latest technology, venues are looking for other ways to separate themselves from the competition.

The Courtyard Marriott boasts a large outdoor patio that leads to the Kennsington Grille Restaurant. “Which is nice,” Cruz says, “because when you get to the hotel after a long trip you don’t want to get back in the car to get something to eat.”

Another attraction is the Kennsington Golf Club, which abuts the hotel.

At the NEW Center, guests have the option of using the Sequoia Wellness Gym during their events.

Malitz says participants in business retreats often make use of the rock climbing wall and yoga instructor. “It’s one of the unique things that we can offer here by having a medical fitness center on premises,” he says.

Moliterno says the Holiday Inn just made a sizeable investment in lighting for its events and its administration is considering whether to build a patio outside.

“We think that would be a nice differentiator for us,” he says.

Keeping up with the latest in technology, all agree, remains to be a top priority. “Who knows what will be the next thing they’ll invent that will become a must-have?” Cruz asks.

Pictured: The Canfield Marriott offers an event planning app, says Tanya Cruz, director of sales.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.