Oct 1, 2007

Bend Riverhouse Flunks The A/V Test

Display screens randomly moving up and down. Video connections lost. Continual failure of wireless microphones. Hotel staff turning on lights when a speaker requests lights off. This weekend's League of Oregon Cities(LOC) annual conference, held at Bend's Riverhouse conference center, was the victim of technical failure along the lines of the New York Mets' spectacular season ending collapse.

This year's annual conference was attended by about a thousand city elected officials, staff, and their families. The conference's goal: to provide hands on training regarding city issues such as growth, land use, taxes, and transportation. Approximately 1000 city elected officials and staff attended this year's LOC conference. It was a pleasure to get to know other local officials from across the state

During the opening general session featuring PGE CEO Peggy Fowler and a panel discussion on energy issues, several hundred conference attendees were treated to a memorable "Dancing with the Video Screens" performance. Right in the middle of a presentation by an Oregon Dept. of Energy official, both giant video screens began randomly moving up and down. About 30 seconds after the screen dance began, The video signal was cut off, followed a few seconds later by the complete failure of the audio system.

Audio system failure, complete or intermittent, was a common occurrence in just about every breakout session I attended over the weekend. I have attended many conferences throughout my career, sponsored by many organizations and at dozens of venues. I have never witnessed such complete incompetence when it comes to audio/visual reliability and performance.

Granted, the Riverhouse conference center is brand new. It takes a while to get all the "bugs" out of any new facility. But all I can say to future conference planners is: Beware!

On the plus side, keynote speaker Sam Glenn was hilarious. Glenn's performance resulted in nonstop laughter from the entire audience. Unfortunately, during his performance, his music cut in and out, and Riverhouse staff turned the room lights ON when Glenn asked them to turn the lights OFF (this happened twice). Glenn got huge laughs from the audience when, after HIS microphone stopped working, he said, "Let me guess.This is a new facility. And the sound company offered you a GREAT deal, right?

The conference provided excellent information. Nearly all speakers were well informed, articulate, and totally interactive with the attendees. LOC staff were, as always, extremely knowledgeable, pleasant and helpful. The Riverhouse food was beyond excellent. The Design band at Saturday night's banquet was excellent.

Overall, I give this year's LOC staff an A+++ for a great conference, Bend's Riverhouse conference center an A+ for a beautiful facility, fantastic food and friendly staff, but an F- for its audiovisual incompetence.

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