2010 AV

HSS 2010 Annual Meeting

Montréal, Quebec

4-7 November 2010

A Note on Audio/Visual Equipment

This is the second time that we will be providing lcd projectors (beamers) in all of the HSS rooms and the first time that all of the PSA rooms will have projectors. Because these projectors are expensive, and thus impact the registration fees, registrants should be aware of the history that went into that decision.

In 1998, the HSS Council voted to equip one hi-tech room for each meeting, a room that held three types of projectors: lcd (beamer), slide, and overhead. The decision was made in the face of increasing demand for lcd projectors, which, at the time, cost $800 – $1,200US per day to rent. To have filled all requests for these projectors, fueled by the rise of Powerpoint, would have easily doubled registration fees. Much has changed in the interim but not everything: Kodak no longer makes slide projectors, overhead projectors are seldom used, and almost all requests for projection equipment are now for lcds. And although the price for such projectors has dropped considerably, the price is still substantial: bids for lcd projectors for the Montréal ranged from $375-$1,000/day. And when you consider the various charges that come with a/v – microphones, screens, carts, portable speakers, patch fees – the costs are significant.

Now that you can buy an lcd for a few hundred dollars, many people have suggested that we simply purchase our own and bring them to the meetings. This would be a mistake for a number of reasons: such equipment is fragile and expensive to ship; we would still have to hire individuals to set up the equipment, tear it down and troubleshoot (labor costs are a large part of any a/v bid); equipment quickly becomes obsolete; and projectors that provide sufficient illumination in a large room cost much more than the projectors you carry in your bag. In the end, it is the labor part of the equation that is the most significant. When a projector malfunctions, it is essential that a trained technician is on hand to solve the problem – those who are presenting their papers will not be given a second chance.

And it was not just price that prompted the resistance to using lcd projectors. We have heard many complaints over the years where projector were used as a crutch to support a weak presentation and in too many cases individuals would simply read what was on the screen, a sure way to lose one’s audience. Words still count and one of the best examples of this is the internet spoof where Abraham Lincoln gives his Gettysburg Address using Powerpoint.

But Powerpoint is a prominent feature in education today and the good will lost in trying to determine who REALLY needed a projector for their presentations, trying to assign rooms based on projector availability, trying to switch projectors from room to room, trying to explain to a panicked individual that he did not request a projector so there is not one available, and trying to convince local organizers to borrow projectors from their local universities, ended up eroding the quality of the meeting and the quality of the experience. So, for the 2010 conference, we are equipping each room with a projector. To do so means an increase in registration fees but we hope that the extra cost is justified by a more effective delivery of information. What we are not providing are computers, which would also ratchet up the registration fees. Given the ubiquity of laptops, we feel that some simple coordination among presenters will allow seamless use of a common computer and we appreciate all of those who bring their own equipment, which helps us combat rising registration fees.