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Outsourcing audio/visual at Pheasant Run Resort

United Visual provides in-house a/v services at Chicagoland's largest resort

Govenor George W. Bush addresses the DuPage Republican Central Committee at Pheasant RunIt's the third day of your company's conference and you're slated for a two o'clock seminar. The thing you want most is for this meeting to be fast, efficient and informative, because a round of golf and a dip in the pool are beginning to sound really good right now. Meetings run long for all sorts of reasons, but if this one's at Pheasant Run Resort, you can bet that won't be because of technical problems. Planners at the site have been in the business long enough to know the best way to handle a/v services-an area that's critical if they want to end up with a happy client when the day is done.

Though few of the resort's guests realize it, since 1989 United Visual has been the primary source for audio/visual and business center services at Pheasant Run. By outsourcing these services, the resort's managers can concentrate on other aspects of the business, comfortable that the a/v is being handled by professionals.

As the midwest's largest resort and convention center, Pheasant Run is a place where business and pleasure mix comfortably. While some guests golf, swim or sun, others are deep in discussion in one of the complex's 42 conference rooms or Megacenter convention hall. Pulling all these pieces together properly means knowing when to do the work yourself and when to delegate.

Pheasant run is the Midwest's lartest hotel and convention center Why outsource?

It's no secret that the best organizations "stick to their knitting" and develop those skills critical to their core business. "The biggest advantage for us is that it's one less thing we have to focus on," says Pheasant Run director of sales Tim Hobbs. "It frees us up to concentrate on our own specialty, running the resort."

Yet it would not be enough, says Hobbs, to bring in a/v equipment on an as-needed basis. "Having the a/v services in house means clients can sit down with the a/v staff and talk about their requirements in advance. And since United has been here so long, they can advise clients on what equipment works best in which room and in what situation." Although a few clients do bring in their own equipment, Hobbs says it's usually when all they need is an overhead or slide projector that they already own. Anything more sophisticated comes as part of a meeting package put together by United Visual and Pheasant Run.

The volume of meetings held at the resort keeps United's staff on their toes and calls for a sizeable inventory of audio-visual equipment. Yet a/v needs there vary widely by the season. In the spring Pheasant Run may host as many as 40 meetings at one time, and each may call for a different type of equipment. Yet the resort typically sees only half its normal meeting volume in January. For many resorts, stocking enough a/v equipment to meet peak demand is a daunting prospect, as it's difficult to pay for it in the off months. It does not help that many a/v systems become obsolete quickly. A firm like United Visual can move inventory in and out with fluctuating demand and has the ability to purchase new equipment and sell off the old economically.

For all that, Hobbs suggests that the real proof of the value of outsourcing is the result he sees with customers. For example, at a resort of Pheasant Run's caliber, clients expect everything to be perfect and ready when they ask for it, even if it's at the last minute. Eleventh hour changes can be a big issue at properties that don't have technicians and equipment on-site. United's on-site manager, Mike Ferraro, says it's critical to keep staff available whenever they might be needed. "When the clients are here, we're here. If they're here until two in the morning, so are we. We're just a page away when they need us."

That kind of service, combined with the professional planning, catering and facility management at the resort and the sheer scope of what's available to the customer, helped Pheasant Run win the 1999 Gold Key Award from Meetings & Conventions Magazine. The award symbolizes excellence in the business of meeting planning and facilitating and reflects an ongoing, extremely high level of customer satisfaction.

Meetings at the resort

Archbishop George addresses Chicago priests at the resortNow in the midst of a five year, 15 million dollar facelift, Pheasant Run will soon have a fresh new look. Renovations are underway in guest rooms, health club areas, swimming pools, and in the business center run by United Visual. "Before the business center opened, the front desk had to fill all the business needs of our clients, from making copies to finding paper clips," says Hobbs. "The business center has become one of the busiest spots at the resort and its services are in constant demand."

Hobbs expects the renovations to help Pheasant Run continue to win the area's most important events. George W. Bush, for instance, hung his flag at the resort's Megacenter twice in the 2000 presidential campaign, and each time over 2,000 people gathered to hear him speak. Mike Ferraro says there was a show going on in the Megacenter the evening before his first appearance, so crews had to wait until late in the night before moving in to set up for the event.

For each rally, the United Visual crew hung a 40' truss from the ceiling above the stage holding speakers, microphones and stage lighting fixtures. They aimed these lights at the podium, dignitaries' table and a giant American flag that hung from the back of the stage. "We ran all the mics for the rally," says Ferraro, "and the press box came out of our sound board, so the audio had to be good. We also had to 'fly' all our sound in the audience area, because the crowd was so big."

Two hours before the candidate arrived, the entire Megacenter was evacuated so the Secret Service could sweep the hall for security purposes. "A Bush advance team came in several days ahead of the event," says Hobbs, "and even did background checks on some of our staff members. It was odd having limited access to areas of the resort that the Secret Service had shut down temporarily for security."

Security wasn't quite as complicated when Francis Cardinal George came out to address priests from the Chicago Archdiocese last year, but according to Hobbs the Cardinal's visit was more work. "The difference was that Bush was only here for one day...in and out. But the Cardinal's meetings ran over a long weekend and involved a lot of different meetings. We were constantly moving equipment from room to room over the four-day event." United Visual was on hand to provide sound, projection and stage lighting for a dining room and theater set up in the Megacenter, as well as sound and projection in several smaller meeting rooms.

Of course, Pheasant Run also hosts any number of smaller meetings and conferences. While the resort is in the business of hospitality, it's United's job to ensure that the technical side of meetings it hosts run smoothly, so that every guest will have time for a dip in the pool or a round of golf before the day comes to a close.

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