Assistant professor in event management Ken Tsai explains how to use the Insta360 Pro virtual reality camera to students. Photo by Ryan Riley.

‘We’re creating experiences’: how The Meeting Room prepares event planners for the future

Iowa State University’s event management program was ranked No. 1 in the nation by schools.com in 2018, and the demand for event planners is expected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With this projected  growth and increasing importance of technology in today’s world, the event management program has opened up a new lab space to introduce students to the wide variety of technologies used in the field today.

The Meeting Room is helping students use the latest technology effectively and confidently in event and meeting settings. Since the event management program emphasizes  integrating technology into the curriculum, the idea for the space continued to gain momentum until the department turned 1052 LeBaron Hall into the events lab.

The lab space houses technologies that are used in the event management industry, like six virtual reality headsets (to aid with virtual tours of event locations), sound and lighting equipment, a TV that can be used for video conferencing, wireless connectivity to displays for ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (known as BYOD) , and furniture that accommodates people working on group projects and doing collaborative work.

“[Technology] continues to evolve, and we want to provide students with cutting-edge tools,” said Ken Tsai, assistant professor in apparel, events, and hospitality management. “We look at trends in the industry and seek funding to integrate technology into the curriculum.”

Students also use the space for specific classes. Some of those classes include EVENT 212X - Digital Production in Event Management, which focuses on the use and application of Adobe software, EVENT 471 - Special Events Coordination, which utilizes the sound and lighting equipment in the lab, and EVENT 277X - Introduction to Digital Promotion in Event Management, a class dedicated to event technology and social media marketing in the industry. 

“We’re creating experiences,” said Suzanne Gauch, program coordinator and lecturer in apparel, events and hospitality management. “As technology progresses, we want students to be equipped with the technology of the future.”

The lab is also used by the Event Management Club and is open to any student or faculty member. By utilizing the tools the Meeting Room has to offer, students are learning skills that are immediately applicable in the workplace, gaining a skill set that employers value, and are prepared to compete in a global market after graduation.

“[Iowa State] is one of a few schools that have this space,” said Eric D. Olson, program director and assistant professor in apparel, events, and hospitality management. 

During the spring semester, the department wants to continue to bring the latest event design technologies into The Meeting Room. Other goals for the semester include continuing to partner with event management courses, clubs, and projects and incorporating undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research into the lab space.

Not only does the space give students the confidence to use the lab’s technology, it gives them the confidence and experience to step out into a leadership role — and enjoy themselves while learning.

“[Students] have to take a selfie when they’re in the room,” Gauch said. “Everyone who comes into the Meeting Room has a great experience.”

The Meeting Room is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and Tuesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.