It has been a busy few weeks. Having left the event organiser world a few weeks ago, it has been fascinating to see what life is like on ‘the other side of the fence’ in the supplier world.

Having now spent countless hours working through white board sessions and being taught about equipment I didn’t even know existed… (who ever thought I would be challenged to configure the IP mangle on a router!) I have learnt a lot about the technology that makes the smallest, and largest events happen.

I have been to see some amazing events; product launches, exhibitions and sports competitions, all of which increasingly rely on technology behind the scenes to make the event work from ticketing partners, people counting, internet and Wi-Fi.

So what have I learnt?

Venue surveys – I didn’t even know what these were before starting at Etherlive, having not arranged one for any of my events, but they are a common request with indoor events. This helps when trying to evaluate multiple venues or to identify gaps in the chosen venue which may cost to fix, this then gets written into the hire contract for the venue to fix and means the budget doesn’t fall on the event.

Intelligent Event Network – A lot of the event networks/Wi-Fi systems deployed by Etherlive are self-monitoring and ‘healing’ which means less downtime and greater speeds. Each network operates across several segments which report to a central system, so any issues are identified quickly. 

People Counting – Etherlive has three systems it uses depending on what data is required, from overhead cameras to using existing CCTV cameras but the main one which is interesting to exhibitions is small enough to be dropped around a stand or area and gives you engagement if the person stays for a while or passes by. This information is collected anonymously from any Wi-Fi device.

This week I travelled up to Yorkshire to the UCI Road World Championships where Etherlive is the technology partner – it was great to see behind the scenes and learn what our talented engineers get up to!

Etherlive Welcomes New Account Director

Etherlive has expanded its team following the appointment of new Account Director, Sarah Walsh.

Sarah Walsh joins the company with over 6 years’ experience in the events industry, her most recent role was as Event Manager for one of the world’s leading event organisers, producing and delivering innovative market leading events.

As part of her varied role, Sarah will build on and use her experience and relationships that she’s gained to help Etherlive grow in the indoor event space.

Sarah said: “I am really looking forward to this new challenge, especially the opportunity to join the supplier side of events.  I share the same outlook as Etherlive about events – I love them!  Events are something truly special and each one is different. Having been an Event Manager myself I understand that technology is one of the most important parts of an event and I look forward to developing and maintaining a high quality of relationships with my clients, making sure they do not have to worry about the technology at their own event.”

Sales and Marketing Director, Tom McInerney, said: “Sarah’s experience and background will make her a great addition to the business, and we are looking forward to watching her develop the role and help us work with new events.”

Outside of work Sarah is a keen swimmer and loves the opportunity to travel and visit new countries.  As with all Etherlive employees Sarah also loves attending events and says her best gig to date was watching the Spice Girls in Cardiff, a chance to relive her youth!

-Ends-

Working alongside and within venues is something that many event organisers have to deal with. From stadiums hosting concerts, to inner city hotels hosting training seminars and press launches.

One thing they all have in common is that they are used to hosting a lot of events, from the smallest to the largest, but when does the organiser know to call in help for the technical elements?

Set your expectations

Venues do what they normally do very well, whether that’s bedrooms, sports events, food or whatever. It doesn’t mean they can do something on the scale the event needs. When considering IT we generally liken it to the screen in most conference rooms. If you need an internal presentation or meeting for 20 staff then the screen in the conference room is probably enough, but if the event called for something special, you would bring in an AV Company. It’s the same with IT. If it’s just Wi-Fi for 20 then it’s probably fine, but if its critical, or for lots of people, then it needs to be checked.

Validate what’s really on site

This will sound like a dig at venues. It isn’t. But in many cases people don’t understand what technology the venue has or its limitations. They are normally reporting something from someone else in the organisation (perhaps an in-house IT team) who won’t be there on the morning of live trying to sort it out. The only way to understand what’s on site is to get on site and look around. A good IT partner can help by setting up a quick phone call with the venue, if technical questions are being answered quickly and with detail, it’s probably correct, if there is a lot of referring to others who are not on the call…red flags should start waving.

Identify your risks

Once you understand what you expect and what is there, then it’s about identifying your risks and what mitigation you want in place. This generally comes down to how important something is. For example, if a web based stream is the core of an event (perhaps an international manager briefing teams across the UK) then there needs to be a second internet connection in place.

When we look at the most ‘high stress’ events it generally tends to be those at venues. Normally because someone asked what was in place, it was confirmed as ok, but then on the day things become difficult and reality bites. Avoid that pain at all costs!

Wi-Fi, internet and CCTV have become increasingly critical to events due to the amount of systems relying on mission critical IT systems, so its worth getting an expert on your team to help work out what to do, keep your specification clear and your suppliers honest. This blog provides some top tips on what to consider when planning all things technical for your event.

Firstly, separate Wi-Fi from the actual internet connection. Imagine Wi-Fi is your home shower head and the internet is the mains water supply, both must be working well to get a good experience.  The better the internet supply the better your experience will be. Even poor Wi-Fi equipment can do a reasonable job of providing access assuming it’s deployed sensibly, the best Wi-Fi equipment can’t do anything with a poor internet connection.

Event networks have become increasingly critical on event sites, connecting systems such as payment terminals, EPOS, ticketing, sound monitoring, CCTV, catering, sponsors, production and telephony across large areas. In many cases the networks being deployed are considerably more complex than a large office. Added to that complexity is the time pressure of deployment and many unknowns such as third parties plugging in equipment, or last-minute sponsors.

Understanding the Costs – Generally internet access is the single most expensive item on the quote, typically followed by resource and then everything else. The best method to reduce the internet connection charge is to ensure you have a handle on how much internet you need, and then get it installed permanently (usually over 3 years).

Get on board with the tech – Or, as mentioned, get someone on your team who does. Like power or security on site the more you understand it, the more you can identify what you want and what is important enough to pay for.

Should I worry about Wi-Fi interference? – The issues with interference (i.e. getting a connection from the Wi-Fi access point to your device) are common. Because all Wi-Fi is unlicensed, and in some cases shared with other technologies, interference is always there, it’s either low enough not to be a big issue, or enough to become a big issue. Of the two frequencies Wi-Fi operates at (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) 5Ghz performs better and has more channels so even if other networks are operating around you, there is more chance of getting a good experience. However, because it’s a higher frequency 5Ghz can’t travel through as many obstructions (such as walls). 

Get ready for power requirements – Networks tend to be deployed from central points outwards. They require power at most points (network cables can carry power up to around 90 metres) which should be 24/7, otherwise when everything gets turned on every morning issues are bound to happen.

Consider what support you need – Consider what type of support you would like for first day services, build, live, break and last day. Remote support is fine with an understanding about when an engineer could visit if required. It helps to have someone semi-technical on the crew who can be on the phone with an engineer since most things can be fixed remotely, issues arise when even the internet connection is down so the remote engineers have no visibility to what’s happening on site.

Consider your security – It is common to see network names and passwords up on the wall. This is fine, although not secure! But also tends to lead to high levels of people connecting, even those just walking through the production area. This can be difficult to control so many events now choose to use individual usernames and passwords (perhaps printed on the rear of their access credentials) which means internet limits can be applied per person not per network.

Have a backup plan (Risk Mitigation) – Always consider plan A and plan B. Any supplier should do that for you, but you don’t want critical systems such as ticketing or payment terminals to fall over mid show. Plan B may be totally manual and changing systems back to cash for example.

Data after the event – A major aspect that is often overlooked is understanding what the event used in terms of internet and phone systems. Do you need the same again next year? If a phone wasn’t used could it be dropped? If the internet is constantly under too much load (but budget isn’t available to increase it) can you control access better?