If there is anything positive from a business point of view in the current coronavirus pandemic, and I’m clutching at straws here, it’s that you would never normally get the chance to slow your business down, step back and look at every aspect.

Our event focused sector of the business stalled overnight, just as we were entering the busiest period of the year. Months of planning, resource training and equipment purchase stopped. With every event cancelled for the foreseeable future we had no choice but to furlough staff and put the events part of the business on a temporary hold.

Once we were over the initial shock it dawned on us that, albeit unexpectedly forced on us, the opportunity was there to reassess key aspects of our business — structure, systems, equipment, roles and responsibilities and even our focus areas — without the challenge of doing it in parallel whilst operating the business at full stretch as would normally be the case at this time of year.

In the current situation the old saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ has never been truer, especially when it comes to driving down recurring costs, creating solutions to some of the challenges that face our event customers when they return and identifying new revenue opportunities.


For us internally this has led to a move to a new transformative CRM and job management system which is not only more cost-effective but further integrates key systems such as budget reporting, requirements, equipment management and resource management, along with an improved bi-directional link to our accounting system. This has reduced duplicate work, provides a single system of record and enables us to give external freelancers access to key information in a much better way.

To try and make this change normally would have been incredibly difficult whilst running the business at 100% with hundreds of jobs mid-flow. This initial change will also enable us to develop more automated functions around our new ‘core’, helping us record, manage, monitor, report and share information effectively both internally and with our customers.

We’ve also had time to look at our organisation and consider what we need to plan for going forward, not just because of the impact of coronavirus but also in general as the business matures and develops. It’s too easy to carry on doing what you have been doing because it has ‘always been that way’ when actually things have changed and evolved. With so much opportunity to automate tasks and workflows staff roles can be redefined to match the needs going forward.

New Technology

We hold lots of rental equipment and managing its lifespan is important from a cost and technical point of view. The time is right now to assess the technical roadmap and work out where to invest. Normally this is more of an evolutionary process but with the enforced gap it can be more revolutionary, looking further into the future for where we need to be.

More broadly the pandemic is driving changes that will most likely become permanent. For example, in the event sector the move to cashless/contactless has been progressing slower than in high street retail for several reasons, partly because cash was seen as an easy, known quantity and cashless was seen as more complex. Coronavirus has changed that and cash is no longer attractive, with the future looking 100% contactless. The customer now expects contactless everywhere which drives different requirements for delivery at events.

In a similar way ‘traceability’ has become a big topic so that events can show they are in control of who attended, when they were there and possibly even who they were close to. This requires tying together several systems — ticketing, entrance/exit scanning, on-site location and historical reporting — in a way which would have been deemed an invasion of privacy until recently but now may be a requirement for the event to run.

New Directions

For many event companies the big shock in all of this was the realisation that their entire business model revolved around people being physically together. We work across many diverse event segments — festivals, sports, exhibitions, conferences, trade shows, etc. but they all require physical attendees — something no one expected could be taken away so quickly and completely.

There has been much talk of the pivot to virtual events and although virtual events will take a bigger role going forward they will not replace the desire for people to meet and share common experiences in person. After a period of time I am sure we will see a lot more around hybrid events, mixing both a physical and virtual element to extend audiences and also provide some risk mitigation for what could be an ongoing cycle of restrictions.

Events of all sorts – music, sport, e-sports, culture, etc – for many are a key part of mental well-being, a subject which needs far more focus. The event sector has a part to play in the recovery and I’ve heard some great discussions around using events to bring communities back together, ranging from small local events to distributed global events linked to sporting tournaments. New formats and approaches which probably would not have been considered before the current situation transpired.

For companies like ours who have, to date, predominantly provided services for physical events the big discussion is around risk mitigation and diversification in the future. We are not moving away from physical events, we are continuing to introduce additional services to assist the operation of events in the new environment but that is coupled with a bigger focus on parallel services which are less reliant on the physical gathering.

Coronavirus has hit the events industry particularly hard but it is these pressures which drive innovation and over the next year or two we could see some interesting disrupters as we all plot a new course.


We all know maintaining an exciting, engaging live event experience whilst maintaining social distancing is going to be a challenge. We have been working with several customers to plan out what live music and events might look like in the new normal. Technology is a key element of this offering, reducing barriers between the experience and the attendee, and assisting in keeping everyone safe.

On-Site Apps

Previously seen as a barrier, mobile apps are now the new enabler. Ordering food, drinks, merchandise and just getting updated information about the event will, for the moment, pivot around mobile devices. From the process of ordering through to the delivery via location tracking, apps will form a key part of getting the shows going again, this of course has to be coupled with a reliable infrastructure to ensure the app works for everyone.

Contactless Payments

There has been a steady rise year on year in contactless payment systems at events but the current situation should finally push cash out altogether. Ensuring payments can be taken reliably via an app or on mobile contactless terminals is critical.

Connected Production

Most of the media coverage focusses on audience safety but putting on an event requires a big team of people working together from many different groups. Keeping the production teams, artists, press, contactors, etc. in close communication but not in close contact will put extra strain on the underlying services. From basic internet access and Wi-Fi, to phones, radios and CCTV, all components need to be addressed to ensure the capacity is there, and in cases such as phones, radios and CCTV viewing, ensuring that they do not introduce an additional contamination risk. We see production internet requirements increasing by around 20% year on year, so it is key to have sufficient bandwidth to keep operational.

Number Plate Recognition

Reduce the wait on arrival by linking the vehicles number plate with the ticket. Our cameras can quickly scan the plate and give the operator a green signal to pass

CCTV & Thermal Detection

Using additional cameras for event management can help reduce the number of staff in close proximity to attendees and, although not a guarantee, thermal cameras monitoring skin surface temperatures can help identify any high risk attendees for further checks before allowing entry.

People Counting

For more enclosed areas managing the density of people can be assisted by adding automated counting systems or even ‘traffic light’ systems controlling access. Although not ideal these are already becoming the norm in shopping situations so people are becoming more accepting.

Live Audio Relay

With more distanced audiences, especially with in-car/near car experiences using additional services can help enhance the experience, this could be live relays of the audio and video but these have technical challenges which need to be considered early on.

Many of the changes needed at live events are not the most desirable but at least it helps get the industry moving again.

Can We Help?

Speak to our team today 01666 800129 or email hello@etherlive.co.uk for quotes and discuss how we can help your event embrace the new normal

Remote Working

In the current environment with a real possibility of travel restrictions and companies being encouraged or possibly forced to have their employees work from home it is essential to review IT service capabilities to ensure they can continue to operate if these scenarios play out. For large companies with a dedicated IT department this is routine practice but for smaller businesses IT contingency is often overlooked but it doesn’t have to be an onerous task.

It is likely that the majority of a company’s IT services are either ‘on-premise’, meaning they are hosted within the company’s physical building or ‘cloud-hosted’, either as a fully managed service, such as Microsoft Office 365, or located in a data centre such as Amazon Web Services. Starting with the on-premise arrangement there are a few key areas to check and address.

Internet Connectivity Capacity

Not surprisingly it is often the case that the office internet capacity is thought about from the aspect of employees working in the office not the situation where they are all at home trying to remotely access services and this can put a different type of demand on the service.

The situation can be further exasperated if the existing connectivity is ‘non-symmetric’, where the download speed is higher than the upload speed, as is the case with services such BT Infinity and other FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) offerings. In these cases when the users are remote the ‘upload’ speed becomes the critical factor since that is what will limit the external employees accessing the services.

Extra capacity may be needed via additional services or by ‘bursting’ the speed on fibre services, either of which may take time to install or activate. There are various options possible, each with their own time and cost implications.

Virtual Private Networks (VPN)

Most users access their office networks via a Virtual Private Network (VPN), typically a piece of software which securely connects them to their office network. It is not unusual for the ‘hub’ at the office to have concurrent user restrictions either via licencing or just simply down to performance. It is wise to understand what the limit is and whether it can be increased to avoid the situation where only some of the employees can connect at any one time.

Remote System Management

If the situation arises that all employees are working from home then managing the IT services on-site from home is also key, this needs to cover everything from basic administration using software to scenarios where systems may need restarting manually using specialist tools. At the same time it would be wise to ensure some form of monitoring is in place on those systems which can alert support staff if problems arise.


The approach for telephony will depend very much on what is currently being used. If traditional phone lines or ISDN telephony are relied upon then the only option may be basic call forwarding. One step up from this could be the introduction of a VoIP (Voice over IP) service with the existing numbers forwarded to that service.

For those already using VoIP there are more options. If the service is cloud-based, then it should be straight forward for users to use this service from home, either with a physical VoIP phone or a ‘softphone’ which is a piece of software which runs on a laptop or mobile phone.

Where a company runs its own VoIP PBX then a similar approach should be possible but this may need some firewall configuration and checks on internet capacity.

Communication & Collaboration Tools

With all employees working from home effective communication and collaboration is critical and at a minimum an instant messaging application should be in place for everyone. If no existing on-premise services are in place then it may be most efficient to utilise one of the many cloud-based solutions, however, if existing aspects are operating on-premise then ensuring these can be used remotely should be on the checklist.

Cloud-Based Services

Where the key IT services are outsourced to a cloud provider a few different aspects need to be considered. The first aspect is a fall-back plan. Although the big providers like Microsoft & Google have significant capacity and high reliability there is always the risk that they will have a major outage. Although painful during normal operating times, an outage when all employees are at home would have a major impact. At a minimum there should be a documented plan as to what the approach will be in such a situation and preferably this should extend to back-up services – this may be as simple as holding information on alternative personal email addresses for all employees in case the primary service fails.

If the company is hosting their own cloud services in a data centre then remote management is important, but this is likely to be in place already. Capacity should also be checked but it would be expected that this would be suitable given it would not make much difference in this scenario as to whether users are at home or in the office.

Remote Worker Preparation

The final aspect of preparation is the actual home workers. Each employee needs a suitable device, preferably a laptop for the best flexibility or otherwise a PC. This could be the users own PC if they are happy for additional software to be installed. Depending on the set-up it may also be necessary to provide an external keyboard and mouse, and possibly a monitor, to maintain a good ergonomic set-up for long working hours at home. For effective voice communication a USB headset is a good investment.

Any home working scenarios is only going to be productive if the user has suitable internet connectivity. A poor ADSL connection is unlikely to be good enough for anything above basic email sending and browsing. If audio calls, video conferencing such as Skype or Microsoft Teams and cloud-based collaboration is going to be used then extra capacity is likely to be needed.

The only short-term solution may be to provide a 4G Mi-Fi unit or 4G Router if the worker has a good signal from one of the operators, but this could rack up significant data costs. Alternatively, it may make sense to assist with the employee upgrading to a better service if it is available but this may take time.

The homeworker also needs to test all the components before any policy is enacted, this should include checking access and operation of all the tools such as a softphone, conferencing system, messaging services and collaboration tools.

With employees potentially out of the office for a period of time, all laptops or PCs should have some form of remote management tools so that any problems can be dealt with by technical staff.

This may look like a long list but with suitable support these aspects can be covered quickly and a plan drawn up. A small amount of time spent now getting everything in place could save a lot of lost productivity later on and, as a side benefit, enable a longer-term flexible working environment which is more productive for everyone.

Remote working though is much more than just a set of tools, it requires changes to behaviours and processes to be effective but getting the tools in place is the first step.

Before joining Etherlive I was an Event Manager for a large event organiser. It involved a lot of travel and I got to work with some fantastic brands and customers.

My brief when joining Etherlive was to develop a greater relationship with exhibition and corporate event professionals. Many events they are operating continue to rely on poor technology, either from venues or from in house IT teams who don’t have the time or bandwidth to focus on one event or another.

Whilst thinking about how best to show what Etherlive can do, it got me thinking about what I used to attend, Mash Medias International Confex. This year taking place in the enormous Excel. So, I developed a plan and we have agreed to be one of the sponsors for the event. This includes a VIP drinks evening on the first night (Tuesday 25th Feb) anyone who wants to come along please let me know!

Its all about engagement and showing corporate and event organisers they don’t have to live with the IT from the venue – there are other options!

Planning the stand has been fun – since it’s Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day!) we have decided to host a pancake flipping competition! You will spot us a mile off with our Etherlive aprons and prizes including classy prosecco!

As part of our learning series of speaking events our directors Chris Green and Tom McInerney will be speaking in sessions on both days.

Tom will be speaking on Day 1 at 11:40am in the eventTech theatre about technology for sustainable events and then at 1.45pm on the main stage at Event Production Show about Sports Synergies and Opportunities for the wider Event Industry.

Chris will be speaking on Day 2 at 2pm in the eventTech theatre discussing what are the hottest trends in exhibition and meetings right now, and what this will mean for Wi-Fi connectivity and capability.

So please come and find out why Etherlive are so flipping great either on stand I32C, during one of the three talks or/and at the International Confex drinks reception.

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!

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?

Connectivity is king. For the experience of those attending, to those delivering the event and those watching from afar. In the last 10 years connectivity has migrated from a nice to have to a critical system for any event that wants to engage with its audience and deliver effectively.

Good connectivity presents itself in several ways. Unfortunately for the organiser it’s critical to have an understanding of these aspects, just as they have an understanding of their audience or how many tickets have been sold.

When considering connectivity, it helps to be clear with those who you want to consider and those who you don’t.

The Organiser – local networks and the associated internet connectivity are critical for an organising team to work. Bandwidth here can normally be quickly estimated since it’s a known quantity. Cloud systems such as Dropbox and Office 365 increase requirements but are manageable even on small internet services. Systems such as Skype or more advanced video conferencing which are more common now when working with international committees, can dramatically increase requirements.

The Sponsor – the majority of activations now require some kind of high-quality connectivity. Engaging the sponsor is one thing, showing them what is possible or what can be supported with the right connectivity is next. For overlay locations local cellular (4G) services may be sufficient but within high volume areas these will most likely struggle to deliver significant bandwidth. For many events connectivity in this space is an afterthought which is problematic and expensive. Proactive discussions with sponsors at the start of any engagement will help identify what’s required and the most effective method of delivery.

The Press – considering the media appetite for the internet can make or break an event. Print media need to move images, which can be managed, but those who require outside broadcast type services generally either look to the event to help or use their own broadcast vehicles. Broadcast vehicles can be expensive so generally the approach of delivering onsite bandwidth means that more content can be pushed.

The Partners – bars (cashless) ticketing etc. Anyone who works with the organisers to deliver their part of the event. Smart tenders can mean issues relating to connectivity becomes the partners problem but many times this will add significantly to cost because everyone is doing their own thing. In many cases a shared service is preferred, like power. Cashless services are critical to processing payments. Fast, secure, effective transactions are expected.

The Attendee – normally the final piece of the puzzle. Leading events are now looking to this group first, to encourage engagement and legacy, in which case services such as viewing replays, concession service to seats, emergency messaging, are all common. The network and internet required to carry attendees data can be significant, again, more lead time means more efficiencies. If attendees are not part of scope, then cellular carriers are the best route to providing a level of connectivity.

For any organiser the technical side of events continues to grow, and they must add this to their ‘toolkit’ of knowledge and experience. Just as with ticketing, marketing or venue selection, it’s critical that those in senior positions understand what is being done, what the possible risks are and what their strategy is.