Article recently published by Event Magazine profiling Hannah Wood.

Hannah Wood, connectivity, supplier and site manager at Etherlive, shared her career story with Event for the Women in Events campaign. She talked about working in a diverse role, how she ended up working for an event technology company and how a quad bike featured in one of her past interviews.

What do you do and how long have you been in your current role?

I have been at Etherlive for a year, following my role at an experiential marketing agency. At Etherlive I am in charge of ordering and managing the installation and maintenance of all of our internet connectivity and telephony services; account managing our major suppliers including connectivity, recruitment, vehicles and equipment hire; and I will also be taking on management responsibility for our pool of freelance site managers and managing some event sites myself.

This is the most diverse role I have worked in and I am lucky enough to be involved in many areas of the business, from the ordering process to the financial reconciliation to the implementation of our technology services on-site at events.

Where was your first job? What was the most important thing you learnt there?

In 2009 I moved to London and began working for the Royal Society of Medicine as an assistant conference co-ordinator and quickly moved up to being the external societies co-ordinator, responsible for all conferences and meetings for a particular society. This was a venue-based role and included dealing with all departments of the society to plan and manage the events as well as close contact with the client and conference delegates.

I learnt a lot here about dealing with many different types of people and how to deal with pressurised situations where there are multiple stakeholders.

Event's latest Women in Events profile with Etherlive's Hannah Wood

Event’s latest Women in Events profile with Etherlive’s Hannah Wood

How did you get from there to where you are now?

Over the next three years I worked at Imperial College London in the role of events co-ordinator for the university’s commercial services department, as an events manager at an agency providing the catering, bars and theming for weddings and corporate events and at an experiential marketing agency managing a promotional staffing team at events across the UK.

In each role I honed my skills and I got to attend events including V Festival, Rockness, Moto GP, Festival No. 6, Lounge on the Farm, Brownstock and many more. This, together with my experience at university where I made sure I improved my knowledge working in events at the student union, gave me a solid foundation for the future.

Looking back, did you expect your career path to take the course it has?

No, I originally thought I would go in the direction of conferences and work with specific exhibitors and clients on stands and contents rather than working on the organisation and management of full-scale events. I also never thought I would end up working for a technology company but I’m glad I do, it has given me even more insight to the workings of events and my previous experience on the non-tech side helps when working with other contractors and clients.

Would you do anything differently?

I would have invested my time in a lot more work experience. The events industry can be difficult to get into if you want to make a career out of it and any experience you have is highly valuable. It’s taken me a long time (and a few not so nice jobs) to get where I am today.

Who has inspired you along the way?

I take inspiration from anyone I can learn from. I work with a number of people who have been in the industry for a long time or who have worked in really interesting areas and I don’t think there’s ever a day when I don’t get taught something new, whether it’s new event knowledge or a bit more information about some sort of technology we use.

Have you ever had a job interview that went particularly well or spectacularly wrong?

I don’t think I’ve ever had an interview that sticks out as being fantastic or awful, but I have had some interesting ones. I ran a bar at a farm show as part of one of my interviews, which was great fun, and I got to drive a quad bike on another interview.

Is there a piece of career advice you’ve ever been told that has stuck with you?

You will never know everything. Don’t think that you do or you might end up looking very silly.

What career advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?

Change your university course, this one isn’t going to take you anywhere you can’t already go.

How do you wind down and relax after a hectic day?

I go to kick-boxing training.

Article published from Republished from

It has been said that there are two certainties in life – death and taxes. If you said the same about technology it would read ‘confusing acronyms and over hyped performance claims’. Although 802.11ac, the latest in a long line of Wi-Fi standards, has been in development for several years it was finally approved in January and more client devices are now appearing which support it, including the Samsung Galaxy S4, newer iPads and the rumoured iPhone 6.


The ever growing list of Wi-Fi standards

Claiming speeds of 433Mbps up to 6.77Gbps, multi user MIMO and beamforming it would sound like we should all be rushing to implement this technology as soon as we can to solve our Wi-Fi woes. For the home user a shiny new 11ac Wi-Fi router and compatible tablet may indeed offer some benefits but if you look at the limiting performance factor in most households it is the broadband connection itself and not the Wi-Fi which throttles everything to a crawl.

For those of us deploying large scale, high density Wi-Fi, particularly at events and stadiums, the potential impact of 11ac is far more important and if not considered carefully could easily reduce performance rather than improve it. There are many enhancements and extensions within 11ac and as before with 11n it will take time for all the features to be implemented and used effectively.

One of the big changes is with MIMO or Multiple Input Multiple Output streams. MIMO is like moving from a single carriageway road to a dual carriageway or motorway – the data travels from your device to the Wi-Fi access point using multiple paths. Most business quality Wi-Fi access points have supported MIMO since 802.11n but many handheld devices have only just started to implement it. It can provide better overall speed and improve coverage especially where there are lots of obstacles. 11ac allows for up to 8 streams, whereas 11n is limited to 3, however, in reality most devices will not implement more than 3 and in fact most handheld devices will be limited to 1 or 2 because of the cost, complexity and extra power drain of adding more streams.

Those extra streams are not necessarily lost though as 11ac will eventually offer multi-user MIMO where different streams can be directed to different clients providing a much needed boost in situations such as events where the pinch point is the number of connected devices rather than absolute speed. Unfortunately version 1 of 11ac does not support multi-use MIMO so we will have to wait another year or two for that.

Beamforming is another aspect which 11ac requires, a technology which aims to optimise performance based on the direction of signals and provide a higher interference rejection. Beamforming is already supported in 11n and, when combined with adaptive antenna arrays, is very powerful in ‘noisy’ environments like event sites, however, many wireless vendors do not implement it so 11ac aims to standardise beamforming across clients and vendors, which over time will provide performance improvements.

So far it all sounds good so what is the problem? To answer that we need to look at why we have a problem today. Wi-Fi is a shared medium, a Wi-Fi ‘access point’ has to simultaneously talk to a number of client devices and split the available capacity between all the devices it is talking to. For example an 11n wireless access point (without MIMO) can at best deliver 150Mbps of capacity, if there are 100 users connected to it then each user would see a maximum speed of 1.5Mbps. This is absolute best case, real world would be far, far lower.

To add more capacity more wireless access points are used but they all need their own ‘space’ to operate in otherwise they would just interfere with each other like a room full of people shouting. To do this there are a number of standard ‘channels’ defined and each Wi-Fi access point is assigned a channel. The most common form of Wi-Fi today runs at 2.4GHz which has 14 channels but these channels overlap and not all of them are usable in all countries, in fact there are really only 3 usable channels when it comes to designs for large scale deployments. On top of this 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi has to contend with Bluetooth devices, baby monitors, microwave ovens and a whole host of other things which also use the same frequency range!

At home where there are likely to be only a few devices connecting to the Wi-Fi network these issues are not generally a great concern but on an event site where hundreds, or now more typically thousands of users have to be connected simultaneously the combination of the lack of capacity and interference creates a huge problem.

All is not lost though as there is a second Wi-Fi frequency range at 5GHz which offers 23 non-overlapping channels (although that is before you factor in indoor, outdoor, DFS and country restrictions) and much lower interference. Today most of the wireless backbone infrastructure on event sites uses 5GHz – this includes normal data transmission, CCTV cameras and other wireless devices such as video senders. There are enough channels to do this successfully provided it is all managed carefully.

Until recently most client devices did not support 5GHz but now many do meaning that client access can also be provided at 5GHz avoiding the problems of 2.4GHz. The downside of this though is that 5GHz is no longer the quiet frequency it used to be with many domestic Wi-Fi routers supporting it and permanent wireless links using it, all of which increases interference and limits available free channels. 11ac however could make things far worse.

Whereas 802.11n was a standard for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, 802.11ac is a 5GHz only standard which means we will see an acceleration in the adoption of 5GHz in all devices. This in itself is not a bad thing but it will change the dynamics of Wi-Fi deployments with more and more focus on 5GHz client access leading to less room for 5GHz backhaul. The likely result is that backhaul will have to move to licenced frequencies or higher unlicensed frequencies such as 24, 60 or 80GHz but there are cost and implementation considerations.

The second problem is that 11ac focusses on delivering more speed but one of the ways it does this is by using a wider channel in which to send data and this is implemented by in effect ‘bonding’ channels reducing the number of independent channels available. 11n can already bond two channels but 11ac can bond four which could reduce the available channels by 75% leading to interference issues.

All of these factors are configurable and manageable and the design for a large event site will be considerably different to say an office environment but for everything to work in harmony there will need to be an even greater focus on ‘spectrum management’ ensuring that all parties using wireless equipment do so in a controlled and agreed manner. Without this structure and control the user experience will deteriorate rather than improve. 11ac can bring benefits, albeit without the headline speed claims, but there are greater risks in terms of poor design.

We will be starting to deploy some 11ac access points in a controlled manner over the coming months, working closely with vendors to optimise designs for the challenging needs of event sites.