1199922_38790784For event organisers life on the road, in and out of venues, holed up in damp cabins and questionable hotels means the technology they carry and the software tools they use are critical to their day to day job. It’s an ever changing landscape and, to some degree, a personal preference but there are a few key items to think about to ensure the teams stay productive at a sensible cost.

The Laptop – Personal & Critical

Although smartphones and tablets are the most talked about items of the last few years it is still the trusty laptop that is at the core of the road warrior armoury. It is the item not to skimp on, buying too cheaply will cost more in the longer term but at the same time there is no sense in buying at the top end – the best value is in middle.

Choosing a proper business laptop rather than the cheaper consumer models is a wise move – they survive better on the road and focus on the things that make a difference for an intensive user – battery life, keyboard feel, screen quality, lighter weight, etc. Size is important – there is no need for a massive 17” screen, you are better off sticking with a smaller screen and using an external monitor when you really need the extra screen area, the saving in weight and the fact you can then use your laptop on a train or plane is a much better benefit. Be wary of ultra-high resolutions on smaller displays as these often frustrate users as they can be so hard to read.

Hard drive failure just before an event is not something you want. To minimise the risk select an SSD (Solid State Drive) instead of a traditional hard drive – SSDs are not immune to failure but they are a lot more tolerant of being bashed about in an event world and they are much faster.

In terms of performance the marketing always suggests the latest, fastest and most expensive processor is the way to go, however, overall laptop performance is down to the sum of the parts so there is no point in buying one with a high end processor which is then crippled by a slow hard drive, limited memory and weak graphics. These days’ processors are so good that unless you have some very specific needs you are better off buying a mid-range processor with plenty of memory, an SSD, decent graphics and good build quality. For example in the Intel processor range you should avoid the low end Core i3, instead picking a Core i5. Unless you have a specific, very demanding usage case there is little point in the extra cost of a Core i7.

Ultrabooks (extra thin and lightweight laptops) are worth the expense for the highly mobile but be careful on selection as many no longer have a physical network connector built in – they rely purely on wireless connections. The workaround is typically an external adapter. Similarly, many Ultrabooks have dropped some of the older generation connectors such as VGA in favour of HDMI and mini-HDMI – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but you need to think ahead when presenting!

The type of wireless the laptop supports is very important and it is almost essential that you choose one which supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. The 2.4GHz range is typically so crowded on event sites that it is often unusable, whereas 5GHz has more capacity and provides a much better experience.

Should you buy an Apple Mac or a Microsoft Windows based laptop? In my view it doesn’t really matter – they both share the same core components and each suffers from similar types of failures and security issues. It is more about what sort of user experience you want and if you are already used to one or the other do not underestimate the initial loss in productivity if you switch!

Productivity Tools – Too Many to Choose From

The emergence of cloud services has led to an explosion in productivity tools, particularly ones that work well across distributed teams. Dropbox, Box, Office 365, Google Drive, Evernote, Google Docs, Microsoft One Drive, Skype, WhatsApp – the list goes on and on. They all have pros and cons and most will meet the needs of the majority of users. It’s not so much about which tools you choose, but about how many and how you manage them.

With a distributed team, especially one that includes freelancers, it is far too easy for everyone to do their own thing and productivity drops because no one knows where anything is or which version is the current one. It is really important to agree the tools and stick to them – less is more!

Offerings such as Office 365 where email, office applications and project sites can all be delivered as a single SaaS (Software as a Service), allow rapid scaling and shrinking of licences which is very effective for dynamic teams. There are additional benefits too since they are hosted in the cloud there are no VPN (Virtual Private Network) complexities for users connecting back to a central office whilst on an event site.

The downside of the modern cloud services is they require connectivity, not an issue when you are in the office but on event sites the impact is a lot more significant. The background synchronisation that takes place from your laptop, phone and tablet all consume bandwidth and this has increased the connectivity demand from event sites significantly which must be factored into event plans.

Security – Ignore at Your Peril

Distributed teams, a need to share lots of information, contractors, freelancers and a just get it done driver provide a mix which is an IT security nightmare. Information access, control and protection gets more complex every day and sadly the leakage of sensitive information and hacking are very real problems.

It all starts with the humble login and password, still the way that nearly all systems are accessed. We all hate them and we all get lazy with them. A few golden rules to start with:

  • Never use ‘shared’ logins – the moment you use shared credentials you lose all ability to audit and control. If you suffer a breach you will not be able to trace it and the only way to stop it involves impacting everyone.
  • Do not use the same password on multiple accounts – People hate this one but it is increasingly important. The reason is simple – the majority of systems use your email address as the login id so if one system gets hacked (which is all too common) and login details are compromised the hacker knows that using the same login id / password combination on other systems is more than likely to work. What starts as an annoying but manageable breach on a harmless website becomes an exposure to financial data, banking, customer information etc.
  • Strong passwords – It’s incredible that the most popular password is still 123456 and the second most popular is password. In a business environment that should be treated as irresponsible and a possible disciplinary offence. Password hacking methods have moved way beyond the old ‘brute force’ attacks which means even fairly complex passwords are cracked surprisingly quickly. If you can remember your password easily then it is probably too simple!

The last two points above are at the core of the issue which blights confidence in computer security – realistically no human can manage dozens and dozens of different, complex passwords so the weak ones persist and play straight into the hacker’s hands.

At first the solution seems counter-intuitive – password managers. These utilities such as Lastpass and 1Password manage all of your passwords allowing you to have unique, complex passwords for every system you use. You then just have one password to remember to access the password manager.

Surely this is a bigger risk as that one password gets access to everything? Potentially yes, but there are reasons why this risk is smaller than the risk of not using a password manager.

Firstly, you are far more likely to remember one complex password than lots of them. Secondly the password manager (or at least the good ones) is local to your devices so to try and hack the password the hacker needs access to your actual device, not an on-line website so this adds another layer of defence. A password manager is infinitely more secure than yellow sticky notes stuck to your screen.

To go a step further, particularly for a password manager, using ‘two factor authentication’ is wise. Two factor authentication provides an additional layer of security in a similar way to the card readers used by many banks for on-line banking but instead of a card reader they use an application on your computer or smartphone. Products such as Google Authenticator are now supported on many password managers and also directly on other on-line services.

Passwords are a key part of security but there are a few other aspects which need to be watched carefully. Most security breaches are still caused by employees or contractors – both intentionally and unintentionally. With documents and information bouncing between people and systems at an alarming rate knowing who has access to information and where information is stored is crucial.

Thankfully the majority of staff and contractors are trustworthy but it only takes one. Using unique logins for all staff as mentioned above makes the process of closing down access much more straightforward when it is no longer required and provides traceability. Most systems now provide a granular access control so that not everyone gets access to everything. A clearly owned ‘leaver process’ is also important to make sure logins are removed and content deleted from sharing locations.

Effective technology usage can make a big difference to productivity but it is too easy to overcomplicate. We now have an amazing array of systems with which to share content and communicate but when the pressure is on ‘old fashioned’ email still comes out on top as it is simple and dependable. The same thought should hold true for the other aspects; event road warriors require simple and dependable solutions that do not distract them from what they need to do – run events!


Your Vote Counts!

Exhibition News has opened up nominations for their ‘Elite list’ which identifies the best suppliers in the events industry. In the past we have been proud winners of the Wiltshire Business Innovation and Growth Award, an Event Production Award and finalists in the Event Technology Awards amongst others.

If you think we have done a great job, it would be great if you can spare a moment and vote for us in category 3 – Technology Provider by clicking the link below.



Tom McInerney recently talked to Londonlaunch.com about top tips for organisers running corporate events (reproduced with permission)

Make sure your technology is alright on the night with Etherlive’s top tips on getting the best tech to suit your budget.

Delivering events is highly complex, it requires a unique mix of skills; rather like spinning plates whilst at sea, by torch light. Tight budgets, short windows for delivery and customer expectations all combine as things progress towards a fixed deadline.

Technology has added an extra dimension to this already complicated mix. Further to power, catering and AV, organisers now need to think about how things will be connected together.

As demand for delegate apps, online ticketing systems and social media continue to increase the networks which power them have moved from nice-to-have to critical.

Director of Sales and Marketing at Etherlive, Tom McInerney, takes a moment to provide the top 5 tips for those who want to get the most technology for the least headache and budget.

Top 5 Tips

Think ahead

Any network services (Wi-Fi, wired) relies upon a high speed internet connection. Unless the venue you are working with has sufficient connectivity already in place this will take time to arrange. Typically months even in central London depending on the event requirements.

Keep it simple

Anything technology has the risk of becoming overly complicated – a good rule is that if things can’t be shown in a simple diagram or explained on a conference call then things are escalating. Would you trust your AV supplier if you didn’t at least understand the basics?

Know your risks

Work with suppliers and customers to identify which bits of technology are absolutely critical to the event and work out a plan B. One of the great things about technology is there are lots of ways to do things, many of which can be setup at the same time.

Have help when you need it

If technology elements are key to the event think about what will happen on the night; have you got support if you need it? This is also a pertinent question to ask of venues; if you need technical help where will it come from, and is calling a call centre (if that’s the support) going to get you the results quick enough?

Exploit your investment

Many people use the technology during the event but don’t think about using the results of that investment in the future. For example if you have streamed the event live, can you take a copy of that and break it into segments to use for a campaign on LinkedIn?

Working with technology can seem daunting but there is no reason for it to be; identify what is needed and find a partner who can get you the help you need.

Now we have hit the main festival season, (and were blessed with a dry Glastonbury!) we take a moment to look at the less glamorous aspect of events – ensuring organisers have the right help when they need it. Whatever the event, be it in a muddy dry field on Pilton Farm, a hotel in central London or a conference hall in San Francisco, having the appropriate levels of technology support is critical to success.

Identify your critical elements

What is going to have the largest effect to your event if it fails? This sounds like a simple question and one that typically forms part of a risk assessment, however sometimes things get missed. Nothing happens without power (in most cases!) but if the internet connection drops can you continue to process bar transactions? Or scan tickets? Or monitor crowds through the CCTV system?

The Thinker

Confirm support expectations

With a plan including critical elements in hand, how easy is failure to work around? If nothing can be done then make sure you have a clear agreement about getting help if you need it. Weekend or out of hours suppliers can be expensive at the last minute. Can one of your team be trained to fix a basic problem? Can you get onsite or standby support?

Document and prepare a plan B

“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail”. If the worse happens what can be done? What could be lined up as a backup plan? Can you revert to a manual system and if so can that be prepared in advance? Running through failure scenarios gives you an option if the worst happens and means if it happens then the plan can be activated whilst others work on fixing the main issue.

The world of support isn’t glamorous and one of thousands to be considered when planning and executing an event but when things go wrong it can save a lot of stress and potential pain.

A $500 million event that happens once a year watched by 111.3 million people, supported by some of the world’s biggest sponsors, is put on hold for 30 minutes by a power outage. When this kind of failure can happen at the Super Bowl it’s not surprising that those who run and support events are kept awake at night worrying about what can go wrong – you only get one chance to get it right.

Power outages can happen to the biggest and best events, no matter what the location and with just about everything relying on power to some degree it’s important to look at how to mitigate any issues if the lights do go out.

The first step is to identify what power you have and the risks associated with it (it’s very easy to take for granted especially when in a permanent building), closely followed by identifying what services rely on it. From a technology point of view this list can be very long – access control, internet, telephony, two-way radio boosters, ticket systems, CCTV, Wi-Fi to name a few.

Each service should be reviewed for impact and with this information decisions made on whether to employ mechanisms to minimise risk. It’s also important to understand the interdependencies, for example a decision may be made to have a back-up generator for Event Control but if the phones and radio communication cease to function due to power loss elsewhere on site then the operation could still be impacted.

These days box offices and entrances struggle to operate without power as they rely on real-time ticket scanning and electronic payment. In these key areas it’s important to not only have a power backup plan but also a contingency plan to continue operating if the power plan fails – even if that involves manual checks over the radios or using runners.

Events don't have this option

Events don’t have this option

Many events now rely on a network for many of their systems – from ticketing & phones through to CCTV. That network needs to be designed with redundancy and power failure in mind. All key points should be protected by a monitored UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) – the monitoring is important so that central control knows if power fails how long the battery within the UPS can continue to operate for, especially as it can take some time for a power issue to be diagnosed and rectified on a large site. For critical areas, such as servers and core networking, the UPS needs to have a significant operational time which may involve the ability to ‘hot swap’ batteries to extend run-time indefinitely.

Modern VoIP telephones, CCTV cameras and other network equipment can be operated using PoE (Power Over Ethernet) which means they take their power from the network itself rather than a mains supply. The benefit of this is that the power required can be centralised and protected with a UPS so that the impact of local power outages in cabins and offices can be minimised.

Events will always have to deal with the unexpected happening – it’s part of the excitement and challenge of the live industry but sensible planning and preparation can minimise the impact.

Etherlive provide temporary telephony services for events using a mixture of VoIP (Voice over IP) and direct copper (BT) connections.

Direct copper phones are required by some events for emergency liaison teams but most other telephony can be provided using VoIP technology. When requiring traditional BT lines Etherlive’s provisioning team arrange orders, installation dates and work directly with BT Openreach ensuring everything is installed as required.

Photo of cups and string

Temporary telephony has moved on

VoIP at its simplest is a phone service delivered over a network and is the way nearly all modern installations are completed. By providing service over the site network and the internet, phone call costs are very low rate (or free in the case of national calls) and because the handsets are powered from the network they can be quickly installed or added as a last minute requirement. Modern VoIP phones also come with advanced features including speakerphones, ring groups, hunt groups,voice mail and provide a wired internet connection for computers.

Etherlive deploy two types of VoIP handset used for events; wired and wireless.

Wired VoIP phones are for those who wish to have a traditional desk or conference phone in a room or wish to assign a phone to a specific department. Handsets can also be fitted with headsets for those working on high call volume desks.

Wireless VoIP phones are based on the latest standards of business DECT technology and can therefore can roam throughout the event.  These handsets are splash proof and provide a good alternative for site & production managers who need to be on the move where the cellular network is not good enough to rely on a mobile phone.  The handsets communicate using the same system as the wired versions so internal calls are free and external calls are at a low rate.

For larger deployments a VoIP PBX (the modern equivalent to a telephone exchange in a small box) is installed onsite and can be linked between sites or to an existing office. This unit manages all calls, voicemail and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) features.

For more information please look at our VoIP page or contact us where we will be pleased to help you find the right solution for your event.

Selecting a partner to provide networking services at your event is critical especially as more and more attendees rely on high quality connectivity to engage and interact. Our field teams regally work with in house IT teams to provide expertise and equipment. When agents and event organisers are surveying venues there are a few critical questions which should be asked:

1.    Does the in house IT team specialise in the events industry?
Being specialised will ensure their technicians are familiar with the events environment and the pressures that brings. It’s important that the IT partner appreciate how critical ensuring issues are dealt with quickly to keep the event moving.

2.    Does the in house IT team have the right equipment?
Equipment which is regally deployed in the field needs to be fit for purpose, from VOIP phones to WIFI PDQs everything needs to be configured in such a way it can be quickly deployed. Factoring in the British weather also adds an extra degree of excitement so using weatherproof hardware to deploy outdoor Wi-Fi Networks is of utmost importance. 

3.    Does the in house IT team have experience?
This expertise need to be specific to the type of event that’s being run.  Whether it’s a festival, exhibition or a conference it’s important the partner you choose has the experience of the events sector, as each environment raises it’s own challenges and every organiser has different expectations.  

To find out if we’re the right Event Technology company for you, get in touch

Since our last Gathering at Somerset House at the beginning of the year we have been keen to bring together a group of experts and corporate event organisers to discuss the latest experiences (good or bad) with technology at events. 

This led to the Breakfast Event Technology Form which was held at the Guoman Cumberland Hotel with a group of 25 select attendees sitting discussing some key industry topics over a bacon role and cups of tea. We captured some brief notes from the discussions and links to the tools shown below. To keep the discussion about technology in events going we aim to keep the twitter hashtag #eventtechforum

Venue expectations:

  • A key element is appreciating the requirements from the customer. Why do they need the internet? Just basic email and web browsing? Cloud content sharing? Or streaming video? All these questions will drive the requirement with the venue.
  • A pre survey with relevant testing hardware (with the same laptops which will be used if possible) to see what the Wi-Fi signal is like and how fast the internet is.
  • Agree terms with the venue which specify what performance you need per device connected
  • Discuss what happens if something breaks, if it’s critical to your event would you want an engineer to attend?
  • Use cable drops for those who require service for demonstrations to reduce the risks. This should be part of the booking contract.
  • If required bring in an expert (in house IT teams or companies such as Etherlive) to give some advice on how to improve the onsite facilities if you need to. If budgets are tight look at the entire budget based on how important the internet services are

Etherlive Breakfast Event Technology Forum

Avoid getting bitten by IT

  • Many organisers get caught in the same trap – lack of understanding about what the event is trying to achieve, and thus fail to set appropriate expectations for services. 
  • Ensure you have resource to hand should you need ‘IT’ type support. If budgets don’t allow perhaps one of the in house IT team may be able to support, or perhaps bring in an engineer just for the morning or during the critical presentation.
  • Spend time identifying key points of failure and plan for a redundancy. Just like any risk at an event this should be presented to the customer with options of what can be done to mitigate.
  • Be aware that some devices (laptops, smartphones) will work differently with Wi-Fi due to the quality of design and parts. Interference (such as human bodies and other radio based systems) may also impact Wi-Fi service.


  • Many events do not set a specific budget line item for technology services, however, many now think this should be a mandatory line item even if the Wi-Fi services are included within the day delegate rate
  • A good partner will be able to explain their pricing to organisers. If they can’t it may be overly complicated or at worse not considered. Technology can be complicated but the basic principles are simple to explain and present
  • Generally the elements that drive cost the most are connectivity and resource. Connectivity generally gets more expensive the later it is booked. Resource costs can often be optimised with setting up on the same day (perhaps avoiding accommodation etc.)

Innovation panel

  • Use social media to engage audiences and encourage those not in the room to join in furthering the events exposure and inclusiveness
  • Apps deliver content in a very set environment but other options, such as customised websites, can deliver similar content with reduced budgets. Consider what will happen to the content the delegate is looking at if connectivity is lost.
  • Free cloud services such as Google Documents can be used to share content including spread sheets, documents etc. allowing multiple editing, different rights and version tracking



In summary a fantastic day to network, meet new contacts and learn. We hope to run similar sessions again in the New Year for others who could not attend this time.