With more events coming onto our system, and indeed the event diary in general, can you now afford to neglect the communication needs of your team, your exhibitors, suppliers or your visitors?
If you are also under the illusion that the existing infrastructure provided by the likes of O2, EE, Vodafone etc. near your site, would provide excellent coverage for your event - think again. Quite simply put, their masts are not designed to deal with 10,000 or more attendees descending for a short period in one location! So you need to check with them first.
Large events may be able to afford extra temporary mobile masts of course, but each mobile phone provider needs their own mast at the event concerned. Whilst temporary masts certanly add to the communciations offer, they provide a very limited spectrum of use and do not provide much additional capacity either. Coverage at the event cometimes remains poor.
I have attended many events this year, in the 'sticks' and in the towns. Technology is not going to go away, and in fact its speeding up by the decade both in terms of the availability of ecommerce and also other gadget and gizmo's for business. Even Town centres have their 'dead zones' so make sure it's not on your main trader zone!
This year (2017) the rapid growth of Exhibitors using their mobile phones to take card payments has been very evident, these are young businesses, small businesses with small stands, not the large established types who've used card machines for years. Most PDQ machines though rely on GPRS through the mobile network though. A good article is written by Ethernet here on card payment provision at events, it's worth getting your head around too for future reference, they have other excellent advice more in depth than I touch on here.
One event I went to this year, a game fair, in a rural, no mobile coverage (so much for your 95% coverage by 2017 Mrs May, was Yorkshire not on your list?) had in previous years, the initiative to hire in a communications network team to provide wi-fi and mobile signal on site. Sadly this year they'd penny pinched and decided against it. The fury of their stall holders, of all sizes, who had planned and hired in card machines and mobile devices, found themselves unable to process thousands of pounds worth of stock, art, food, drink, clothes, country sports equipment or even a sandwich. Many asked for refunds and threatened legal action. There was nothing in the terms and conditions though to this effect so the organisers got off very lightly.
Visitors were also unable to help in the promotion of stands and activities on site either. The fair was relying on their crap tannoy system and a flimsy programme costing £5 to get visitors from A to B.
The press could not send tweets, posts or emails and left early.
Their own team could not communicate and had only hand held radios to communicate through. The ticket scanners at the gate did not work, the systems portal with the list would not work either.
No signal meant the cash machines could not work!
Suppliers and contractors relying on phones to communicate were left stranded, WC's blocked up, electric went off for hours and key staff members wasted much time in small meet ups instead of working from their current location to answer simple team questions on their phones.
This left the organisers with ostrich egg sized mess on their faces, and the loss of income was firmly put on their shoulders.
Oooo I wish I had been a fly on the wall after that event!
With the event diary already so compressed, and with new innovative events every year added, we cannot be complacent about already hosting an 'excellent' event.
The point I am making here is that however small the event, organisers need to really assess their sites for communications as well as foot and vehicle traffic access these days. Traders in particular may be relying on good wi-fi or mobile signal to trade. In fact it's the second most important thing I look at (maybe my previous training as a Royal Signals Officer and Squaddy ingrained some logic for this). Here is a checklist of things to think about communications wise:
1. Take your teams out to the venue and assess the mobile signal strength 3G OK, 4G even better and wow if you get 4G LTE..! You're looking for a 4 - 5 bar signal strength. Depending on the footfall, exhibitor using the payment systems and 'normal' traffic, this will reduce, so bear this in mind.
2. If these signals are below par then start thinking about bringing in on site wi-fi provision. There are numerous providers out there on the Internet.
3. Ask your regular or key exhibitors if they use or intend to use mobile card payment systems if you are looking at a new site or revitalising your current event. If the majority still use cash - where is your nearest ATM?
4. How will you, your team and your contractors communicate, if your radio's go down, or you have 'black spots' on site, how would you manage?
5. Think about your events programme and if you intend, like many do these days, having a an app for your event programme and site map, will your visitors be able to see it and if so can they interact with it?
6. The larger exhibitions and indoor events market use mobile tracking app devices to help visitors navigate around their show, in future years I suspect higher numbers of large outdoor events will have the same technology, so plan ahead.
Exhibitor wise, I want to know which events have wi-fi and which don't. We'll be adding this question to our event pages in the next few weeks!
Needless to say those exhibitors will be thinking twice about participating next year.