The information superhighway has taken us on a ride to a new place in the live events industry. Many years ago, when looking at a potential venue for an event, the main environmental concerns for the audience were items such as seating, rigging, power, and staging for the displays to ensure everyone can see and hear the message. At the time, the internet did not play a pivotal role in the decision-making process. Fast forward to the world we live in today, and it’s almost unthinkable to produce an event without considering multiple forms of internet connectivity.
The need for connectivity has become so critical that it impacts many different layers of the event. First and foremost, there is the attendee to consider. People have become extremely dependent on the need to instantaneously connect and communicate with the outside world. Today’s attendees have become accustomed to accessing a wide range of things remotely from their devices, whether it’s the workplace, family, news, social media, or fantasy football. If attendees were cut off from the outside world once onsite at an event, that may play a key part in their decision to attend at all. A quality internet connection has become essential for the audience, because once you put 2000+ people in the same zone with cell phones and tablets, the connection speed can become quite challenging. Event producers must plan ahead to ensure the right connectivity solution is in place throughout the venue to support the size of the audience.
Another consideration is how the internet effects the overall technology planned for show. We are putting on events in a new digital world, and many of the audiovisual systems that are driving the show have become intertwined with a dependency on a high-speed internet connectivity. In addition, a great deal of the software used today works via cloud-based solutions, so much that an unreliable connection can bring the production to a standstill.
Events today also encompass live elements such as social media feeds, audience polling, product demonstrations, videoconferencing, Skype, Google Hangout, and Facebook Live. The internet has taken shows to a new level, allowing producers to not only bring the outside world into the ballroom, but share what happens inside the venue with the rest of the world, in real time. This level of connectivity during the show could not be possible without dedicated, high density internet in place. Without a secure, reliable internet solution, incorporating any type of live component during the event would be a risky venture.
Of course, with an increased dependency on internet to execute events over the years, along comes the overly inflated costs. A quality connection, especially high-density internet, can be very expensive, and in many venues, the internet is an exclusive service. As I have advised in many past articles, everything is negotiable, so keep this in mind before signing any contract for space. It’s extremely important for meeting producers to assess their internet needs well in advance of the event, not only in terms of the attendee internet usage needs, but also the staging requirements, as well as any wireless technology components, or live feeds used throughout the show. If possible, ask the staging provider about recommended bandwidth, as well as upload and download speeds to support the show.
When purchasing internet, it’s also important to make sure you are getting the bandwidth you are paying for in your contract. Many venues may tempt meeting producers with the offer of free internet in common areas if purchasing premium internet for the ballroom and meeting spaces, but be sure to ask about the quality level of this free internet connection, as it can be extremely slow. If you contracted for a dedicated connection, test the feed beforehand to ensure that the amount of bandwidth is correct, and able to support the event. Often, hotels will split internet feeds in multiple directions, so never assume the premium connection will be dedicated to only your event.
Another consideration is the venue’s infrastructure. Many convention hotels were built before the age of the internet, and some ballrooms may have structural issues in place that can hinder the internet connection. Working around these types of environmental conditions to secure a quality connection may come at even greater expense, so keep that in mind when looking at venues for your event, especially for larger shows with thousands of attendees.
What does the future have in store? Looking at just the last five years of our increased internet dependency, we can predict with some certainty that the need for connectivity will continue to rise significantly, and become a greater influence on live events. Technology such as 360-degree streaming, virtual reality experiences, and audience engagement applications are on the rise, and the internet is becoming more of a focal point in the staging of live events. We are already at the point of integrating the internet and mobile devices into the event experience in ways we never imagined five years ago, so you can count on increasing demand over the next decade.
There are several big things to consider when planning a live event, such as attracting attendees, developing a strategy, and creating a compelling production to deliver the message with great sound and visuals. In today’s world, having a quality connection to the internet has easily made the ranks of the top five things to take into serious consideration when planning an event. Our dependency on internet connectivity, the need to be instantly in touch with the outside world, is growing exponentially each year. Young generations have never known a world without the internet, and so live events will continue to grow along with them, with connectivity becoming the absolute norm.
Les Goldberg founded LMG, LLC, a national provider of video, audio, lighting and LED support in 1984 with a small loan from a relative. He also acts as CEO of Entertainment Technology Partners, LLC, the parent company of a collection of exceptional brands within the live event and entertainment technology services industry. He recently published the book, Don’t Take No for An Answer, Anything is Possible, available on Amazon and iBooks. For more information, visit www.lmg.net and www.lesgoldberg.com.