Technology and Tools
Is it possible to run a Maker Event using no technology? Maybe, but we don’t want to try it! The good news is, tools have gotten easier to use, and cheaper, over the years. Chances are pretty good that Lead Producers will spend a good amount of time managing a large event by sitting in front of a laptop, or constantly on a phone or a radio. Much of the time spent with those tools is about communicating and keeping everything on schedule.
Ask for Help
If you’re a Lead Producer and technology is just not your thing, that’s okay… like other things, delegate. Find someone who just “gets” technology, or already has experience with what you’ll be using. If you are using Eventbrite for ticketing, ask other event producers how they do it. Check out the Eventbrite Help Center and Eventbrite Support site. They are in the business of helping you make ticketing at your event smooth and painless, so lean on them as needed.
For some event technology there might not be as much support. If you are using open source software for your digital signage, there may not be timely support. If you purchase a set of radios, there might not be support. For some technology support, you’ll either need to find team members who know a specific technology, or aren’t afraid to learn it. For smaller events, you might be completely responsible for everything, but typically smaller events mean less things to handle as far as scope, attendance, hours, etc.
If you are hosting a maker event at your own venue, you’ll probably have the tech infrastructure you need. WiFi, Internet access, computers, printers, etc. all networked and ready to go. If an event is at your own makerspace, library, or school, there may be little concern with actually setting up an infrastructure, and your focus might be more on the support of the existing infrastructure. (If your school or library Internet connection goes down, who do you call?)
For larger events, where you will be renting a venue, things can be quite different. Some venues will provide WiFi to your event, either for free as part of your rental fee, or at a price. If you have makers, vendors, or sponsors who will be relying on an Internet connection either to share what they’ve made, or for sales or leads, you might want to take a tiered approach to providing access. (More on that below.)
When running a large-scale maker event the production team usually needs access to the Internet to handle communications with makers via email, manage web site updates and changes, and be able to access any resources needed for the event. It’s not uncommon to see a show office full of people on laptops, with printers, laminators, and other office equipment all humming along.
WiFi & Internet
Smaller events might get away with one single WiFi network where everyone, from the production team, to the makers, and even the attendees, can all use the same network. Often venues will provide a “Free WiFi” option, and if your needs are small, this can be sufficient.
For larger events, you may need to segment the WiFi access into two or three networks. Typically it will look like the following:
Production - This is a password protected WiFi network for the production crew. Used for mission critical hardware. Computers, tablets, phones used by the crew to run the event. Often any registration hardware will also use this network. If the devices that handle selling and scanning tickets need to be online, make sure they can get online.
Makers - This is a password protected WiFi network that is typically shared with makers who have requested WiFi. They may be commercial makers who use a payment processing system, or makers who have IoT thing, or other exhibits that rely on an Internet connection to work properly.
Attendees - This is usually a open network provided by the venue. It’s a “nice to have” feature, as it allows attendees to check your website or app, share photos and video while your event is happening, and just generally connect to the world. Sometimes the “free” WiFi will have no level or quality that is maintained, or become oversaturated by a large crowd and become almost unusable. Like many things, the “free” version, isn’t as useful as we want it to be.
A note about mobile phones. You may be saying “Well, people can just use their phones to access the Internet with their mobile plan”, and while that is true in a best case scenario situation, I can find plenty of maker event producers with tales of people not being able to get a connection due to being inside a giant steel & concrete building, or being at a fairground where there are not enough cell towers nearby. Some carriers might work fine, and some might be underpowered or have dead spots in their coverage where your venue is located.
…tech needed to sell tickets online…
…tech needed to scan & sell tickets at the event…
Critical versus Non-critical
[ in progress… ]