Planning for every contingency

Oliver Richardson, sales and marketing director at Tewkesbury-based DB Systems, on minimising the impact of risks

The ‘liveness’ of live events is what makes them so powerful but it also creates a real risk factor. If things go wrong just before, or during, the event it can be incredibly challenging to cover up. Yet in our industry, the show must go on.

It’s fair to say our teams quite enjoy that risk, it’s what keeps the adrenaline pumping – the ability to think on your feet and react to a speaker’s video failing or the speedy tech hack which might boost a failing Wi-Fi signal at the critical moment connectivity is needed.

A good AV contractor will put in place contingency plans as a matter of course – for example, on conferences we would always load two laptops with the presentations and can immediately switch to the back-up laptop if, for some reason, the one in use malfunctions.

Similarly, we would always carry additional stock in case of equipment failure or last-minute additional requirements. In fact, at a recent conference in Frankfurt, a dozen screens were stolen from exhibition stands overnight. We were able to replace them from our spares stock before the event opened.

It’s critical you double-check that your contractors carry sufficient spare stock as contingency and also that they have sufficient staff on the open morning to deal with any unexpected problems quickly. Some leave one or two people as cover on opening morning, but insist you have sufficient staff for contingencies, at least until the show is open.
However, despite all the planning and scenario outlining in the world, it’s sometimes impossible to predict the things that might go wrong and plan around them. One such example for us was earlier this month at the MIPCOM event in Cannes. A ‘medicane’ – mediterranean hurricane – saw severe thunderstorms dump eight inches of rain in less than two hours, the day before the event. MIPCOM brings together the global media industry to select content and TV programmes and so temporary structures are positioned all along the beach in Cannes for screenings.

With less than 12 hours before opening, entire structures were washed away, while others were severely damaged, resulting in significant damage to, and loss of, our AV equipment. Our operations director, Graham Croucher, said he’d never seen anything like it. The rainfall was of truly biblical proportions and resulted in streets being turned into rivers.

With limited time, it was incredible to see the contractors pulling the show back from the brink of disaster. It was a real team effort with everyone mucking in – the furniture contractors helped us recover our equipment and we helped move theirs. Temporary structures were rebuilt in new locations and we were able to replace damaged equipment with spare stock. We are unusual in carrying 10% additional stock to protect against the unexpected, and we ensure our team also have access to credit cards for emergency on-site purchases and to local suppliers to source additional stock in emergencies.

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