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Is Your Event Technology Vendor Prepared for the Moment of Truth?

Are you ready to embrace Attendee 2.0? Maybe you are considering a combination of mobile phone applications applications, backchannels, hand-held devices, mobile texting or social media tools for your next event.

While any of these technologies – if implemented correctly – will be sure to enhance the event experience, you need to be prepared for the down side. What happens if the technology fails?

This is the situation that I like to call the Moment of Truth. The purpose of this post is to help you identify event technology vendors that are prepared for the Moment of Truth.

What is the Moment of Truth?

To me, the Moment of Truth is that point (or points) in your event where the technology MUST work. It could be a voting session, or on-demand badge printing or the backchannel or whatever. While 95% of the time these event technologies will work – there are going to be situations when they fail for one reason or another. It is in these moments that you find out what type of vendor partners you have on your team.

In my opinion, one of the differences between an exceptional vendor and a bad vendor are how they handle these situations. Good vendors have mitigation strategies and solutions. They also have battle scars. Bad or New vendors don’t know what they don’t know.

Seek Solutions First – Blame Later

One of the challenges for event organizers is that there could be several causes for the technology failure. It could be the software, the hardware, the wifi network, power failure, the leaky roof, etc. When there are several vendors involved in the service delivery – you don’t have “one neck to ring.”  As a result, some vendors take this opportunity to play the blame game. “Wasn’t me,” they say.

In these moments, you need vendors that are willing to work together to solve problems. There will be plenty of time to assign blame and fight over the “who done it” after the event.

How Can You Tell If Your Vendor Is Prepared?

You can uncover the preparation and preparedness by interviewing prospective vendors. Here are some things that you might want to discuss:

  1. What is their risk mitigation plan? Ultimately, you don’t want things to fail. So, of course, they should test the technology setup to make sure that things work correctly. But, you also want them to check things again before the moment of truth to make sure that nothing has changed unexpectedly. If they are not doing this – they should. Are there other steps that they can take to reduce the risk of failure?
  2. What is their backup plan when things don’t go as planned? You want to find out if the backup plan is multi-dimensional and layered. Do they have a checklist of things to consider? Do they have support resources to call – in case of emergency? Do they have backup plans for backup plans? It is a red flag if they don’t know what you are talking about.
  3. How do they react when things fail onsite? Ask them for an example. Listen closely for what happened, the steps that they took and how they resolved the situation. Did they take the lead in diagnosing solutions? Did they work with others in a collaborative way? Don’t trust the salesperson who says “our stuff doesn’t fail.” He is either an idiot, lying or new. Ask to speak with someone else or find another vendor.
  4. Are the onsite staff prepared and capable of handling these situations? The person you are speaking with might be a sales or marketing type that does not go on-site. Find out about the experience level of the on-site teams. Are they trained? Do they have support manuals? Do they have 1st line and 2nd line support at the main office for unusual problems?
  5. Can the vendor describe a time where their technology failed (or nearly failed) and how did they recover?  Here you want to hear an example of how they recovered from a disaster or prevented one from occurring. Be sure to find out how they have changed their technology or onsite processes to prevent these situations (or minimize the risk of these situations) from occurring in the future?

Bottom Line

Most of the time your Attendee 2.0 experiences are going to work as planned. However, when things go wrong, you want to make sure that you have an experienced wingman (someone with battle scars). Some of these questions above will help you filter out the good, experienced vendors from the bad vendors.

Based on your experiences – what would you add? Or is there anything above that needs further explanation?

Photo Credit: Rabblefish
3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sam, great practical post. Unfortunately, I can relate to this all too well from my previous life. Here’s a few other things to look for in a vendor that’s strong at recovery.

    1) Ask how they do “load testing”. This is a simulation process that helps prepare for peak periods.

    2) If you’re dealing with financial data, ensure that they have completed PCI Compliance and have the paperwork to prove it.

    3) Ask for an Service Level Agreement (SLA) and 12 – 24 months of history.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, more and more solutions are moving to the cloud and will primarily fail due to local connectivity. Now instead of technology providers, we’ll be more dependent on the facilities.

    Dave Lutz – @velchain

    February 3, 2010
  2. Hi Dave – Thanks for these great additions. I agree with all of them – even the potential danger for web based (cloud) applications.

    Load testing is a great suggestion. You don’t want to the system to choke when 2,000 people decided to submit a question to the speaker.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    – Sam

    February 3, 2010
  3. Sam,

    An excellent post. Your points are well taken. We need to know that not just the technology vendor is capable and has prepared well with backup plans, but that the venue you select can accomodae the needs of a virtual or hybrid event. This means more, than just reading the website. We need to go beyond he glossy brochure to be sure that the venue is the right one.

    February 10, 2010

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