Amplified events can involve a mixture of activities and third party services, all of which come with risks and failure points. In this post, we discuss our efforts to assess the key risks.
Amplifying events can be very exciting, with new tools coming out all the time and new techniques to try out that could help audiences near and far to engage with the event more effectively. However, it is very easy to get caught up with all things ‘new and shiny’ but forget to assess how they fit within the overall event strategy and what can possibly go wrong. As a result, formal risk assessments can focus purely on standard health and safety issues, rather than the more complex issues associated with using a range of third party services.
Over the last few weeks, I have been conducting a review of how we operate at Event Amplifier, which has included revising the way we assess risks. In this post, I will describe how we have broadened the scope of our amplified event risk assessments and highlight some of the issues we have to consider.
Categories of Risk
I have created an amplified event risk assessment template which provides a framework for assessing the risks associated with each event amplification service according to three broad categories: service quality risks, service delivery risks, and health and safety risks:
Service Quality Risks
These are the risks that can impact on the audience’s enjoyment of the amplified elements of the event. Typical risks include poor quality/variable internet speeds, poor venue lighting or poor audio. These factors are often outside of our control, but should be considered in the planning process to help manage expectations and ensure that we deliver the best quality of content possible in the circumstances. For example, where lighting and internet speeds are an issue, we may consider this such a high quality risk that we advise the client to offer an audio-only stream or slide cast style videos featuring just the audio and the speaker’s slides.
I also consider risks such as inappropriate audience behaviour and Twitter spam as a service quality risk, since this will impact on the enjoyment of other audience members if left unchecked. It is rare to encounter inappropriate behaviour from either individual or groups of audience members at the types of event that we cover, but it can happen and it is important to plan how the organiser would like us to handle these situations.
Service Delivery Risks
These are the risks that could prevent us from delivering the service requested by the client. The top most risk is usually the complete loss of an internet connection, but along side this we have to consider the complete or partial failure of any of the third party social media platforms we use within the amplified event strategy. Where part of the strategy is ‘mission critical’ we have to ensure there is a backup platform available and a way to communicate any changes to participants.
Some third party services are more easily interchangeable than others. If Storify fails, we could create a multimedia summary as a blog post using embed codes for tweets and other content. However, if Twitter fails, then we have a more significant problem. We could continue commentating using a live blogging tool like ScribbleLive, so the record of the event remains in tact, but we may lose the live audience discussion unless there is a clear way to get the message out about the change of discussion forum.
It is not just the risk of a third party service failure during the live itself we have to content with. Event amplification at its best should make the event accessible over time and feed into an ongoing conversation. There are therefore preservation risks to consider. If a service like YouTube fails in the future, can the content be made available through another channel? And what if Twitter closes its doors? Can the conversation still be accessed and analysed by those with an interest in the subject area looking to take the conversation forward in a new way? These are effectively future service delivery risks, and whilst we cannot anticipate what the social media landscape will look like in the future, we can ensure that we operate in a way that gives the event content and conversation the best possible chance of being available long term.
Health and Safety Risks
We have to consider the risks to ourselves, our clients, and any speakers or delegates who may come into contact with us at an event and ensure that we are working in a way that is safe for everyone. In many respects, this is the easiest risk assessment category as it has direct parallels with other aspects of event production, such as AV. Safe cabling strategies, equipment maintenance and lifting training all come under this heading.
Identifying the risks associated with your event amplification activities is just one element of effective planning. We also have to look for ways to reduce those risks, preferably down to zero. This can include planning for things to go wrong (I always assume the internet will fail at every event – and have at least two lines of back up to reduce the impact of that risk), looking for ways to improve our practice to reduce the likelihood of certain risks, and communicating the risks clearly to the client so they can be involved in the process of planning our response to certain risks. Involving clients in the risk assessment process can also help to manage expectations about the quality of content that can be produced within the environment of their event.
Using Amplified Event Risk Assessments
Creating standard risk assessments for each type of event amplification service and filing them away may result in a warm fuzzy feeling of security, but would defeat the real purpose of the risk assessment. In practice, we will use the standard risk assessment as a template that should then be customised for each event and used as a discussion point for with the client prior to the event. This will allow us to identify any additional risks that are specific to that event and adjust our plans accordingly. In this sense, the risk assessment should be a very central piece of the amplified event strategy.
I fully expect these standard risk assessments to develop over time as more unexpected things go wrong and we improve how we deal with them. At the moment we are reviewing these internally, but I hope to publish them as a resource for the wider community in the near future. I’m also keen to talk to anyone who has experienced problems with social media at an event so we can anticipate problems as much as possible, so do chat to me on Twitter, where I am @eventamplifier if there is something you can share.
Photo Credit: Tomas Fano
If you would like help planning your amplified event strategy, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.