Communication - key to event management

May 2003 IT infrastructure

The planning and logistics involved in successfully managing any large-scale event can be daunting - even for the most experienced organisers.

To co-ordinate the myriad activities taking place simultaneously, constant communication has to be maintained between directors; producers; production teams; choreographers; performers; operations managers; technicians; staging contractors; electricians; security personnel; chaperones; sound and lighting engineers; maintenance staff and crew members - to mention a few.

Whether it is a major sporting event such as the recent ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 or South Africa's largest independent music festival, OppiKoppi, it is virtually impossible, say the organisers, without two-way radio communication. According to Ken Annandale, chairman of Ceremonies for Africa, the company responsible for the Cricket World Cup opening ceremony, two-way radio is undoubtedly the best communications tool for keeping key people in contact with each other.

"For the opening ceremony we had 4500 cast members, 120 full-time production teams, about 500 contractors and around 350 volunteer crew. The only way to co-ordinate the myriad activities was to have a communications system that allowed us to talk to groups of people simultaneously and instantly. That is why two-way radio was the communications tool of choice," he says.

"From the initial conceptualisation through to the final production, the two-way radios we purchased from Motorola worked extremely well, despite the fact that most of the users had little experience of this technology." Barry Forbes, owner of Radtel, a Motorola authorised dealer was contracted to direct and manage all radio communications. "Ceremonies for Africa purchased 100 radios which were used for everything from rehearsals for the opening ceremony to the volunteers who interfaced with the public during all the tournaments," he says.

"We designed and built a system that was able to operate in both conventional mode, using repeaters to increase coverage and in a MPT1327 signalling mode, which maximises the usage of frequencies by dynamically assigning unused frequencies. This meant that users did not have to wait during busy periods for a frequency to become available.

"The radios feature both modes which made them the ideal choice for an event of this magnitude. In addition, they had to be highly flexible, allowing programming changes to be made quickly and frequently, to accommodate the changing needs of the event organisers," he explains.

Radtel was also responsible for the daily maintenance of the radios, which involved all programming, collection of the radios from the organisers each evening, ensuring the batteries were kept fully charged and providing ongoing technical support. This allowed the organisers to concentrate on running their event.

"The beauty of this technology is that it allows instant, simultaneous group communication at the push of a single button. And the more sophisticated radios such as those purchased by the ICC are feature-rich, providing advanced functionality such as dynamic regrouping, missed-call alerts, caller identification and rapid call for one-touch dialling," says Forbes.

Aside from playing a crucial role in the production of massive sporting events, two-way radios also contribute to improving security where large crowds are involved. Massive outdoor events such as the popular indie concert, OppiKoppi, rely on two-way radios to facilitate the management of activities on stage, backstage and for crowd control.

Carel Hoffman, event organiser, notes: "With over 140 bands performing on six stages and crowds that number nearly 30 000 people, security has to be tight. The security staff have their own dedicated two-way system, but they can also link to the OppiKoppi radio network. "Radios spread information rapidly to more than one person. For example, if a problem or incident occurs in one area and it is relayed over the radio network, everyone is aware. This simplifies the process of dealing with the challenges that occur at all concerts," adds Hoffmann.

"Communication is crucial for crowd control. Two-way radios enable rapid and effective responses from all security staff and the event organisers," he adds. Motorola has also developed a range of accessories that allow users to customise the radios according to their specific requirements - be it hands-free operation, discreet communication or headsets for protective wear or added comfort.

Annandale notes: "We used noise-cancelling microphones that were indispensable when trying to communicate in an extremely noisy, crowded stadium - it would have been impossible to hear anything without them". "When it comes to rapid, group communication, two-way radio comes to the fore as the communications solution of choice. It is also cost-effective, as users do not pay per call and it can improve the quality of communication, making people more productive and saving valuable time," concludes Forbes.

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