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The Power of the Silent Partner

Fri, 04/12/2013 - 18:36 -- Ruth Williams

The world of events is a fascinating one, defined by its transient nature where the norm is to ‘plug and play’ anywhere and at any time. Whether small or large, events take many months - often years - to organise, and are only successful when the right mix of service providers are brought into play.

Early planning, an informed selection of partners, years of experience and commitment to see the project through are critical to ensuring event organisers build on their portfolio of success. As sports professionals and performing artists will tell you, you’re only as good as your last performance.

Few events would be possible without the availability of electrical power – a resource that in much of the developed world is taken for granted. While some events choose to rely on the supply of energy from the local grid network, many others require the additional support of temporary power providers to allow the show to go on – either as the prime source or back-up. 

Selecting the best provider is essential to guaranteeing the success of the event through the supply of reliable and constant power.

Super Bowl slip-up

A wrong choice in the right kind of power package could result in a blackout which would affect countless systems – unthinkable for live events watched by a global audience and backed by millions worth of sponsorship and broadcast licensing dollars.

The Super Bowl in February 2013 featuring the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers is a case in point. An electrical failure in the stadium’s power system which was not backed-up, caused a blackout that lasted about 35 minutes. 

While Aggreko were providing power, the contract was specifically to run back-up power for the national and international broadcasters and the half time show, all of which went smoothly.  Had the event organisers extended their contingency planning to include back-up power for the whole stadium, it is likely the show would have gone on.

There are a number of factors to consider when looking for a reliable temporary power supplier, amongst which is market longevity and depth of experience, true industry expertise, people power with strong project management capabilities and a focus on design.

Event organisers cannot compromise on this essential mix of qualities when considering who to select as their power providers.

In the temporary power sector, there are a number of providers who claim to be ‘event experts’, by offering services either exclusively or as part of a portfolio of sectors. But true industry knowledge can only be attained by experience, gained over a significant amount of time and anchored by a record of success stories as the demands of the major events sector are complicated and truly different to those of other industries.

Adopt, adapt and improve

Service providers who have been selected repeatedly as preferred partners for mega events such as the Olympics, are unique in the depth and breadth of understanding they have of this complex and versatile industry. Minor and major last minute changes are common, and having the know-how to adapt effectively without sacrificing the quality of delivery, is key.

Many temporary power companies who provide services to a number of sectors claim to know the events industry and understand its needs well, yet how involved are they outside the tender table? A few major events in the industry run on a cyclical basis – the Summer Olympics and FIFA World Cup every four years for example.

During these ‘in-between’ times, major industry players get together to discuss critical developments, through a number of well-established platforms such as those set up by SportBusiness and the World Academy of Sports. Actively participating in this ‘out of season’ activity is essential to keeping abreast with industry news, continuing to build relationships, and addressing needs through the progressive development of the right equipment.

Putting together the right teams for the right projects is essential. The events industry is beset by complexity on many levels – numerous and frequent design changes in the planning stages; venue space constraints; environmental challenges and drastic weather changes can affect the outcome of a project.

Teams must have a strong background in the events industry, have a proven track record in early delivery planning and know how to manage change at any point along the course, with ease, creativity and flexibility.

Design: Form follows function

Service providers must have a focus on design. Most temporary power providers rent out equipment they have neither designed nor manufactured, and thus rely on their own suppliers for the quality performance of their systems.

In the unfortunate event of equipment failure, this could result in crippling delays while specialists are brought in to fix the issues – a luxury no event organiser can afford. Choosing providers who design and manufacture their own equipment provides greater assurance. A reliable provider will manage the complete life cycle of the equipment they rent out – from design to manufacturing and on to installation and operation. 

Importantly, design does not only stop at equipment – it extends right through to project planning and execution.  For the larger events that have the additional element of live broadcast, and significant investment from sponsors, guaranteeing a constant flow of power is critical. Reliable power providers run generators on a 100% redundancy, meaning that they will set up their own back-up equipment, ensuring that no matter what, the power is always on.

In the unlikely event that one generator fails, a second automatically assumes the full load, guaranteeing a constant flow of electricity. For generators used to run stadiums, known in the industry as ‘local power’, serious providers will always advise event organisers to run the same type of back-up system. Even when the power being hired is back-up, running contingency sets is the best way to guarantee constant energy.

Early location rekeying allows for design teams to calculate where and how to manage the complex distribution of energy, as often the application needing power will be located away from the generator.

Successful designs of comprehensive solutions that get quality power to where it is needed in a safe and unobtrusive way mark the level of experience of the service provider. The availability of quality ‘clean power’ – constant and unfailing – is possible only with extensive pre-planning, well maintained equipment and expert technicians.

The ultimate goal for event organisers is to deliver shows that are memorable for all the right reasons, and partnering with the experienced providers will help achieve this.  When working as it should, the power provider plays a silent but omnipotent role, providing the energy needed that brings the whole event together. 

With major events, who have the judging eyes of the world upon them followed closely by the loud and demanding expectations of deep pocketed advertisers, sponsors and broadcasting partners, choosing the right power partner is one of most important decisions event organisers will need to make.