Leadership / 07.13.22
Yes, the Show Can Go on When Wi-Fi Goes Down: 11 Tips From INTIX Members
On a recent Wednesday Wisdom call, the INTIX community discussed standard operating procedures for digital tickets when a venue’s Wi-Fi or other technology infrastructure goes down.
It was a crystal-ball moment if ever there has been one.
Less than 48 hours later, in the wee hours of Friday morning, Canada’s Rogers Communications experienced an outage across its wireline and wireless networks, impacting millions of subscribers and consumers nationwide.
Callers could not reach emergency services via 911.
Bank payment services, including debit and credit card processing, were impacted.
And there was a slate of concerts scheduled for Friday night too, most of which would use digital and mobile ticketing. This included the first show of The Weeknd’s world tour in his hometown, ironically scheduled at Toronto’s Rogers Centre (formerly Skydome). It was canceled moments before doors were to open.
“All ticketing, food, beverage and merch sales are tied to the [Rogers Communications] network,” Variety reported. “The Weeknd’s technologically complex production and venue security presumably relied heavily on it as well.”
Fans found out about the cancellation of The Weeknd concert as they arrived at the venue. They had come from across town and across the country and were crushed to learn that their idol could not perform.
The show did, however, go on for other tours.
Scotiabank Arena advised Roger Waters fans to use their complimentary Wi-Fi on arrival and that credit cards would work.
The 2,500-capacity music venue History asked Psychedelic Furs fans to add digital tickets to their Apple Wallets or Google Pay apps before arriving.
Keith Urban fans headed to Budweiser Stage were asked to do the same thing and to bring their credit cards for any in-venue food and drink purchases.
While such vast service outages are rare, they can happen. Wi-Fi and technology also can — and does — go down at the most inopportune times. With that in mind, here are 11 tips from our ticketing pros, learned from experience, to keep you up and running when there is a connectivity outage.
- Allow guests to enter using purchase confirmation emails. Sometimes, if a customer cannot pull up their barcode ticket, the confirmation email will still open because it has been downloaded to their phone.
- Remind fans to add tickets to their digital wallets before arriving at the venue. “We are adamant [in our messaging] about being sure you have your ticket pulled up and in your wallet … before you even get to the venue,” Joe Carter says. “We can scan [tickets in your wallet] whether you have Wi-Fi or not because we can do an offline scan and capture it.”
- Print up a list of customers and seat locations on the morning of a show. Yes, this is an old-school practice, and it may not work for larger venues, but it is something that smaller houses can consider.
- Invest in Mi-Fi. These portable devices have mobile Wi-Fi built in and create what is essentially an ad-hoc network, like a router in your home. On the advice of an INTIX peer, Cate Foltin’s organization installed Mi-Fi devices at each entrance. “We have a generic guest they can access, and we can pull up their tickets that way if it happens.”
- Keep ticket scanning on a separate Wi-Fi system. The team at Omaha Performing Arts, Ashley Voorhees says, does this “as opposed to it being part of the public. It sits on its own platform so to speak. That way, IT can switch it to a different backend connection if we need it.”
- Print hard tickets. This is not something that every venue can do, but it has helped at times at the Las Vegas Ballpark, Siobhan Steiermann says, which is not 100% digital.
- Set up gate internet, Tony DiCamillo, who tickets a lot of festivals in remote areas, recommends. “We have partnerships with groups that can come out and help set up gate internet for us … We also have another platform that we work on that can scan offline if there is intermittent internet out there.”
- Leverage Near-Field Communication (NFC) tickets and passes. Tony says they are “quickly transitioning to NFCs,” which is the technology behind contactless entry.
- Use an “internet case” or have your own “emergency kit” ready to go. “We have a great partnership with a group called FestiFi. [They] provide an internet case that can be set up and [then used to] run a box office,” Tony says. “It is dedicated internet for the box office and scanning. I have used them at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and had five of them around the grounds. It is very successful, and it is 5G as well, so there are different options out there.”
Richard Powers and his team are also set up for remote connectivity success. “We occasionally need to set up box offices in odd places. In the room with our safes, locked away safely, is a suitcase of ticket stock, BOCA ticket printers, hotspots [and credit card readers] ready to go. Any time we need to set up somewhere, you grab your computer bag, grab that suitcase and we are good to go. As long as we can get enough power to keep us charged. Even then we have [portable generators] that you can plug into, so we can run comfortably for at least 12 hours if we can get signal.”
Similarly, Amy Botwright and her team have a "‘to-go cart’ that everything fits on. Hot spots, power back-ups, chargers, extra extension cords [and more].”
- Forgo perfect data collection to create a better experience. If you are allowing entry with a confirmation email or implementing another type of manual solution, you obviously cannot track attendance as you normally would. Old-fashioned clickers can help get your house count right for the fire marshal, but you can only do so much when there is an issue with connectivity and scanning. Accept it, get those fans safely in and let them enjoy the show!
- Share lessons learned with the next generation. Not everyone has a back-up plan or the mentality to have them in place, Linda Forlini says, so what can we do in this case? “I like to teach my staff ‘we used to do it this way, but now we have this,’ so they at least have anecdotal info to use in case of apocalypse,” Christy Grantham says.