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Setting Up Good Fair/Show Networks

Posted: July 26, 2016

Most Pennsylvanians think that fairs are fun places to enjoy food that medical professionals frown upon. Many people look forward to the fun and relaxation of the exhibits, shows and sales. We in Ag IT know that for many extension professionals it is one of the most stressful times of the year. It is no coincidence that market research shows a significant uptick in the sales of aspirin and antacids during fair season.

One of the best ways to reduce stress and the threat of stress for extension staff at fairs is to assemble and test your fair network a week or more in advance.  And, coincidentally, one of the best ways to reduce stress and the threat of stress for AgIT Support and Consulting staff is to assemble and test your fair network a week or more in advance.  The network is actually a fairly straightforward combination of computers, printer and router – and you’ve set it up a dozen times (over the last dozen years, of course!).  You have likely used the same computers and a printer and router that were bought specifically for this use.

We strongly recommend getting all the pieces and parts out of their various hiding places and test the network and the printing, maybe even using last year’s show data.  You’ll want to allow time for the computers that are rarely used to get updates, and you’ll want to discover well in advance that your colleagues have ‘borrowed’ all of the network cables that you securely hid for the show.  Test to be sure the printer has ink and that the power adapters for the router and the printer are still available.

Once you’ve verified that the network performs as expected, take it apart and hide the pieces until you get to the fair.  Assemble the network again before you need it and test again.  Nobody on either side of the phone likes to say or hear, “We are at the fairgrounds, the cell phone battery is dying, the auction is in an hour and nothing is working….”!