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  How Many Chatters Is Too Many?
For hosted chats how many people can comfortably fit into a room at one time - particularly for something like a celebrity chat where demand may be high?

This is often an overlooked question, so we are so glad you asked it.

From the technical standpoint, the capacity of a celebrity chat is truly dependent upon the venue/tool that you wish to use for it. A live event venue for your chat, with auditorium and backstage area for your event staff and guest speaker, utilises significant server resources and that will be a major factor in the capacity for your event. You should first check with the documentation or support provided by the product vendor. In particular, you should seek advice about the following:

a) recommended basic server requirements for the software;

b) an estimation of the scalability of the software based on a per user basis for the following: processor usage, memory usage, disk space usage and network bandwidth usage.

Armed with this information you should be able to estimate what the combination of the software and your server will comfortably handle during a live event. Bear in mind too, that some chat software allows clustering or load balancing to accommodate additional users on an ancillary server.

From the standpoint of orchestrating and running a live event there are some other issues to think about. Unlike regular "free-flow" chat, a live event enables members to ask questions of the speaker via a special moderation tool. Questions and comments from the audience do not immediately appear on the chat screen, but rather are sent to a live event staff who then present the questions one at a time. This provides the speaker with the opportunity to answer clearly and gives them time to answer questions effectively. It also allows for the live event staff to control the content of the questions being submitted.

So for a chat event of this nature, you will need a sufficient complement of moderation and screening staff to cope with the question handling and presentation. We would recommend that you have a screener for every 100 or so users in an active live event, up to 200 for the more leisurely live events. A live event of professionals is often rather different to a teenage pop idol! It really will depend on the "pull" of your celebrity and the eagerness of the audience, but as a rule of thumb you and your staff should be sufficiently able to deal with it on the premise of one screener per 100 users.

A "free-flow" chat room with a moderator is a rather different prospect. Experience tells us that moderators cannot handle a busy room with much in excess of 30-35 people participating. Anything above 35 becomes unmanagable for an event chat and the celebrity's comments will often become lost in the general room "banter".

You might also consider alternative solutions such as using "break-out" (sometimes called "overflow") rooms to cater for capacity needs, and having the celebrity's text funnelled into all rooms separately. It has been our experience that the best venue for a celebrity chat is using a chat client that offers live event capability or an add-on. As mentioned previously, screening and moderation assists managing and maintaining a chat with a high number of users, without having to worry about disruptive content or quality.

Thank you so much for your question. We wish you the best of luck with your event and hope it is enjoyable for you, your celebrities and audience!

- Jon Nix and Pam Thomas
http://communityanswers.com
http://cornerways.com
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