Most of my event planning colleagues have limited knowledge about Wi-Fi, bandwidth and access points. If you are like them, you are struggling with how much bandwidth your event really needs and is free Wi-Fi all it is cracked up to be.
It really boils down to connections, applications and expectations. Let me explain by helping you sift through what the attendee wants and the venue has to offer.
At a basic level, attendees expect the same Wi-Fi experience with you that they can get at home and the office. They are not encumbered with only having access in certain rooms at certain times and they can upload and download most apps without restriction.
However, they pay for this freedom and most office networks have a finite number of devices attached to it.
So why is it, when thousands of attendees gather for a conference, they expect lighting fast Internet without a fee? I will tell you why; they have been conditioned to expect it because free Wi-Fi is everywhere – from the coffee shop to the hotel room.
But it isn’t free and you need to level set them with the expectation that great Wi-Fi carries a cost.
In addition, I highly recommend you avoid a plan to limit Wi-Fi to a certain area. All you will do is frustrate your attendees. I was at a conference last year where the only Wi-Fi access was in the hotel room. Guess what happened? Attendees showed up late, left early and missed out on a lot of great conference content.
You need to know how the facility is going to provide Wi-Fi to your attendees. Here are a few great questions to ask:
1. How old is your wireless infrastructure? Most hotels and conference centers should be upgrading their broadband every 5-10 years. So if you have a center that hasn’t touched their Wi-Fi configuration since 2004, which may have a problem.
2. Are you using Dual Band? 2.4 Ghz is the old standard Wi-Fi frequency while 5 Ghz is the new. Most progressive venues use a combination of frequencies at the same time thus allowing attendees and presenters to use the higher band for areas that need a stronger radio signal.
3. Will the conference IT staff be constantly monitoring Internet activity? It is important to have someone monitoring overall Internet capacity and the amount of uploads and downloads that is going on within the conference. If an attendee decided to back up their entire laptop to the cloud at your conference, you want the IT staff to be able to identify the IP address that is doing the backup and put a hold to its ability to suck the life out of your bandwidth.
4. If you are reaching your peak usage, can the venue add more bandwidth? This is probably the greatest insurance you can have. They will see the peak building and quickly work toward a solution to add more dedicated bandwidth to your conference. It won’t happen instantly, but an experienced person knows when to bring on more resources.
5. Will your bandwidth be shared or dedicated? You really want dedicated bandwidth for a number of reasons, but it will be the more expensive option. However, it will be the more secure and fastest option for your users.
6. Understand all your connectivity options when you are at the negotiating table. Once you understand what your attendees need, the apps that will be utilized and what your estimated bandwidth capacity requirements are, work with your venue to come up with the fastest, most efficient solution. Try and move toward a reasonable fee, but understand that free is probably not an option. Work on a service level guarantee of a certain up-time and what your recourse is if that guarantee is not met.
How Kalahari Resorts & Conventions Can Help
Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, located in Wisconsin, Ohio and soon to be Pennsylvania, has excellent IT staff just waiting to speak with you!