WiFi is a necessity in today’s world.
Almost every RFP that crosses our desk requests “Complimentary or discounted meeting space WiFi. ” Although, complimentary meeting space WiFi is becoming a standard request, few meeting planners can answer specific questions when asked about their WiFi needs and capacities. In-depth conversations are imperative to ensure the hotel’s free WiFi capabilities can meet your conference requirements.
Because, let’s face it … it’s no longer a luxury to have high-functioning WiFi, it’s a necessity.
What Event Planners Need to Understand about WiFi
Internet bandwidth refers to the maximum data transfer rate for a given internet connection. In general, bandwidth consumption is driven by two main components: the number of devices using the bandwidth (many attendees are using multiple devices) and the applications those devices are using (such as surfing, content streaming, videoconferencing, file sharing, gaming).
But it’s also important to know the difference between shared and dedicated bandwidth. Shared is the bandwidth we see in most hotel public spaces and guest rooms – it's a shared network accessible to everyone in the hotel with a WiFi password.
Meetings require dedicated bandwidth because it’s far more reliable. Dedicated bandwidth is dedicated to a single location and/or is only accessible to, a single group or organization. This bandwidth is not shared among both meeting attendees and hotel guests and is far more reliable.
To avoid Internet slow down in meetings, it’s imperative to know what your business uses the Internet for, and ensure you have enough dedicated bandwidth allocated for your event. Furthermore, it’s important to understand if your group has exclusive access to the bandwidth you’re paying for or if you have access to a shared network that could be far less reliable.
The next important component is understanding infrastructure of the wireless network. Your group can have large amounts of bandwidth allocated to your event, but the existing infrastructure may not be able to support the rapid data transfer. Most WiFi networks are built on an infrastructure that includes one hub or node from which all connections lead. Each of these connections is an access point. A network without well dispersed access points may trigger a connectivity issue.
As an example, a recent 400 person IT group was hosting a meeting in a ballroom that had 8 main access points in the ballroom. The access points were not well dispersed so when attendees were trying to log in they were all being sent to 2 of the 8 access points. Access point #3 and #4, in he center of the ballroom, were receiving the signal and the traffic kept “bottle necking” and attendees could not connect to the internet. Although, the overall network could handle 1000 users, each access point could only allow for 100 - 125 users.
Therefore, design of the network and well dispersed access points is critical to avoid connectivity failure. Asking for an access point layout map can ensure you know where the coverage is light and where high traffic areas can be possible. Venues can also add access points to strengthen the network for maximum reliability before your conference if you have pre-planned accordingly. .
Support refers to the technical professionals onsite and offsite that can aid in WiFi usage throughout an event. It’s important when picking a space and learning more about its WiFi capabilities that technical support is discussed. Is there an operations center constantly monitoring the WiFi usage during the conference? Can we add bandwidth if necessary? Is there onsite support? The more questions you address in the planning stage, the higher likelihood of avoiding challenges with internet when onsite.
For more insights into the key role bandwidth, infrastructure and support play in determining the strength of an event space’s WiFi, check out this informative video created by PSAV.
Free isn’t always Free.
In conclusion, if the “free” WiFi doesn’t provide enough bandwidth, network strength or support to the participants, the conference experience is in serious jeopardy. The cost of free WiFi can, in turn, be an expensive opportunity cost.
WiFi Questions to Ask Clients to Avoid Unwanted Surprises Later On
We, as intermediary meeting planners, want to make sure a hotel or venue has adequate bandwidth and infrastructure to meet our clients’ needs. Below are some basic questions we ask our clients when “free meeting room WiFi” (or any WIFi needs) are listed on a meeting or conference RFP.
Will your group use WiFi for basic internet surfing?
Will you require WiFi as part of the programming for the entire group? If not, how many people?
Downloading, polling, streaming?
What types of apps will be used? Do you have an event app?
Where will users be located (all in one room or in separate spaces)?
Will all users log on to the network at the same time?
Can you obtain a usage report from your last conference?
These questions are start. If WiFi is critical for the success of the program, it’s important to discuss all needs and schedule a meeting with the IT department before selecting a venue. Furthermore, outlining bandwidth and WiFi requirements in a hotel’s meeting contract is imperative.
Make WiFi a Priority in Your Next Meeting
We need to be one step ahead when it comes to running a successful event – that includes staying on top of WiFi needs. Just as planners lay out a detailed list of food and beverage needs, guest room needs and audio visual needs, WiFi needs to be the fourth component addressed at the RFP stage and, certainly outlined before contracting a venue if internet is important for the success of and event.
Learn more ways to keep your meetings on track for success with these productivity tips!