- by Seth Burstein
- Jan 15, 2019
- event WiFi planning
Event WiFi Planning: Five Things You Don’t Want to Forget!
“The WiFi isn’t working...”
“My connection keeps cutting out...”
“It’s taking forever to load a single page…”
Constant complaints like these are some of the biggest nightmares event managers can face, and event-goers who suffer through poor WiFi aren’t likely to forgive and forget. Not only do your guests expect unlimited, easy-to-use Internet but you benefit as well when they use the WiFi to promote your brand via social media platforms in real-time. Perfectly functioning WiFi should be at the top of your priority list when preparing for any event.
Fortunately, it isn’t all that difficult to provide WiFi that will satisfy even the most demanding guests. All it takes is proper planning.
As an event manager, you know how much time it can take to accomplish even the simplest tasks: there are thousands of potential setbacks when it comes to catering, stage lights, decorations, and so on – and the WiFi is no exception. If you don’t plan ahead, you might forget an important detail until the day of the event, when it’s far too late to fix.
This may sound intimidating, but don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here’s a short checklist of things you can do to ensure the WiFi for your event is taken care of, from start to finish.
- Have a clear idea of your attendees and their needs
Before you get started, it’s important to consider two key points: who will be attending your event and why do they need Internet access? We recommend creating a spreadsheet with a list of participants, sorted into categories, who will definitely need WiFi. This list may include your guests, the press, production staff, vendors, exhibitors, performers, streaming service providers, and interactive experience providers, among others.
Once you have the participant “categories” and their estimated numbers down, think about the tech devices they’ll be using, what they’ll be doing with those devices, and the quality/speed/reliability of the Internet connection they’ll need. The guests who only use WiFi for sharing social media posts about your event won’t need as strong a connection as the broadcasting team, for example, who might be streaming your whole event in high definition.
Once that’s been established, we recommend comparing the needs of your attendees with the level of WiFi access you can realistically offer. Not sure you have the budget for the most reliable WiFi network? Spend a few minutes going through your itinerary. Is there a specific part of your event that all your guests will feel is worth live-streaming at the same time? If so, perhaps think of cutting down on the appetizers and investing more into your WiFi connection.
- Do some research on your venue
Internet routing at your event venue is as important as the physical route to the venue. Your guests will expect the event to take place somewhere with smooth and easy access just as they expect smooth access to the Internet. Alongside venue location, accessibility, and parking options, you’re going to want to consider WiFi hotspots, routers and bandwidth.
While most venues these days already offer WiFi access, it’s possible that the network provided by the venue may not be adequate for 500+ guests. Make sure that you meet with your event venue’s IT Manager in advance to ask about the existing network and any potential limitations.
Of course, you’ll need to know which questions to ask. Internet bandwidth, for example, is one important factor that should not be ignored. While you may not need a lot of bandwidth for real-time posting to social media, you’ll need a significant amount if you’re planning to live-stream a video of your event.
Some other questions you should ask include the following:
· Is WiFi access split between the guests and the production staff?
· Do you have DAS (Distributed Antenna System) so people can access the cellular networks if necessary?
· Is there WiFi in the meeting space, and, if so, what’s the network capacity?
· How many devices can be online at the same time?
· How much bandwidth will be dedicated to our event?
· What is the backup plan if the Internet provider goes down?
· What safety measures have you implemented?
If you get acceptable answers to these questions, you might choose to rely solely on the venue’s WiFi – but be aware that opting for the in-house solution means you’ll be at the mercy of the venue’s network infrastructure.
If you want to be certain that nothing goes wrong with your WiFi, we recommend investing in dedicated event WiFi. You may have to reorganize your budget for it, but the peace of mind and freedom from WiFi-related worries will be worth it.
- Choose the right WiFi provider
One of the most common mistakes when it comes to choosing a WiFi provider is settling for one whose support team leaves you to your own devices immediately after setting everything up. When choosing a vendor, you want to make sure they have an on-site support team to help you through any WiFi-related difficulties during the event, or you may end up with a connection catastrophe.
It’s not difficult to get ahold of the equipment necessary for WiFi service, so you’ll find there are a lot of providers to choose from, including large, reputable companies as well as those that consist of just two guys and a van. You can start by asking the venue manager which WiFi providers have been booked for past events, but it’s also important to do your own research and read reviews.
Make sure the vendor you choose has the right professional equipment to cover your needs. They should be able to customize the network and prepare captive portals according to your demands – ones that support your event, not the vendor’s brand. The service provider should also be able to shape traffic in accordance with different levels of service and be willing to provide a report at the end of your event.
If you want a provider that is accountable, reliable and as invested in your event’s success as you are, make sure that you’re both on the same wavelength regarding your expectations. Your best bet for efficient installation and support offered by competent, knowledgeable individuals is to refer to professionals such as Trade Show Internet.
- Determine your event’s Internet bandwidth needs and compare costs
While you may not be able to determine exactly how much bandwidth you’ll need for your event, you can get a pretty close estimate based on the type of event you’re hosting, the number of attendees, expected guest Internet activity, and number of devices per attendee. In this case, referring to the spreadsheet mentioned earlier should help.
Cellular and best-effort bandwidth are both low-cost options that should be sufficient for events with a minimal number of attendees or a small budget. If you want to ensure consistency in speed and reliability, however, we strongly recommend dedicated bandwidth.
Dedicated bandwidth costs depend on how much bandwidth you need and for how many days, your move in and move out times, where the bandwidth is required, and your choice of WiFi provider. If you’ve chosen your provider wisely, they’ll be able to help you decide on the best bandwidth options for your needs.
- Be clear about your expectations with your WiFi service provider
After settling on your bandwidth, the next step is to let your WiFi vendor know your expectations for your event, your agenda, when and where you’re expecting the most Internet traffic, and anything else Internet-related you can think of to help them prepare for every eventuality. The more specific you are, the better.
Be sure to meet with your on-site support team on the day of the event to exchange important information, including contact information, in case anything unexpected happens. Building a good relationship with your WiFi vendor will also be beneficial when it comes to WiFi planning for future events.
Even if you’ve been planning events for decades, the advancement of technology can be difficult to keep up with. Don’t worry if you don’t understand some of the terms mentioned above or you’re feeling a little lost when it comes to WiFi event preparation. A good WiFi service provider will be able to take the event information you’ve prepared and set everything up just the way you want.
We hope this list makes it easier for you to prepare the WiFi for an event that meets all your expectations and more!