Nowadays, Wi-Fi is a necessity when it comes to events. That is unless your event is an off-the-grid, bark-eating, silent retreat in the Wind River Mountains (in which case, toilet paper is a technology).
Your event attendees expect robust Wi-Fi and cell phone access, as do you, to execute an event effectively. From interactive tabletops and RFID bracelets to video conferencing or soliciting a text-based poll—ready, steady, go Internet access is critical.
The more devices and online activity you expect, the more bandwidth you'll need. At what cost? You must nail down the details upfront to protect your event and budget. Here are some tips to boost your event Wi-Fi speed, without getting hammered by surprise costs.
HAVE A TECH WALKABOUT
Sure, your smartphone likely has a network testing tool, but a specialized app is well, dedicated, and can do a better job. A Wi-Fi analyzer (there are loads of apps to choose from for your phone) is a good example. Connect to a Wi-Fi network and walk the space. You'll discover how well the signal performs in varied locations. Keep in mind that service is likely to weaken when demand is higher.
Look to answer these questions:
- Is there Wi-Fi coverage?
- If so, which frequency bands does it occupy? 2GHz, 5GHz?
Put Wi-Fi speed to the test. Go to speedtest.net and press the big "GO" button. Remember, speeds will decrease as the number of users increase. Keep in mind that this is only tracking at the time of use. Once the event is humming with Wi-Fi-hungry attendees, the speed test results could be completely different.
What cellular coverage is there? Wi-Fi may have to pick up the slack, putting that much more pressure on its capacity.
Look at the Ethernet wall plates. If they're beat-up or broken, that's a sign the infrastructure isn't getting the love it needs, and your event deserves it.
Check the network access locations. How many are there, and where are they within your event space? If there's only one in the entire ballroom, it might be difficult, if not impossible, to complete cable runs within a maximum of 300 feet. Long runs can degrade signal quality, and depending on your setup, the lengthy cable can become a physical problem as well.
COMMITTED, DEVOTED & DEDICATED BANDWIDTH
If you're unable to access dedicated bandwidth, you'll be sharing—find out precisely what that means. Will you be sharing with the entire venue, the conference space or ballroom, the bandwidth-greedy meeting attendees next door? The more users, the more fluctuations, and the more failures.
Ask about captive portals or custom Wi-Fi names. Is that an additional charge? Also ask to meet with someone from the venue's network or IT team. If they sub-contract to a third party, ask what on-site support they offer and what their response plan is if something goes down.
If you need dedicated lines, tell the venue exactly what you need for up and down speeds. Track it and hold them to it. Run a speed test and take a screenshot if it is below the agreed-upon speed, which is extremely critical when doing live-streaming events.
Bandwidth problems can ruin your event (and smear your reputation), so treat technology like the vital component it is. Bringing in your own network could be the most reliable, most uncomplicated solution. Will the venue allow this bold move? Take nothing for granted. Ask if they allow third-party vendors. Many allow outside AV companies, but not necessarily IT. Some want to bundle AV and IT, which can further limit your options and increase your costs.
Better yet, can you bring in your own system? When allowed, Heroic Productions works with the brilliant bees at Buzz Buzz, which provides portable Internet relay units. Buzz Buzz delivers predictable, reliable Internet without the need to test or trust the site's system, and the cost is often comparable to paying a fee to the venue.
Hang on, what if the event location is tech-un-friendly, like at a park, a boat, or base camp in the Wind River Range (remember?)? Or, what if this meeting is highly hush-hush and you need guaranteed network security? All perfect scenarios for a portable Internet relay system, like Buzz Buzz, and possibly the only solution.
LEAVE THEM WANTING NOTHING
No matter the venue, your goal is a comfortable level of bandwidth, access points, and general cyber joy. This is essential for event production and for attendees to function smoothly and conveniently. Plan ahead and thoroughly. Get everything you want at a price that works.
Remember, no one notices the Wi-Fi, unless it’s not there or not right. Which means attendees think it’s a given. You cannot afford to let poor technology undermine your production, and/or leave attendees stabbing angrily at devices while shouting, “Who’s running this circus?!”