“Internet access has become a basic utility like electricity and running water – ease of connectivity is a priority, and after that having adequate Bandwidth matters but it’s important to know what attendees will be using the connectivity for in order to plan properly,” says Michael Judeh, Regional Director of Technology NYC IACC.   I have personally witnessed events, that day of live-streaming testing on the in-house Internet worked just fine. Still, no one planned for when the 300-people arrived at the door with online registration, and the Internet Badge Printers wouldn’t work, as attendees were also logging on to the WiFi network. This caused lines, confusion, and concern over the pivotal live-streaming later in the day.  Using the “running water” analogy, who has lived in an apartment complex when everyone is home, washing clothes, taking showers, flushing toilets, and noticed you’ve got no water pressure, plus a cold shower?!   If an apartment complex is not designed for 100% capacity usage at the same time (which usually they are not because it’s costly), this is precisely what is happening when the Internet goes bad at your event! So, let’s help you construct the perfect “home” for a successful tech-related event (aren’t they all these days?).   First off, it is essential to know who is calling your event “home”: 

The Attendee:

The average corporate event attendee has 2-devices (phone & Laptop/tablet). It is recommended to have a Min. of 30 Mbps per every 100 attendees for basic standard Internet browsing (checking email and browsing online).   In your post-event surveys, rather than asking if the attendees liked the food (they rarely do, and that is usually out of your control after an initial tasting), ask them how their Internet experience was?  If they didn’t rate it highly, include sub-questions, how many devices were they using (some people still carry a personal cell. and company cell.), and ask what they were using the Internet for?  This is data to collect for future occasions and to cross-check the Internet that was promised by your provider.   

Your Event Production:

Have a separate Network and Login for attendees off the Production Internet Circuit.  Make it very clear that anyone who is on the Production network, that has the password is only using the network for its intended usage.    I witnessed an event at a past venue I worked with, where the Internet was severely lagging for Production. All of the Internet Bandwidth was provided and tested.  The client was on the Internet vendors’ case. However, pulling reports showed that one of the IP’s associated with a Vendors Laptop was downloading excessive files (over a time that correlated with their other vendors’ breaks) the refund requests conversations ended pretty quickly (most likely traced back to the individual who found an interesting way to entertain themselves over their break).    

The Production Schedule

Make sure you provide your Production schedule to the Internet Vendor or IT Specialist as your venue of choice (the venue doesn’t have an IT Specialist? uh oh, do you? hold that thought for later…). Include in the timing, anyone from your company or vendors that will be in the venue.  It may seem enough to tell an Internet vendor that Production is testing at 3 pm. Still, you may want to cross-check to see if the CEO arriving an hour before to use the space as an office, or the other 12 people on event staff are planning for an 8 am start to blow up balloons (while checking email for last-minute registrations for onsite badges).   Some venues don’t have any Internet in their spaces, and if they are using a remote service provider – they may have to call a 1-800 number to try to get the Internet turned on earlier or dealing with a different time-zone.  A day of exercise to avoid with ample communication of timelines.     Is your event an annual event or roadshow? Don’t play guessing games on Internet needs, ask the Internet Service provider or venue for a “Usage Report” post-event, and be sure to do your Speed Testing during rehearsals.   Time is of the essence if there is a lag; if a venue is using a 1-800 number type of Internet service provider, don’t hold your breath to get a quick-boost to rescue the event.    

Your Exhibitor or Sponsors 

Don’t forget exhibitors or sponsors; either define what is available in advance if you are opting for “free Internet” from the venue and advise vendors not to use “hotspots,” which could interfere with the venue provided WiFi.    If you don’t want to foot the bill for added Internet services, and it is available, that is information to add to your exhibitor kit or learn what tech exhibitors need for their area, if doing live-demos, etc., and find out from the venue or vendor the costs of the upgraded service and add it to the booth or sponsor package cost.    In-House Internet Compared to Outside Vendor Internet Event attendees expect high-speed free WiFi, as a standard at Corporate events, if you don’t ensure they get it, as part of your event plan, you may find that your event is trending under the Hash-tag #WiFiFail (search the hash-tag and learn WiFi is as vital as having enough toilets WITH toilet paper in the bathroom).  Plus, the Internet is a requirement for your event production; for registration, web-demos, video streaming, video conferencing, crowd polling, and other cloud-based tech that is at the forefront of all significant events (even non-profit fundraising events are doing online auctions).  When all of these usages are taken into account, some venues are unable to offer the necessary Internet Bandwidth by converting their day-to-day Internet for this usage (remember that Apartment complex?). In most instances, it wouldn’t make sense for them to pay for a colossal Internet Bandwidth if there are not daily events with major tech requirements.  Hotels, yes, but a unique stand-alone venue that your attendees are going to love, with no other income, is not a viable choice for them to pay for this type of monthly Internet Bandwidth.   An outside Vendor can bring in additional Bandwidth on a private circuit for Production needs; it could just be a hard-wired handoff, and your company’s inhouse Event IT team can build the network out while preserving the venues Internet for attendee use. Related to In-House WiFi, what kind of security is there, is there a password used repeatedly that is posted around the venue? Or is it changed for every event?
Aurice Guyton

Author Aurice Guyton

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