It is now common these days for people to show up at a meeting not only with their smartphone, but also with a laptop and even a table. Regardless of their device, your attendee expects to be able to connect to a Wi-Fi network at no cost. Throughout the conference a large percentage of your attendees will be using your Wi-Fi network for a variety of purposes. At many points, the usage may increase to the point that the network cannot handle the load and attendees will either experience slow service or no service at all. When this happens, expect a frustrated attendee and some to express their dissatisfaction. This unhappiness can result in a lasting negative impression of your conference.
Besides general attendee expectations to have Wi-Fi, you will probably desire a high quality network for your meeting for a number of strategic purposes. Reasons vary from trying to increase attendee engagement as in managing Twitter posts about your event to audience response systems to the promotion your meeting’s mobile app. Add this all to the mix, and your responsibility for delivering high quality reliable Wi-Fi becomes a critical part of the success of your meeting.
Given this importance, anticipating Wi-Fi usage at your venue needs to be a general part of your meeting planning, rather than an afterthought. Before you go into the technical and financial details of providing quality Wi-Fi at the show, you should first ask some basic questions about anticipated usage.
First of all, you need to think about your audience. Here are some things you might consider:
- What is the age group of your attendees? Younger and tech savvy attendees will make much use of their technology and will probably have and use multiple Wi-Fi devices.
- Do you have different groups of attendees, such as speakers and exhibitors? They may each have different needs. Will exhibitors use a mobile app for lead retrieval? Will speakers encourage attendees to follow or interact with the presentation using their devices?
- Are you using popular social media sites like Twitter or Facebook to engage your attendees?
- Will you have a mobile app? That alone will be a big factor in your estimated usage.
- Consider onsite registration and check-in processes. Will Wi-Fi be important in the registration area? Will you use a mobile app for session tracking?
- Will you be streaming video presentations? Will the attendee have access to that stream during the event?
- Will the Wi-Fi usage be concentrated in a specific area or will usage be spread out through the venue?
- Will there be peak times in anticipated usage?
- Will any of the presentations cause a peak in usage (such as steaming video or audience response surveys)?
- Can anything be done to mitigate peak times?
Now that you have done a high level overview of your anticipated usage, you are now in a better position to work with the venue and suppliers to determine your actual bandwidth needs.