Wi-Fi: 5 Things Planners Need to Know
With the accelerating use of laptops and smart phones in our increasingly mobile world, the topic of wireless internet, or wi-fi, has become hot, hot, hot.
More and more audiences, including conference and meeting attendees, are counting on having access to the internet no matter where they are. This is creating a whole new set of challenges for convention centers, hotels and other venues that may not be able to accommodate the group’s need.
Savvy companies like Smart City are stepping in to help. A leading supplier of telecommunications services in 35 facilities coast-to-coast, Smart City provides network services to more than 5,500 events each year. Here’s the advice they offer to planners who are grappling with the demand for wi-fi in their events and conferences.
Start planning early, at least six months before your event. “This can actually save you money, because we’ll have the time to put together a custom plan for you,” said Laureen Boykin, director of operations for Smart City. “A lot of people who wait until the last minute end up over-ordering services,” added Mark Haley, Smart City president.
Know your audience, and share this information with your service provider. The more information you have about your group’s demographics, the more likely your wi-fi will be successful. How tech savvy is your crowd? Will they primarily be checking e-mails, or will they be streaming video and doing advanced applications? Haley explained that type of usage will determine how much bandwidth is needed. At the recent International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Smart City’s task was to provide services for more than 16,000 tech-savvy attendees, prompting them to add 500Mb of internet access and 138 new access points, and replacing every switch in the building.
Know your group’s traffic patterns. In what areas of the facility are they most likely to be using the network? Where are the hot spots that are absolutely necessary to have signal? What are the peak times they’ll be using the network? Will they need access in the break-out rooms? On the tradeshow floor?
Set up specific areas for wi-fi use. Your service provider can give you recommendations for good spots to put your tech lounges based on the building’s construction. Signals are blocked by concrete and steel but sheetrock walls allow signals to pass through. For ISTE, Smart City was able to provide the bandwidth for 5,000 wi-fi users in one designated room.
Ask your service provider for usage reports after the event so you can better prepare for the next event. How much bandwidth did you use? How many people accessed the network? What were the peak periods of use?
By following these guidelines and doing your homework, you’ll not only save money and avoid the pain of last-minute set-ups. You’ll also assure that your attendees have a successful wi-fi experience at your event.
For more information on Smart City go to www.smartcity.com.
- by Ann Turner, Event Solutions Editor