Internet access for attendees is no longer a luxury at meetings and events — it is a necessity. And the expectation for it to be fast and reliable has never been greater. However, for many meeting planners Wi-Fi is often an overlooked and expensive afterthought. Why? Because they do not take into account the number of devices, uses and demands Wi-Fi puts on the broadband system. In the end, they are either making excuses as to why the system is too slow (or worse, unavailable) or they are making last-minute costly decisions to put a portable system in place.
But this doesn't have to be the case. With careful planning and good negotiation skills, Wi-Fi can be just another line in your budget, like renting audio visual equipment or meeting room charges. Here are 3 things to help you put together a better plan that won't blow your budget:
#1: Get your arms around the conference profile.
Here are the questions to ask of attendees, your own organization and your speakers:
- Do you own a smartphone with a data plan?
- If yes, are you planning on utilizing email, social channels and browsing the Internet while you are at the conference?
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- If you rent iPads for attendees, how will they be using them?
- Will the applications be web-based or native-based?
- Will attendees be blogging and posting information to their social channels during the presentation?
- Will you be live streaming to remote attendees or ones that might be outside the meeting room, looking at a video wall rental unit?
- Will attendees download your presentation to their smartphone or iPad?
- Will you be showing video? How long and how many clips?
- Will attendees be able to communicate with you via a social channel such as Twitter?
Knowing the use of the Wi-Fi, how many devices will be logged onto it at any given time and the frequency of high bandwidth applications, such as video, will help create a blueprint for your Wi-Fi needs.
#2: Remember this rule of thumb: The larger the conference, the larger the Wi-Fi expense.
Wi-Fi is similar to a roadway system. If you are traveling 5 miles down the road, you can take surface streets. However, if you are traveling 500 miles, you need to almost exclusively take freeways. Same with the Internet. If you have 50-100 attendees who are going to access the Internet to check their email or post something to Facebook, the venue's Wi-Fi system can probably handle it. However, with 1,000+ attendees accessing video, web apps, blogging and social channels, you are going to need a better infrastructure, more bandwidth and AV/IT staff to support the system. Since smartphones and tablets have weak antennas, you will need to consider more access points throughout the building if attendees will be roaming through the property.
#3: Look at an outside vendor to provide Wi-Fi network arrays and technical support.
In order to keep your budget intact, understand all the needs listed about and make sure the venue doesn't mandate in-house exclusivity for Wi-Fi. Have options and make this part of your negotiating strategy, just as you would for any interactive technology tool rentals.
AV Event Solutions can provide you with Wi-Fi network array rental units that will not bust your budget! Check out their website for more details on this offering or give them a call today!