Can You Trust Standard Wi-Fi for Your Event?
Providing free onsite Wi-Fi is becoming an industry standard for events, so give the audience what they want! However, if you stuff up your Wi-Fi strategy or have patchy service and outages, the crowd will turn on you in a second.
So, what do you need to know before you provide Wi-Fi to the masses? We’ve got 9 steps to nailing your Wi-Fi strategy so that you won’t be roasted over the coals post-event on social media for providing a lousy experience.
1. The Short Answer is “No”
Your venue’s standard Wi-Fi connection? Inadequate. Data coverage for your attendees over cell towers? Could fail. When you leave your Wi-Fi strategy another person’s hands you have no control over the access, usage, and outages. In highly concentrated areas of people (e.g. events!), Wi-Fi can get overloaded and traditional cell coverage can fail.
2. Start Planning Your Wi-Fi Strategy Early to Avoid Failure
Your Wi-Fi strategy will need to have shaped up by the time you hit the halfway mark of your event planning process. This is necessary to reduce the likelihood of an outside event occurring that will disrupt your strategy and require a rethink. Don’t leave it until the last quarter of your planning of you are leaving yourself open to risk.
3. How You Should Plan
Here is where you figure out just what you need from your Wi-Fi capability before you start going and chatting to providers about it. Although they should be able to help you plan, it’s better to get a rough idea yourself first!
– Plot out which high-traffic areas are going to need the most Wi-Fi use
You Wi-Fi needs will need to have different concentrations in different areas depending on the floorplan and traffic flow of your event. You will want to nail down these concentrated areas (and as such, a floor plan!) early on. You should them place routers or repeaters at those locations. Most internet service providers and tech shops will rent these to you.
– Figure out your approximate bandwidth to determine your Wi-Fi needs
Now, just how to you do that?! Well, for areas of high usage, you will want to allocate around 8-12Mbps for every 100 people. For areas of low usage, this can drop to 2-3Mbps for per 100.
5. Shop Around With a Few Different Providers
Once you’ve got a rough idea about your Wi-Fi requirements, it’s time to start shopping around for providers. Unless you’ve had a good recommendation from someone in the industry, it’s a good rule of thumb to try at least 3 different providers to see which one is best for your event and company. Here are some rough guidelines to follow when choosing a provider:
Check what frequency of Wi-Fi their systems are. Whereas older systems use 2.4Ghz, you should be aiming for a system with 5.0Ghz to ensure better coverage.
Back Up Systems
Check what their backup system is if their Wi-Fi solution goes down. This is a step that is often overlooked. ISPs will have very different approaches to back up solutions, some good and some not. Make sure you have a detailed discussion with your provider about possible disasters and how they will compensate. They should be able, and happily willing, to explain these procedures to you adequately. If you don’t feel secure after those conversations, then it is time to look for another provider.
6. Have Your Providers Sit In On Planning Meetings – They Know What You Will Need Better Than You Do!
There’s no harm in having you Wi-Fi providers sit in on planning and pre-show meetings. In fact, this is a great way to avoid Wi-Fi disaster! They will be able to spot any issues that might interfere with your networks, or require a tweak to the solution to have it operate more efficiently. If your ISP is worth their weight, they should be happy to do this for you.
7. Make Your Wi-Fi Network Name Memorable
Once you’re up and running, you’ll want your audience to be able to connect quickly to your network at the event. Your Wi-Fi network name should be easy to identify and will usually include the event name, maybe some branding, and the word “free”. It is best to leave your network without password protection for easy access – people don’t want to enter a password when they’re out and about.
Yes, this means people outside of your event might nab some free Wi-Fi, but this is a small price to pay for a better customer experience inside.
8. Monitor Wi-Fi Performance Over The Course Of Your Event
This is essential. You cannot just set up your Wi-Fi and call it a day. Make sure that your provider is keeping tabs on the usage of your Wi-Fi network over the course of the event. You should approach them a few times just to monitor how things are going. Questions like, “are there any high usage areas we didn’t identify?”, “Have there been any outages?”, and “What is the network traffic like?”, are all good topics to be updated on.
9. Have Your Service Provider Give You a Detailed Break-Down Post Event For Future Planning
A detailed report of the Wi-Fi capability over the course of the event is crucial in knowing what went right, and what went wrong, so that you can tweak your Wi-Fi strategy for your next events. This report will identify any areas where you need to work on your strategy – or even change up your provider! Establishing a good Wi-Fi system takes time and fine-tuning. You need to build relationships with ISPs, and reevaluate your performance on a regular basis.