The purpose of any event is to get attendees engaged in the central concepts, whether they’re products, ideas, or services. While events and conferences once focused entirely on those physically present, social media has made potential audiences virtually limitless. From candid snaps on Instagram to live-tweeting a keynote speech, WiFi connectivity is what really connects your attendees and your goals.
Fast, reliable wireless internet is synonymous with the event experience. WiFi for events isn’t a “nice-to-have” option any longer; it’s an absolute must. Events that rely on attendees to burn their own personally-held data plans are asking to ruin engagement and build resentment rather than lasting relationships. Free WiFi, like water at a restaurant or tiny bottles of shampoo at a hotel, has become an undeniable expectation of attendees. Its absence has a way of casting an event in a negative light from the start and putting event guests in a mindset of pointing out other shortcomings along the way.
The Party Line Is Hopelessly Outdated
The idea that individuals used to share a phone line is a mind-boggling one in our fast-paced, tech-centric world. However, the internet is often unwittingly treated the same way in large groups. The amount of web connection and speed used by an individual device is called bandwidth, and properly estimating how much bandwidth an event needs can be a make-or-break point.
While many event venues have some form of WiFi network available, this service generally falls into one of two less-than-desirable camps: sluggish or expensive.
- Slow event center-provided WiFi occurs when too many attendees or devices are simultaneously trying to use that “party line” at the same time. Bandwidth is a finite resource at volume when it’s obtained through conventional means, and it can stop and sputter as it tries to keep up with demand.
- Expensive event center-provided WiFi is rarer, and either takes a big chunk of event budget from the host or host company or may even charge attendees for access. This bit of unpleasant upcharge might not even cross a planner’s radar until they find out the hard way on the day of the event.
Think of it in terms of a garden hose versus a fire hose: both generally look and operate the same, but the latter is far more efficient at delivering a great deal of water in a minimal amount of time without interruptions in the flow. Your home has a garden hose that works well, but your event needs a fire hose to meet the same demand for many people simultaneously.
Neither of these scenarios is a positive one for a cost-conscious planner, and charging attendees that have already bought a ticket is a bad move for event legitimacy. In short, an attendee that feels nickel-and-dimed is an attendee that won’t be returning for the next event.
How To Plan Event WiFi
One day, wireless internet access may act like lights do – available everywhere at the flick of a switch with no interruptions or barriers. Until then, event planners need to consider factors like coverage and strength in addition to the presence of WiFi in general. Uninterrupted WiFi connectivity is essential for all live streaming-related activities, whether you’re broadcasting a panel discussion or several of your attendees are streaming to social media networks.
In order to safeguard that uninterrupted connection, an event organizer needs to have their hands on something called an access point, or “AP” map. This document or plan acts as a heatmap, outlining the areas where WiFi coverage is crucial. In order to set up an infrastructure plan that supports those needs, an event space or third-party audio visual services provider could set up routing devices to strengthen and boost the WiFi signal.
This information works in tandem with your estimated bandwidth needs to create a complete WiFi solution for the duration of your event. Larger events have perfected the art of estimating bandwidth by requesting device information from attendees as part of the access purchasing process. A short, simple email survey drives engagement and conversion that boosts event numbers. If it’s paired with a poll, it also offers event organizers the ability to ask questions about the number and type of WiFi-enabled devices an attendee will bring, as well as their habits and actions (e.g., live-streaming as opposed to snapping a few photos). Don’t forget to ask the WiFi provider up front about receiving complete usage information after the event concludes. Once you’ve surveyed your guests and have the number of expected users and usage demands you can utilize our Bandwidth Calculator to help plan!
Event WiFi Providers: In-House Vs. Rental
Much like audio visual services, temporary WiFi for events is typically available from two (or more) providers: the event space itself, or as an event WiFi rental service from a third-party company. Both methods will provide your attendees with the connection they need to interact with and immerse themselves in your event, but in-house technology is always a little bit more of a gamble than hiring a professional team outright.
A few things to keep in mind when comparing in-house AV versus rental services:
- Your day-of event space staff isn’t likely to include an AV professional if issues arise. That means if the internet cuts out and your WiFi isn’t working, you’ll need to tell your event space staff, who in turn will contact their WiFi professional. The “telephone game” often leads to slowdowns and miscommunications, so why risk it?
- Your patronage is based on the space, the WiFi is considered an add-on. That means that even if the WiFi fails completely, the venue knows you’ve still got at least one item on the invoice that will come due: rental. Without the motivation of a single-service contract, you may find your WiFi needs slip down the order of operations for venue staff, particularly if they’re hosting more than one event at a time.
- They’ve got one set up for you, and hopefully, it works. Because the aforementioned space rental is their primary rental product, venues also aren’t particularly motivated to upgrade or improve their WiFi infrastructure. If they typically host smaller events than yours, consider that a red flag that they may not be up to the task of providing appropriate WiFi.
- Their contracts are often non-specific when it comes to WiFi provisions. Beware of any in-house contracts that mention or refer to WiFi as a static resource, similar to “cable television” or “in-room calls” at a hotel. If you can’t count on your event space to inherently understand differences in bandwidth needs, it’s a safe bet you can’t count on reliable WiFi the day of your event. Chances are, they’re classing the generic anyone-can-log-in event space WiFi as convention-ready, even though it likely doesn’t scale up properly when more users login to the WiFi network.
WiFi rental, on the other hand, is specifically made for temporary use during bandwidth-hungry events, handling multiple smartphones, tablets, and laptops without breaking a binary sweat. This approach removes a lot of the “unknowns” from the WiFi equation, enabling event organizers to properly plan for WiFi support. An outside WiFi rental company can provide your venue space with as many access points as needed to ensure complete coverage.
When you hand off your event Wi-Fi needs to a professional team, you won’t be beholden to the pricing structure of the event space and potentially terrible in-house web speeds. As the dedicated provider of your WiFi connections at the event, using a vendor also provides you with a touchpoint for questions and concerns. Finally, WiFi rental vendors have plenty of motivation to meet your needs and make your event one to remember proudly – word of mouth travels fast, and events and conventions tend to repeat periodically.
Event Day: Sooner Than You Think
While you’re locking down guest speakers and organizing room placements and catering, the calendar is marching on relentlessly. Event planners are some of the busiest people in society, needing to carefully balance the needs of the event staff and entertainment with the needs of the audience at large. You need to figure out where you’re going to get a vegan option for dinner, or how expensive your keynote speaker’s flight will be – there’s just no room on the to-do list for WiFi worries.
Instead, call an event WiFi rental provider and breathe a sigh of relief. They’ll work with both you and the venue to get access points in place, test the network, set up logins to the server if your business model requires it, and so much more. There won’t be any hidden fees or extra line items on your event venue invoice – you’ll get a clear, easy-to-understand bill for fast, reliable wireless internet that will effortlessly keep attendees in the know.
The next time you’re thinking about web access for your attendees, consider this: the only bars that should capture your attention are the open bars at the successful end of your event. Don’t get anxious over WiFi on opening day – instead, get smart and get connected, for your event and your attendees! At Vario, our dedicated team of A/V event rental experts will guide you through every phase of your AV planning, including building an audio visual checklist, to ensure a seamless event that guests will remember for years to come.