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Taming the Internet beast: 5 tips to getting the connectivity you need

Are you an event planner organizing a major conference or convention with hundreds or thousands of delegates? Concerned about your venue’s Internet wired and wireless performance and the impact on attendees and speakers? 

Taming the Internet beast: 5 tips to getting the connectivity you need

Weeding through the technical lingo with tech suppliers can be daunting. We spoke with the Québec City Convention Centre’s Event Technology Coordinator, Bernard Drolet, for his tips on what you need to ask your venue to ensure your event’s Internet meets all of your needs. No PhD in IT required!

“Whenever we kick off an event planning session with clients, I have a series of questions for them.  Nowadays, wireless connectivity is now essential and most of the Internet discussions turn around that subject. Event planners can actually use these questions to reflect on their Internet needs and find out if potential venues have the capacity to meet them,” said Mr. Drolet.

“Whenever we kick off an event planning session with clients, I have a series of questions for them.  Nowadays, wireless connectivity is now essential and most of the Internet discussions turn around that subject. Event planners can actually use these questions to reflect on their Internet needs and find out if potential venues have the capacity to meet them,” said Mr. Drolet.

1 How many delegates will be attending and how many devices will they be using?

Taming the Internet beast: 5 tips to getting the connectivity you need

 “There’s a big difference between an event with 200 attendees and 1,000 attendees, particularly on the Wi-Fi side,” explained Mr. Drolet. “You need to scale your wireless Internet requirements not only with respect to the number of delegates but also how many devices they will be using.” In other words, will each attendee use a smartphone, tablet or laptop—or all three? 

For example, if your event has 500 delegates attending and you think that each delegate will use two devices, that means you need to factor in 1,000 “connections”. This estimate will go a long way into determining the number of concurrent connections on your venue’s wireless network—and if the network has the appropriate bandwidth/capacity and hardware redundancy to support them.

2 What type of event are you planning?

Taming the Internet beast: 5 tips to getting the connectivity you need

Are you envisioning a paperless event, developing a collaborative platform with which people will share documents or other bandwidth-intensive assets, such as videos? Will your event have exhibitors? “Any sophisticated technologies or additional “heavy” users can put a strain on a wireless or a wired Internet network,” Mr. Drolet said.

“Make sure you list absolutely all technologies you are using and what your exhibitors will be using the Internet for. This will help the venue determine your real usage.” Remember to consider product demos, webinars with remote conference speakers and on-site file sharing.

3 How much interaction are your presenters anticipating with attendees?

Mr. Drolet suggests that event planners talk to conference speakers to determine their vision of their presentations.

“Never assume that speakers have the same approaches. “Some conference speakers want to fully interact with delegates, with real-time polling or asking them to access documents or other assets on their devices at the same time,” added Mr. Drolet. “Again, this can significantly impact your bandwidth and the capacity performance of the wireless network. For that reason, no matter how robust is the wireless network, I always recommend that speakers should be hard wired connected in order to avoid any bottleneck on wireless network in those situations.” 

4 What other logistical needs does your event require?

Don’t forget to consider all other aspects of your conference or convention that may affect either the wired or the wireless Internet network. For example, do you have an event app, which you will incite users to access during the event? Are you leveraging technology, such as RFID, beacons for smart phones or next-generation displays? Does your registration process require connectivity? “New technologies are great—as long as they work well and don’t impede other Internet usage,” Mr. Drolet explained. 

5 Are the venues up to snuff?

Mr. Drolet suggests speaking to the potentials venues and their technology specialists prior to signing on with them to ensure that they have the wherewithal to deliver a stellar Internet connection. “You need to find out, above all, the speed of their main Internet connectivity with the outside world. Ideally, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than 200 Mbps if you are planning on welcoming hundreds of delegates, more if you reach thousands. Ask how many main Internet links  they have. I recommend at least two from ideally two different ISP (Internet Service Provider) to ensure full redundancy.”

Moreover, if your event will be sharing bandwidth  with the venue’s administration and other events at the same time, that may influence your Internet performance. It is also important to determine if the venues have a comprehensive and agile strategy in place in case of a downtimes, power outage, unexpected damage and even simple connectivity issues.

“Is there a qualified team on hand in case a speaker has problems connecting to the Internet? Or does the venues  only have a representative who cannot resolve problems without calling headquarters or a centralized office? This may be the case particularly with hotels.” 

Don’t forget to consider all other aspects of your conference or convention that may affect either the wired or the wireless Internet network.

Finally, based on all your Internet requirements, ask suppliers if they deem it necessary to have both a wireless and wired Internet connection. “Wi-Fi can sometimes be iffy and cause delays. That is why I advise my clients that wired Internet connections should be used for critical event usage like registration, secretary, speakers, exhibitors and live webcasting while Wi-Fi for non-critical use.”

“Taking the extra time to better prepare for rock solid, high-performance Internet connections will go a long way in enhancing attendees’ overall event experience,” Mr. Drolet explained. “But that experience can be lack luster if your Internet connection is not up to par.”

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