A big challenge for event and meetings professionals is the design, planning and provision of a future-proof WiFi network that will support the WiFi needs of all meetings, events and conferences for several years.
This was just one of many key ideas presented by My Meeting Professional team leader Mike Clanton at the recent Conference Centres of Excellence Annual event in the UK and his presentation showed attendees exactly how to establish event WiFi standards in conference venues.
The constant release of smart devices and operating systems means that it’s very difficult to install a network and expect it to meet the ever-changing demands and expectations of sponsors, attendees and event staff
Mike told the event delegates at Wyboston Lakes Executive Centre that a ‘one-size fits all’ WiFi network approach is becoming a serious challenge for venues because of the unrelenting increase in usage demand from all sides.
Given these pressures on wireless networks, expecting to install a network and not refresh it at least minimally within 18 months is not realistic and waiting 3-5 years to refresh the WiFi network is a recipe for a failed event.
At the same time, many venues’ budgets are stretched and some have a Return-on-Investment target of 3-5 years to achieve, with very little or no budget for a minimum network refresher.
Mike also advised delegates that it would be a great error to assume that all conference stakeholders:
• Consume the same amount of bandwidth
• Request the same level of service and support
• Have the same network habits and demands
Further, it would be wrong to assume that the current network is capable of supporting all the needs of the stakeholders yet this is a commonly-held belief.
This error stems from not knowing who the conference stakeholders are and what they require while at the same time focusing on technology, and price and not what the conference stakeholders expect and/or need.
The solution is to build a solid network foundation that allows for flexibility so that the event organiser has the option to tailor the network and promote a true ‘office-away-from-the-office’ experience for all conference stakeholders.
This is informed by a need to understand that WiFi networks are evolving continually so ensuring that venues have ample wired Ethernet ports in each meeting. Having at least two standalone ports in a standard room is a step in the right direction to promoting a solid and flexible network.
The future-proof network must be underpinned by a technical integrity that ensures security, stability and speed. Focusing on these 3Ss is essential to promote a positive meeting Return on Investment.
WiFi is a limited resource and so it must be managed, monitored and maintained. Promoting these 3Ms will allow the planner to better measure how much bandwidth was used, what devices touched or used the network and who used it, with a detail breakdown of conference stakeholders’ usage patterns.
Event and meetings professionals should also identify the expectations and demands of their stakeholders. Generally speaking, the stakeholders can be broken down in the following categories:
- General participant
- Support team
- Press / Social Media
- C-Level/High Touch
- Remote participants
Each stakeholder consumes bandwidth differently and this variation must be considered when budgeting, planning and supporting a conference, event or meeting.
Event planners can address these different needs by creating Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANS) for each stakeholder to match their requirements and so tailor network speed and service for each. A VLAN serves a similar function to a private dinner room, where dedicated services, support and resources are delivered for the exclusively use of the private-room guest.
Mike’s ideas went down well at the event and the Conference Centres of Excellence event organisers have invited him back to present the keynote address in Leeds, UK on October 4th.