1. Get a working knowledge of Wi-Fi, so you can predict, track, and negotiate your group’s needs. A good place to start is the Convention Industry Council’s Bandwidth and Connectivity Workgroup.
2. Develop a history of how your group uses Internet services. Most important, know your group’s peak bandwidth usage and peak number of wireless devices connected. You should be able to get this information from the venue in the post-con meeting. With it, you have a good benchmark for the minimal amount of bandwidth and connectivity that you’ll need at your next meeting.
3. Break down Internet usage into these groups: attendees, exhibitors, presenters, and event management/ staff. Do a detailed study of how and where each of these groups will need high-speed Internet access.
4. Use dedicated bandwidth for mission-critical functions, such as registration, speakers, and event operations.
5. How much bandwidth does your meeting’s mobile app require? If people can use the app for data-heavy tasks like posting photos to social media, be sure you factor this into your bandwidth calculations.
6. Some main questions to ask about a venue: When was the last time the Wi-Fi infrastructure was upgraded? Do you have a dual-band wireless infrastructure? Please provide verification of how much bandwidth the building has and where the bandwidth comes from. Who is the Internet-service provider, and are network engineers on site? How many Wi-Fi access points are there, and where are they located? What redundancy/back-up systems are in place?
7. Plan well in advance if you need to bring in additional bandwidth for your event. This can take months or even longer for the Internet-service provider to arrange. It can be very costly or not even possible to get additional bandwidth at the last minute.
8. Understand your event’s Internet needs before you sign a venue contract.
9. Seek an outside bid if you don’t think the facility can handle your needs or if you think you’re being overcharged. If nothing else, it may help negotiate more reasonable rates and fees. You might also consider hiring a consultant to help you with a site inspection of the venue to have a clear understanding of the infrastructure’s capabilities and limitations.
10. Use sponsorship ads to defray Wi-Fi costs. For example, sell splash ads on your meeting’s mobile app.