When Apple announced the release of the iPhone 7 a few weeks ago, most people probably saw a sleek new smartphone that takes better photos and could survive a drop into the bathtub. Meeting professionals, on the other hand, may have groaned about yet another bandwidth-hungry device soon to be in the hands of attendees — making for even trickier wireless service at event venues, especially hotels, where pricing and service speeds can be all over the map.
“Technology changes a heck of a lot faster than hotels change, from an adoption standpoint,” said Mark Dominguez, senior program manager for corporate event technology for Intel, when Convene interviewed him recently about managing event-bandwidth costs. “Hotel properties are not on the same cadence, cycle, and maturity with regards to technology services, which proves problematic in establishing a baseline service level and service quality.”
While calculators such as PSAV’s Bandwidth Estimator are useful for planners, the simple formula of devices versus number of attendees can be complicated by questions of on-site distribution and access, as well as projected traffic flow and the types of usage that attendees, presenters, and exhibitors might require, from email to streaming web apps and video. Dominguez, who plans large tech-heavy events for Intel (and often hires a third-party technology provider for those events), has a few golden rules when it comes to negotiating network costs and providing ample bandwidth at events:
- Put network requirements in your standard contracts. At minimum, this will trigger discussions earlier in the contracting process.
- Make the contract performance-based, so that user/attendee experience is the measurement of success — not bits, bytes, or ping times.
- Do not rule out the option of retaining your own network company to build a network specifically for your event. If this is an option, retain them early.
- For larger events, make sure you have support on site — engineers, not technicians, who will be available if and when needed.
- Ask for reports — in 12- to 24-hour increments — on the usage and health of the network you are using to support your event. Request that the on-site engineer explain these reports to you.
- Do not underfund your network services at events. It is the foundational element of your event technology, and a key quality attendee experience.