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WiFi. What to think about when planning your event

WiFi is a difficult topic for event organisers for several reasons: technology is continually changing; the terminology isn’t easy and we don’t know how attendees will behave at our events. So, we’ve looked at some of the things to consider and ask the venue when you’re on a site visit and at the time of planning your event.

WiFi Terminology

These terms are probably the most important things to understand:

  • Average speed provided – ask the venue for this information and do a speed test to check but remember this will differ depending on the users at the venue.
  • Bandwidth – this is the amount of data that can be transmitted (uploaded) or received (downloaded) per second. Every action will remove capacity from the network, so the more users the slower it will be.
  • Bandwidth Utilization Report – a document issued by a network service provider that shows the amount of bandwidth used by a specific event. Ask for this report to cover the duration of your event, to show how many connections you had at peak period and how much is being used.
  • Latency – the time (in milliseconds) it takes for Internet traffic to travel from a device to a server. Higher latency is an indication of a poorer quality network.
  • Shared Bandwidth – a set amount of bandwidth distributed among all devices on a network. If you don’t have your own network, then the capacity will be shared by everyone in the venue.
  • Wireless Density – the theoretical number of wireless connections that can be supported at a specific bandwidth within a specific space. This is particularly important if you want everyone to be on their devices at the same time.
  • Wireless Access Point (WAP) – a device that allows a connection to a wired network from a wireless device.


  • Think about what you need to accomplish and the delegates behaviour. Will they use the WiFi for polling, downloading an app, social media, checking emails in breaks. If everyone is doing the same thing at the same time it is going to create peaks in usage.
  • Is the venue’s WiFi a shared medium? Is there bandwidth dedicated to the conference area, which you would share with other event organisers who are running events at the same time. Or is the bandwidth shared throughout the whole venue (accommodation, restaurants, offices, venue staff etc).
  • Find out if there are other events running at the same time and what they are going to be doing, if they have heavy usage, then it will affect your service.
  • Can you bring in your own bandwidth? This will give your security of service and encrypted servers. Check whether it is directly from a mobile provider or whether it is additional hardware using the venue’s bandwidth. Who will you pay for this and what is the pricing model?
  • If you are bringing your own, find out if the venue can turn of their service in your area to make sure you don’t have competing networks in the same area, as this will reduce the performance.
  • What model Wireless Access Points does the venue have? This will tell you how recently they have been upgraded. Look for 802.11 b/g/n/a/c which are the newest. 802.11 with a b and/or g are quite old now. Find out when the WiFi was last upgraded, whether it was part of all of it, or whether there are plans to do so before your event. You definitely don’t want an upgrade going on while you are onsite.
  • As you walk through a venue, the WiFi will hand over from one Wireless Access Point to another and there shouldn’t be an interruption in the service. You can test this by connecting and walking around to see if the connection is stable.
  • Find out how the network handles mobiles that connect automatically but aren’t active. Will the network kick them off? If the network is running at capacity will someone who isn’t using their device be kicked off so someone else can connect?
  • Can the network balance the load to manage heavy use in certain areas, if extra capacity is needed in a meeting room or the moment everyone rushes out at a break? Make sure the network can sense this and send capacity where it is needed.
  • Are you buying total bandwidth or per connection and what happens when you reach your limit? Try and negotiate a 5% over capacity, just in case you exceed the planned requirements. These might just be for a short period of time, so maybe a period of 15 minutes would be enough to cover this.
  • Ask for usage reports whilst the event is running and whether you will be able to make changes to the network there and then.
  • The venue should be able to give you room coverage maps to show where the Wireless Access Points are, find out which areas are covered, particularly if you are using outside space.
  • Think about putting critical technology on a hard-line, such as registration computers, the speakers’ laptop, organisers office etc
  • Check whether there is a team on site who can support you throughout the event and what hours are they available.
  • Advise attendees of the network they should use on site as there will probably be various to choose from. Don’t just download any free connection from a mobile hotspot as there is no guarantee of security, particularly at exhibitions.

It’s important to engage with the venue as early as possible, they need to understand your requirements and what both sides need to do to fulfil them. The conference staff won’t have all the answers, so engage with the venue’s IT team and take advice from your IT team too.

WiFi. What to think about when planning your event

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