Business, Tech, Tech Tools

Bridging the internet divide for event planners – by Jeanavive Janssen

(Download PDF of Full Article Here)

The difference between good internet and GREAT internet could be just what you are looking for — An event planner joins the internet world and tells-all.

“Internet access has become a basic utility like electricity and running water – ease of connectivity is a priority. After that, having adequate Bandwidth matters, but it’s important to know what attendees will be using the connectivity for in order to plan properly.”Michael Judeh, Regional Director of Technology NYC IACC

I have witnessed events where day-of livestream testing on the in-house internet worked just fine. However, no one planned for the three hundred attendees logging onto the WiFi network at the same time. Online registration and online badge printers suddenly failed, causing lines, confusion, and concern over the pivotal livestreaming scheduled for later in the day.

Think of this like water in an apartment complex when everyone is home at the same time. People are washing clothes, taking showers, flushing toilets, etc.–you’ve suddenly got no water pressure, and you’re taking a cold shower! If an apartment complex is not designed for 100% capacity usage at once (which is usually not the case, because it’s expensive), this is precisely what will happen.

It’s the exact same thing as what happens when the internet goes awry at your event. So, let’s help you construct the perfect “home” for a successful tech-related event …aren’t they all these days?

First off, it is essential to know who is calling your event “home.”The Attendee: The average corporate event attendee has two devices (phone & laptop/tablet). You should have a minimum of 30 Mbps per every one hundred attendees for basic standard internet browsing, checking email, and social media (this does not account for video and large file uploads).

In your post-event surveys, rather than asking if the attendees enjoyed the food–which they rarely do anyway–ask them how their internet experience was!

If they didn’t rate the internet highly, include sub-questions:

• How many devices were they using? (A number of people still carry a personal cell and company cell.)

• What were they using the internet for? (e.g., downloading a presentation, checking email, streaming video) Apply this data to help planning for future events and also to audit the internet service that was promised by your provider.

(January 2020 Panel on Technology & Events Speaker Jeanavive Janssen)

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Your Event Production:

Have a separate login for attendees separate from the production internet circuit. Make it crystal clear that anyone who has the password and is on the production circuit is only using the network for its intended usage. At one venue, the internet was severely lagging for the production circuit. All of the internet bandwidth provided was tested, and the client was on the internet vendors’ case.

However, pulling reports showed that one of the IP addresses associated with a vendor’s laptop was downloading unnecessary files over a time that correlated with their other vendors’ breaks. The refund request conversations ended quickly–responsibility was most likely traced back to the individual who found an interesting way to entertain themselves over their break.

Make sure you provide your production schedule to the internet vendor and IT specialist at your venue of choice.

What’s that, you say? The venue doesn’t have an IT Specialist? Uh-oh, do you? Hold that thought for later.

Include in the timing anyone from your company or vendors who will be in the venue. It may be enough to tell an internet vendor that production is testing at 3pm, but you may want to cross-check to see if the CEO is arriving an hour beforehand to use the space as an office–or whether the other twelve people on event staff are planning an 8am start to blow up balloons while checking for last-minute registrations–or other scenarios that may require further bandwidth.

Some venues don’t have any internet service in certain spaces. If they are using a remote service provider, they may have to call a helpline number to try to get the internet turned on earlier, or they might have to deal with different time zones. This is a day-of hassle that can be avoided with ample communication of the timeline.

Is your event an annual event or roadshow? Don’t play guessing games on internet needs. Ask the internet service provider or venue for a “Usage Report” post-event, and be sure to do your speed testing during rehearsals! Time is of the essence if the provided service is under par; if a venue is using a 1-800 number service provider, don’t hold your breath on getting a quick-boost to rescue the event. In other words, don’t wait until the last minute.

Your Exhibitor or Sponsors:

Don’t forget exhibitors or sponsors! Define what is available in advance if you are opting for “free internet” from the venue, and advise vendors not to use “hotspots”–which could interfere with the venue-provided WiFi.

If you don’t want to foot the bill for added internet services (but it is available), add that information to your exhibitor kit, or learn what tech exhibitors need for their area (such as for doing live demos, etc.). Find out from the venue or vendor the costs of the upgraded service, making sure to add it to the booth or sponsor package cost.

In-House Internet Compared to Outside Vendor Internet

Event attendees expect high-speed free WiFi as a standard at corporate events. If you don’t ensure they get it as part of your planned event, you may find that your event is trending on Twitter’s #WiFiFail. Search the hashtag and learn why having adequate WiFi is as vital as having enough bathroom stalls and toilet paper.

The internet is a requirement for your event production: for registration, web-demos, video streaming, video conferencing, crowd polling, and other cloud-based tech that is at the forefront of all significant events. Even non-profit fundraising events make use of hefty internet traffic.

However, in most instances, it doesn’t make sense for venues to pay for a colossal internet bandwidth if their daily events don’t have major tech requirements. Hotels might, but unique, stand-alone venues (that your attendees are going to love!) do not require that type of monthly bandwidth, so they likely will not have it on hand. An outside vendor can bring in additional bandwidth on a private circuit for production needs; it could just be a hard-wired handoff, and your company’s in-house event IT team can build the network out while preserving the venue’s internet for attendee use.

Related to in-house WiFi, you have to consider several questions:

What kind of security is there?

Is there a password posted around the venue? Is it changed for every event?
Open public WiFi with no password is an enormous security concern.

FREE WiFi? Planners keep asking for it, but is that really what is best for the event?

Many RFPs (Request for Proposal) reach venues with bolded, underlined, and over-emphasized requests for complimentary WiFi. Seasoned venues can choose to become an internet service vendor, assuming that value-add will win the event business. Free WiFi may be nice for your hotel-room guests or speaker-ready rooms for people kicking up their feet, watching streaming TV, video chatting with their kids, and checking emails– but do you really want to have a venue act as your internet service vendor for your CEO–standing on a stage, in front of hundreds of people, with another thousand watching online–for the most significant announcement your company has ever made?

Again, I’d like to refer you to Twitter’s #WiFiFail. I prefer that my venues to ensure that the space is clean, that the staff is friendly, and that their core services are their number-one priority.

The most important venue internet questions for your RFP:

• Is the venue internet managed in-house or by a third-party?

• Who is the internet bandwidth provider?

• Do you have a schematic of Access Points (APs), or can locations be reviewed during walk-thru?

• When was the last time Access Points were upgraded?• Will there be onsite venue IT support?

• Can internet bandwidth be increased during the event?

• Is there a service center constantly monitoring the WiFi usage during the event onsite or remotely?

• Can the venue or service provider share usage reports post-event?

Tech support! Does the venue have it? Do you have it? Someone needs to have it!

Discuss with the venue up-front about what IT or AV tech support they offer with your contract. This is VASTLY MORE IMPORTANT than free WiFi. If it is free–and your only support is a sweet event manager who knows how to “service” the internet by unplugging a little black box and counting to ten before plugging it back in–free is not what you want.

Find out exactly how tech issues are handled. If there is a 1-800 number to call, try it yourself and see how long it takes to get a live person. If you are using your own equipment, can you set it up on a new network without someone familiar with the onsite system? Laptops that are not configured correctly could eat up hours of event setup, which may be needed for other event to-dos.

If it costs more to have an onsite tech available for the duration of the digital density times, pay it. If you are prepared to “hold your nose” and jump into free WiFi to preserve your budget, at least speed check during your walk-thru and, personally, see what is provided the minute, you walk in the venue for your setup. “Trust, but verify” is more validating than just being told what is available and believing it.

Speed Test Tools:
http://www.speedtest.net
http://www.speedof.mehttp://www.speedof.me

Do you need to stream your event?

Try to budget for it for a year-one event, research pricing, make it a line-item, and try to sell it as a sponsorship: Livestreaming is becoming essential for increasing brand awareness and ROI.

According to Livestream’s research, “live video is more appealing to brand audiences. Eighty-two percent of people prefer live video from a brand to social posts. Livestreaming and videos are effective means of promoting your business, conference, or products and perform better than many traditional marketing methods.”

If recorded, it also makes an excellent B-roll for your next event! Additionally, there are companies that can help you monetize sign-ups to access your conference remotely via live stream.

Upload and Download Speeds for Streaming:

When it comes to streaming, upload and download are equally vital: the higher the upload speed, the more data that can be streamed. The download is relevant to the audience. Higher bandwidth can eliminate buffering and lags.

This is where symmetrical bandwidth plays a vital role, which most 1-800 number providers do not offer. Standard 1-800 number internet providers may provide the venue 100 Mbps, but you may not receive that dedicated bandwidth since it a shared circuit, let alone symmetrical. For example, most of these providers bill for 100down/25up; when they are speed tested, they only deliver 72down/15up.Multi-bitrate streaming requires more upload bandwidth than conventional streaming.

Each stream requires separate bandwidth; a 4k stream needs an average bitrate of 15 Mbps for both download and upload for a minimum of 30 Mbps, and, as mentioned earlier, you need another 30 Mbps for every 100 attendees.

(January 2020 Panel on Technology & Events Speaker Jeanavive Janssen)

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Glossary

Bandwidth – The max data transfer rate over an internet circuit. Measured in Mbps–megabits (million bits) per second (Mbps). Also measured in Gbps (gigabits per second) for faster speeds. Two usages define bandwidth need: the number of devices using the bandwidth and what the devices are used for (i.e., social media and browsing compared to streaming and gaming ). Shared bandwidth is living in that apartment complex again, while dedicated bandwidth is like living in your own private house–but you have to be prepared for your guests in your house on occasion, too.

Speed Test – determines if you are getting the bandwidth promised by the provider.

IP Address – serves as an identity for each device using the network.

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) – assigns dynamic IP addresses to devices on a network, giving the device a different IP address when it reconnects to the network.

Wireless Network – allows devices to stay connected to the internet without plugging into hard-lines.

Access Point (AP) – creates a wireless local area network. It’s an excellent idea–just like in a construction plan–to ask your venue for an access point layout map or to have them point them out during the site visit so that you can ensure you know where the coverage is light. This will ensure that you don’t plan a vital tech demo in the furthest low-bandwitdth corner of their WiFi network coverage area. Third-party providers can add free-standing access points to ensure the success of your tech-related needs if you bring it up from day one, not as an afterthought!

Router – sends data traffic to access points and provides security protocol for the network.

Switch – sends and receives the data to the device(s) that requested it.SSID – the name of your wireless network, which could be a sponsor’s name or name of the conference; keep it short enough to read when pulling it up on your WiFi device.

Symmetrical WiFi – has the same download and upload speed.

Hotspot – designated access point or location where WiFi is available. Attendees may use WiFi Hotspots at events; this may cause interference with the hosted event WiFi.Open Network – an unsecured network that is not safe to use when working with private data. Open networks do not require a WPA/password, so it does not encrypt data. This could make it easy as pie for hackers/data thieves to access data information on ANY device connected to the network!

WiFi Protected Access (WPA) – WPA is an encryption tool that scrambles your encryption key and also checks to make sure it wasn’t altered during any data transfers.

Millimeter-Wave Antenna Internet – the line of sight is required and delivered by point-to-point antennas. It is built over a redundant mesh when provided by an established provider with very low latency, which is ideal for livestreaming.

Metro Ethernet – this is an Ethernet transport network that provides point-to-point or multipoint connectivity services over a metropolitan area network (MAN).

Dedicated Internet Access (DIA) – a fixed amount of bandwidth always available that does not fluctuate, even during peak usage times.

Service Level Agreement (SLA) – Dedicated bandwidth providers commonly offer 99.99% SLA, 5-minutes per month downtime over fiber cable, or through point-to-point microwave antennas.

For more internet tips, feel free to reach out to Jeanavive Janssen by email: Jeanavive@gmail.com

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