Wherefore Art Thou WiFi?

Let’s face it—Wi-Fi access can’t be taken for granted.

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Let’s face it—Wi-Fi access can’t be taken for granted. Unless you’re at home or the office, getting online is never a sure thing. The scenarios are many and all too familiar: Stuck in an airport with no Wi-Fi, a conference room with poor coverage, a coffeeshop with a metered or timed connection, an unsecure network while working on a sensitive project, a secure network whose password nobody seems to know, or bandwidth that can barely handle email.

When business is at stake, these problems can be more than an annoyance. It can mean lost business. This is especially true at a trade conference or expo, where months or years of planning and hundreds or thousands of people converge for a few hours or days. No connection for attendees can gum up the entire day. Like an Olympian gymnast or a stage actor who trains for years in order to shine in one moment, business events are expected to provide a seamless experience in order to let people get to work. Don’t let lack of planning lead to lack of Wi-Fi.

Even if you’re not a tech expert, making sure you cover a few basic questions about Wi-Fi connectivity when scouting potential sites for an event can prevent headaches later.

  • Do you have Wi-Fi available for guests? This might seem obvious, but unless you ask, you can’t be sure. Some international airports don’t have Wi-Fi. Don’t assume every venue does.
  • Is your Wi-Fi capable of handling the number of attendees I’m expecting? A few follow-up questions to help get to the bottom of this question include asking about the bandwidth available, the number of routers in the building (ask for a wireless access point map), and the date the current infrastructure was installed.
  • Is your Wi-Fi free? No guest of an event will be happy if they’re expected to pay for Internet.
  • Are recharging areas readily accessible? Wi-Fi is useless on devices with dead batteries. Being able to charge phones and laptops is as essential as Wi-Fi. Ask for the total number of outlets available. Better yet, ask for a map of charging areas. Also, ask where the outlets are; will guests be lined up on the floor in a corner behind a pillar, or are there outlets with more comfortable access? Consider setting up dedicated charging stations. In a pinch, a few high top tables with a multi-outlet extension cord will work.
  • Is your network secure? Depending on the type of event you’re setting up, security might be imperative.
  • Can I test it out? If you’re not confident about technical details, asking to test drive the Wi-Fi is one of the best ways to get a feel for what the guest experience will be like. Bring both a phone and a laptop. Is logging in straightforward? Try streaming two HD videos at once to test bandwidth. Walk around various parts of the event space to test coverage. Look around for outlets.

Once you’ve gathered some information about the site, put together a digital plan for your event. Include login information (network name and password) prominently on programs and signs. Make sure greeters and other event staff are equipped to answer basic questions about logging in. Consider adding signs about charging stations (Treat them like a coffee bar instead of a zone of exile, and watch it turn into a point of connection, where people meet and chat while charging). Do you want guests to post thoughts on social media? Include hashtag suggestions to keep photos and posts easily searchable.

Spending 20 minutes going through these basic questions and then drafting a plan to ensure your guests have a smooth experience are well worth the investment. Don’t worry if you aren’t an IT expert: Just put yourself in the shoes of your guests. That’s the best approach to use.

Infinity Park is one of the Denver area’s premier event spaces. It has Wi-Fi, and it’s free.

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