“Wi-Fi strikes fear into many planners’ hearts,” said Tim LaFleur, director, mobile strategy and solutions, with Meetings and Incentives Worldwide during a recent MeetingsNet webinar. Even the most seasoned professionals, those who have no problem with 5,000 people rushing into lunch after a general session, can break into a cold sweat when it comes time to negotiate Wi-Fi, he added.
So what is it that makes connectivity such a fearsome topic to tackle? LaFleur identified three main reasons.
1. Terminology. Bandwidth, throughput, latency—these are not words that come up in any other area of meeting planning, he said. One good resource to get up to speed is Bandwidth and Networking Terms for Meeting and Event Professionals, a free download from the Convention Industry Council’s APEX Workgroup on Bandwidth and High-Speed Internet Access.
2. It’s an intangible medium. “We can’t see it. We can’t touch it. We hope it’s there—and we hope it works—but we can’t really control it in the same way we can count for a break price point. Pricing also tends not to be consistent, he added. “We can go to one city and it’ll be one price point, and then go to another city and it will be another price point,” even if you are dealing with the same hotel chain in both places. “There are many reasons for that inconsistency, but as planners we can’t control that, and we don’t like things we can’t control.” For tips on how to get a handle on pricing, check out Pricing Internet Service for Events.
3. It’s subjective. There are many ideas about what “good Wi-Fi” is, said LaFleur. “Your attendees are bringing expectations with them.” For those who have a dial-up connection at home, “any improvement at an event is fantastic.” But if their home network is screaming fast and the event network isn’t, they will not be pleased. LaFleur suggests to include some Wi-Fi specifics in the “know before you go” letter you send attendees ahead of time. “Don’t just say. ‘We’ll have good Wi-Fi, because that won’t really tell them anything. I put some rails around it—I’ll say we’ll have Wi-Fi up to X amount of speed per connection, so you set attendee expectations.”