Why Oh WiFi
I’m frequently asked "Will my (BYOD) event app work at my venue?".
The easy answer is "yes" - in most venues your app will work. The difficult question to answer is "Will my delegates have a trouble free event app experience?" This is harder to answer because it depends on a combination of factors.
I want to highlight some of the issues by describing a difficult travel journey for a group of delegates returning home from an international event. At the end, I provide an essential checklist for anyone planning to use an app at their next event.
The journey home begins at the airport. The experience is poor because there aren’t enough check-in desks and there are other flights checking in at the same time. The check-in desks represent the wireless network at the venue as the delegates arrive which is also being shared with other people! Each check in desk represents a WiFi access point. Clearly there’s a capacity issue.
Connecting to WiFi
The next step in the journey is getting through customs. The delegates were exhausted and didn’t have their documents in order. They had a few suspicious items in their bags and didn’t know what to expect or do. In event app terms this happens when a delegate first attempts to access the event app on their own device. Barriers to connecting include complicated WiFi registration, unknown or complex Wifi passwords, restrictions on their devices such as Private Browsing, or simply that their device is old.
Venue Internet Connection
There was a beaten up bus to get the delegates, as well as other people (we knew nothing about) and all their luggage onto the the plane. The bus had to make several trips adding to delegates delay. The bus represents the capacity (bandwidth) of the connection between the venue WiFi and the internet. A bottleneck here caused by a lack of capacity leads to a slow app. Remember all those bags at check-in? That’s people streaming video and nothing to do with the event app! Unfortunately, the bus breaks down and as it is the weekend the mechanic is not at work.
The flight is usually the best part of the journey but there can be delays and on rare occasions there are disasters. This is also true of the internet. Delays can be caused by poor internet capacity between countries, malicious activity or something else going wrong, for example the BT UK internet outage in January.
The Event App
So you’ve landed and want to get home. A friend has been asked to collect a group of delegates but he’s not showed up. They should've booked a taxi! The final part of the journey highlights the importance of the event app experience once you’ve travelled through the various networks. Just like the internet, apps can fail. In January, Twitter failed worldwide and both Google and Microsoft (Azure app hosting) went down in 2015, the latter causing me all sorts of problems.
Essential WiFi and Network Checklist
1. Ensure there are sufficient WiFi access points (aka "radios") for all the delegates in all the areas that need to be covered. Pay particular attention to areas like registration, coffee, plenary and any breakouts where interaction is required.
2. Make the process of getting started with the app as simple as possible for the delegates. This includes getting onto the WiFi, having support available to help with device issues and having spare devices if all else fails.
3. The connection between the venue and the internet is a single point of failure. Make sure that you have technical support on hand to fix problems and check that there is sufficient bandwidth. A good guideline is 1 megabit per second (Mb/s) for every 10 delegates for low intensity app browsing. Check also whether the venue internet connection is shared between other guests.
4. Find out whether there’s any traffic management technology available that can prevent bandwidth hogs. It’s not just downloading video that can cause problems, take a look at the size of your app updates on your phone. A few days ago the updates on my phone would have taken 45 minutes to download on a 1 mb/s link. Imagine if all your delegates' phones updated at the same time!
5. Check the local internet speed particularly if your event is abroad.
I’ve only really scratched the surface here. Do drop me a line if you’d like to discuss your specific event. We work hard to ensure that technology enhances engagement and the delegate experience.