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Setting Up On-Site Networks For Events

Summary

Learn how to acquire the proper network on-site and ensure you have proper coverage throughout the event venue.

Ensuring a successful experience for participants with the mobile app depends greatly on the ability of the network the app relies on. There are a number of steps you can take to provide adequate network coverage on-site.

This tip sheet is a step-by-step guide for working with the venue staff to acquire the proper network setup, as well as best practices for preparing for and testing the network on-site.

Pre-Event Network Preparation

There are many components that go into structuring a venue network that will fit the needs of your event. A few steps should be taken to set up the network before you arrive on-site.

Working with the Venue

The first step to coordinating a network is to get in contact with the venue staff. Network coordination for events is a request that the venue staff deals with frequently, and their team will be knowledgeable in dealing with the details of the network.

Who to Talk to

Most venues will have an events manager. This person will be in charge of coordinating the network details among other things. Some venues may have a Network Specialist or IT Specialist as well. If one is available, this person will be the best contact to coordinate the network setup.

Pricing

Pricing for networks will vary across venues and locations and is dependent upon internet connectivity and network coverage. When working with the venue staff, be sure to request a quote on the network details as they were discussed. Changing the structure of the network may change the quoted price, so make sure to request an updated quote if the network structure does change.

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Internet Bandwidth Requirements

One of the most important items when coordinating a network is the internet bandwidth. There are three considerations that are taken into account when determining the optimal bandwidth.

1. Number of Participants: The bandwidth requirement will vary based on the number of participants who will be using the network.
2. App Features and Usage: The bandwidth requirement will vary based on the features being used in the app and how frequently they will be used.
3. Use of On-site Server: The bandwidth requirement will vary based on if an on-site server will be used or not. An on-site server is useful for managing audience response during events as well as handling app interactivity for large-scale events. If you are interested in utilizing a server on-site, please contact your SpotMe Account Manager for more details.

Access Point Coverage
Another major consideration when detailing the network configuration of a venue is the access point coverage around the venue.

1. Access Point Capacity per Location: How many devices can be connected to the access points in a given location at any time? If you will be having all of your participants in one location for general sessions, you will want to make sure that the combined capacity across all access points in that location will allow for the participants to connect without issue.

2. Authentication: Will participants access the network through WPA passkey or a splash page? A WPA passkey is the preferred method since this involves the participants entering in a passkey once to be connected to the network for the duration of the event. If a passkey will be used, be sure that the passkey is simple enough to type on a mobile device. If a splash page is the default method used by the venue for accessing the network, you will want to ask the venue staff if it’s possible to turn it off for the duration of the event and use a WPA passkey instead. This may not be possible, in which case you will want to ask the event staff how often the connection will timeout and require participants to re-login. Ask the event staff to extend that as much as possible.

3. 2.4 GHz vs. 5 GHz: Is the network set up for 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies? Most devices work on a 2.4 GHz network, but newer devices can function faster if they have a 5GHz network available to them. If the venue is set up for both network types, confirm that they will both be available to the participants.

App Features and Impact on Network

The app features that you include in your app will have an impact on network usage on-site. Features that do not require a network connection to function and only require a connection to pull in updates, such as the agenda and the participants list, will have low bandwidth usage. Features that do require a network connection to function, such as Q&A and Photo Gallery, will require more bandwidth since they will be using the network to push and pull information frequently.

Communicating Network Details to Participants

One thing to consider before you arrive on-site is how the details of the network will be communicated to participants. More participants will proactively join the network the more often and evident you can make the login details.

Registration
Before you arrive on-site, print out a poster for each registration desk you will set up on-site that contains the name of the network and the password that participants will connect to at the start of the event. These should be placed on top of the registration desks in plain sight for attendees to connect to when they arrive at the event. You can find a SpotMe sample poster here.

Sessions
Before you arrive on-site, create a PowerPoint slide that contains the name of the network and the password that participants will connect to at the start of the event. This can then be displayed early in the introductory session to remind participants to log on to the network. The session speaker should also remind participants to connect to the network at this time in order to have the best app experience.

In-App Wi-Fi Page
During the build out of the event app, create a new page in the Pages module that is titled "Wi-Fi Information" and add it to the app menu. Include instructions for attendees on how to access the network once they arrive onsite. Be sure to also provide them with a contact person from your team in case they have issues connecting to the network.

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Using the Network On-site

The network should be in place once you arrive on-site. There are a few steps that should be taken once on-site to ensure everything is functioning as expected and you are prepared for the start of the event.

Testing/Monitoring the Network
It is important to make sure that the network that the venue has been contracted for is what is in place for the event. Go to multiple locations across the venue with a device and ensure that you are able to connect to the network in all locations. For locations that will be using network-dependent app features, test that you are able to use those features as expected.

Speedtest.net

It is important to test that the internet bandwidth that was purchased is what is being provided on-site. A useful tool to test this is Speedtest.net. Navigate to the website and click on the "BEGIN TEST" button that will appear on-screen. The website will run through a series of tests and deliver a report on the bandwidth being provided on-site.

The "DOWNLOAD SPEED" listed should be in-line with what was purchased from the venue. Note that this may vary +/- 10 Mbps. If the variance is any lower than -10 Mbps, contact the venue staff and let them know that the bandwidth does not match what has been purchased.

Using the Network for Audience Response

For locations where the Q&A, Polling, or Word Cloud functionality will be used, those sessions are referred to as audience response sessions. Each location that will be used for audience response should be set up with a wired connection for the computer that will be used to run the session, also known as a hard line connection. Confirm that every location does have a hard line that is situated where the computer will be located in the room. In preparation for the audience response sessions, connect the hard line to the computer that will be used, and confirm that the connection is working properly in each location. Check that you can access the internet on the hard line connection and that you are able to run through an audience response session without issue. If you are not able to find the hard line connection in a location where there should be one or you are not able to connect to the internet properly, contact the venue staff for assistance.

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