Are You Covered? Determining Wi-Fi Needs for Your Meeting

September 26, 2019
Matt Harvey

Internet set up wiring

This post is the first in a series on event internet from Matt Harvey, VP of Internet Services at PSAV

Internet is cited as one of the most challenging items in event planning and often leads to apprehension over using Wi-Fi dependent tech like polling, streaming, and audience engagement tools. Without the confidence that these tools will work, it’s hard to invest in their use and, in turn, this limits the meeting experience.

Connecting people is quite literally in PSAV’s purpose statement, so in this series, I’ll lift the lid on meeting Wi-Fi – focusing on how to buy with confidence and successfully connect and inspire your audience. For this post, the often-misunderstood concept of bandwidth is the focus.

Bandwidth is something we all know something about since we buy it for our homes. It makes sense to us that more bandwidth means we can do more “stuff” at once with the internet. But in an event setting, getting the balance right between too little (resulting in a poor experience) and too much (resulting in overpayment) bandwidth can be tough. In other words, how much is just enough?

Shared vs. Dedicated

The first thing to know is the difference between shared and dedicated bandwidth. You can watch our explainer video on that here. It’s only two minutes long, and we’ll be right here when you’re done.

Now that you know the difference, it’s important to note that the home internet is an example of shared bandwidth. In an effort to make us upgrade, the cable operators tell us that we need faster services for all our devices. “Ultimate Internet (up to) 300 Mbps suitable for 10 devices!” they say.

This type of marketing leads to confusion. If 300Mbps is good for 10 devices, then each device needs 30Mbps, right? Not so fast. Dedicated bandwidth is different. For large groups, we actually need less bandwidth than we otherwise might think, and in the dedicated bandwidth world of events, it’s easy to assume that the numbers are the same as the cable company marketing which leads to an overestimation of bandwidth needs.   

Calculate It

Next time someone tells you they need 30Mbps each because that’s what they get at home, take a breath and remember there’s a calculator for that. This tool will give you a good starting point for attendee bandwidth needs.

What if a presenter requests a lot of bandwidth as part of their requirements? Chances are, the presenter is also thinking about shared bandwidth in-home internet terms. Have a conversation about the presenter’s intended use of the internet and include your trusted techie. Most everything a presenter will need to do from a presentation laptop can be done in less than 5Mbps.

Remember:

  • Use the bandwidth calculator to estimate your needs.
  • Make sure your venues are providing bandwidth usage reports, showing your total bandwidth consumption over time. These will help you dial in on exactly what your needs truly are.
  • If you are concerned about running out of bandwidth, consider pre-negotiating an optional on-site upgrade with the venue. If you need to use it, pull the trigger with the confidence that the additional cost is already understood.
  • You can always email us at Internet@psav.com. We’ll answer all of your internet-related questions, regardless of venue.