Here’s a riddle for you: What is invisible and weightless, cannot be felt or heard, but its presence is mandatory to have a successful meeting? The answer: Bandwidth!
Obtaining adequate bandwidth for all participants in your meeting – attendees, presenters, internal staff, and exhibitors – makes the difference between smooth sailing and a sinking ship. However, many planners are hesitant when ordering bandwidth because they don’t really understand all that is involved. And, some salespeople at hotels and facilities may not be as knowledgeable as they should be to guide their customers through the ordering process.
The demand for increased Internet connectivity is exploding because of the increasing number of wireless devices individuals depend upon every day to organize their lives, provide information and connect them to the other 7.1 billion people on the planet. This reality is certainly not going to change and industries worldwide must gear up to meet the connectivity demand in order to survive and conduct successful meetings!
Happily, the Convention Industry Council (CIC), Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and the Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) have joined forces to educate the meeting and hospitality industry on the bandwidth issue, and provide tools you can use to determine the amount of bandwidth you need at your next meeting.
Bandwidth is nothing more than the maximum capability of a network or Internet connection to transfer data. Think of a hose transferring water from one source to another — say from the water line in your house to the backyard flowerbed. The water flows quickly enough through the average hose to meet your gardening needs. Now suppose you need to fill up your 20’X40’ backyard swimming pool. The same hose will work, but will take much longer because it has a limited capability in the amount of water that can be transferred through that half-inch garden hose at one time. Think how much faster you could fill your pool if you had a 3” wide hose! The amount of bandwidth you need at your meeting equates to the size of the hose you need to effectively deliver water where it needs to go. You probably can’t find a 3” hose, but you can purchase the optimum amount of bandwidth to meet your connectivity needs.
In their APEX paper Strike up the Bandwidth – How Much Do You Know about Bandwidth at Your Events?, authors MaryAnne Bobrow, CMP, Bobrow & Associates, Michael Owen, EventGenuity, and John Rissi, PSAV, define bandwidth this way:
Simply put, bandwidth describes the maximum data transfer of a network or Internet connection. It measures how much data can be sent over a specific connection in a given amount of time. Lots of data flowing through a narrow channel takes longer than the same amount of data flowing through a broader channel. In the meetings industry, more bandwidth means more people can do more things online at faster speeds. On the other hand, lack of adequate bandwidth can lead to slow loading web pages, video buffering and even disconnections. Wireless (Wi-Fi) is the technology that distributes the bandwidth around a venue to wireless devices like laptops, smartphones and tablets.
It’s really important for planners not only to understand bandwidth but to take charge of determining and buying the amount of bandwidth required to avoid connectivity overload. It’s not so different from knowing how many sleeping and meeting rooms you need to reserve at your hotel; just telling a facility that you need enough bandwidth for 300 attendees is like telling a hotel that you need enough meeting space for 300 people – too vague!
The APEX website provides you with lots of information and articles about bandwidth, including how to determine if your meeting requires low, medium or high bandwidth. From there, the Bandwidth Estimator will help you determine the number of megabytes you should purchase based on the number of attendees and their level of usage.
Connectivity is critical in all aspects of our professional lives. It’s up to all of us to provide the Internet access that attendees need and expect, so let’s start the bandwidth conversation! And if you would like to hear the experts talk about bandwidth,