Calculating bandwidth for meeting and event planners made easy!

Every event or meeting you attend today will include some sort of digital event technology. Whether it be an event app, online registration, webcasting, live polling, social media integration or even just access to Wi-Fi. As event planners look for new ways to collect invaluable data whilst providing attendees with a more dynamic, personalised experience, this inclusion of event technology is only going to increase. With this increase in event technology adoption comes the added pressure of venues to supply enough bandwidth to facilitate the mass usage. 

Since bandwidth governs all technology that uses the Internet (including personal devices being used in guest rooms and public areas outside of meetings), it has become increasingly more important for meeting and event planners to learn the basics of it and how to estimate how much you’ll need for your event. Your AV provider should take care of this for you, however it will be beneficial to get a grasp on understanding bandwidth so you can plan in advance to ensure your venue can handle the Wi-Fi demand throughout your event without overspending for more than you need. 

What is Bandwith and Wi-Fi? 

Bandwidth: The amount of data that can be transmitted (upload) or received (download) per second measured in Megabits per second. 

Wi-Fi: The technology that distributes the Bandwidth around a venue to wireless devices like laptops, computers, smartphones and tablets. 

APEX Bandwidth and Connectivity Workgroup of the Convention Industry Council (CIC) 

How bandwidth can affect your meetings and events whether large or small

Bandwidth allocation determines how many people and devices can access the internet, what types of technology you can use (streaming vs basic surfing), and how frequently. It is based on the minimum amount of megabytes required to ensure all the known users, on an estimated amount of devices, can have an undisrupted internet viewing experience fit for purpose. Below are some event examples of how bandwidth can affect your meeting and events, regardless of size: 

  • Bandwidth determines how many devices - smartphones, tablets, laptops, live polling systems, etc. - can be used concurrently inside venues, guestrooms and public areas without interference.

  • It determines whether streaming video presentations will be transmitted over the Internet fast enough to project crisply and clearly on the screen without image or audio distortion or even lag time. 

  • It can limit the type, size and quality of presentations your speakers or instructors will be able to upload or download. 

  • It can dictate whether a hybrid event with audiences in different locations will be trouble-free or problematic. 

  • It will control exhibitor presentations in their booths and the applications they use.

  • Your on-site office and event operations including registration will depend on bandwidth capabilities. 

And the list goes on ...

Very small meetings can still be technologically demanding so it’s important to remember the type of usage plays more emphasis on bandwidth exhaustion than the number of users or devices. 

 There is nothing more frustrating than a website crashing, or seeing the spinning wheel of death as the video buffers. Rather than sit patiently and wait, your viewers or attendees are likely to abandon this and move onto something else. Therefore it’s vital you ensure there will be enough bandwidth on rehearsal and show day to accommodate your event. It can make or break your attendees’ event experience. Naturally, if you don’t intend on using any internet-reliant activities (live polling, event apps, web surfing etc) or your attendees aren’t concerned with accessing the internet during your event, than you needn’t be concerned with bandwidth availability. 

How to estimate how much bandwith you’ll need for your meeting or event 

Nowadays, it is an expectation to have internet access at all times and in all places including your event! However, this is not always as easy to arrange as it sounds. Below is a simple three step process to help you estimate how much internet bandwidth you’ll need: 

1. Determine how many attendees will be using the internet at your event. 

2. Assess what your participants will be using the internet for. 

Is it just so that delegates can check their e-mails? Or will you be webcasting the event to online audience’s and will need to send through live video and audio? Event tweeting or posting on Instagram uses a small amount of bandwidth. This is usually categorised into Low, Medium or High usage.

Low – Emailing, social media, basic web surfing 

Medium - Skype, Audio streaming, web applications, Event apps and audience response systems. 

High – Webcasting, Large file transfers 


 3. Use your programme to determine when the peak usage will be. 

If your programme requires all people to sign in via digital registration before 9am and you have an event app with the event’s agenda you can assume you will need to allow more bandwidth for the morning. If you have a workshop for 4 hours in the afternoon which your attendees won’t need internet access for you can account for that too. You will need to take into account these peaks of use. 

Questions to ask your venue about dedicated bandwidth 

If you want to give all of your event attendees, including staff and presenters, the best internet experience we recommend opting for a dedicated bandwidth. As it sounds, dedicated bandwidth means the venue will reserve your bandwidth allocation so no matter what other users may be doing, your event will have access to unshared bandwidth. Whilst dedicated bandwidth provides a more reliable, faster experience, it is more expensive. We recommend speaking with your AV provider or venue to determine what type of bandwidth you’ll need and whether dedicated bandwidth is necessary. If you do require dedicated bandwidth, below are some key questions should ask your venue:

  • Does the venue have the necessary infrastructure to bring in dedicated bandwidth?

  • Is there on-site AV and technical support to help configure and troubleshoot these services?

  • Does the venue have large enough caballing to meet your total bandwidth needs so even all users at usage peaks will have a good internet experience?

  • Does your venue have the ability to set-up sub-separate networks (VLANs-Virtual Local Area Network) if your event requires it? Venues without an on-site AV technician make answering these questions more time consuming task as you’ll need to speak with an event IT company and possibly even arrange an on-site visit. This can be very costly so keep this in mind when choosing your venue. 

As an event planner, the last thing you want is your delegates, important VIPs or event presenters to have a negative experience because your internet failed. 

How do venues charge for bandwidth / internet usage 

Typically venues will have a schedule of pricing for number of attendees x level of bandwidth required. Ask the venue for their rate card. In some circumstances we are seeing venues include Wi-Fi in their day delegate package, this can often be a deciding factor in choosing a venue. 

Helpful tips for managing your bandwidth usage 

1. Save on bandwidth with a proxy server for popular pages. When the participants at your event are often likely to be looking at the same internet page – for example, the programme of the day on the event website you can save on broadband use by installing a proxy server in your network. This allows you to save the pages that are surfed by the participants for a limited period of time. If another person wants to look at the same page within, say, the next ten minutes, this person does not need to access your network; instead the page in question will be uploaded from the local cache on the proxy server. 

2. Allow for bandwidth for your rehearsals. Often large events will have a full rehearsal the day before the event to run from start to end just like it’s show day. If you intend on testing your webcasting, applications, live polling etc we recommend definitely allowing for this additional day of bandwidth. 

3. If you plan on webcasting it is all about sufficient upload bandwidth with pre tested IP-addresses. Basically the equipment used must be registered with the internet supplier to create a dedicated internet connection separate to the bandwidth being used by the attendees.

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