Running a conference or convention? You need to read to read this.

Every conference.
Every single conference…

“Here is the wifi password: XXXXXXXXXX1234.”

The hamster starts running in the wheel…

Aaaaaand, has a heart attack.

Conference attendees beat their heads against their iThings and other devices.
The tweet feed slows to a dull roar, then a trickle … Then … Stops.

Every time.


Venues do not seem able to comprehend the idea that while they may deal with conferences all the time, that more people are bringing more devices to a conferences in order to record all their brains may not be able to capture. Not only that, but they still want to be able to keep up with their own tweet feeds and Facebook pages. Needless to say, while it may be a good enough wifi service for small numbers of people, it simply cannot shingle the load of attendees carrying two or three devices, all to which have notifications on for multiple apps, and are trying to get their emails at the same time as tweeting and blogging.

I’m not sure what the solution is to this. I know in the past, I have worked for events at have one dedicated wifi for the official bloggers and one for the rest of the attendees. Even then, the strain was too much, it broke on a few occasions, and I was forced to resort to using my cellular data in the interim while the problem was solved.

Another pet peeve, and some may well see this as a bit of “gimme gimme”, with all the different devices being employed, and with the drive to tweet away to your heart’s content, or “follow the event on the following hash tag”, why do events not think of setting up a bank of power boards. I’m not suggesting that they supply an array of various charge cables for the different devices out there. People should bring their own! What I am suggesting is that we admit that we are a power-hungry society, meaning electricity but you can read into that what you will, and cater to that need. Want people to tweet? Let them, but provide them with a means to charge their devices so they can.


I will now return you to your normal programming.

5 comments on “Running a conference or convention? You need to read to read this.

  1. Agreed, it is a bit of a problem. For some part, it could be due to the expensive nature of large-event wireless infrastructure, the innate problems with the technology (shared mediums/bandwidth, collisions, multiple domains, etc) and at least in Australia, the horrible expense of reliable, high bandwidth internet connections (fibre/Ethernet-to-the-premise in the city runs a few thousand a month for a 10Mbps-20Mbps connection IIRC).

    Hopefully with the increase in fibre and metro-Ethernet providers we’ll see supply outstrip demand and a lowering of prices to levels that make it easier to implement strong networks for venues.

    But if it is just bad foresight and not planning for the capacity venues will have, then bugger’em all.

    • nephthysnile says:

      Oh, I understand the implications and the potential pitfalls of offering such services to attendees. I really do. I know that the demand of hundreds of people having even two devices requiring online access it a nightmare for infrastructure. I understand that Western Australia really does seem to have insane costings for providing such things.

      What I find a little strange, however, is that we are okay with these prices and okay with not having the services afforded us, and this isn’t just within the realm of the interwebz. It’s what we want, but we’re okay with not getting it. Anywhere else, this would result in declined attendance, ticket sales, or just word of mouth credit to the event.

      We have become a society demanding constant access to high speed net. I think maybe one reason we do not have the infrastructure for it out there now (because, let’s face it, there’s faster and better out there) is the time it takes for the main decision makers to make uneducated decisions on things they know nothing about. Possibly a controversial view point, but I firmly believe while we wait for the industry to open access to smaller providers to actually bring in better infrastructure, we are falling further and further behind the rest of the world.

      • I don’t have anything further to add. Everything you said, yes, yes, yes, I agree. Wrong people making wrong decisions, people agreeing to substandard conditions because “that’s the way it’s always been”, etc.

        We need change and we need it now. Hopefully with the advent of the NBN, especially in metropolitan areas where these venues exist, we will see better infrastructure become available and venues providing wifi will just be done.


  2. @jan190 says:

    As a conference organiser – i agree!!! We were running the conference to which i think you are referring. We asked them about the connection speeds, the number of available access points, the need to provide max coverage for this TECH conference, we advised them there would be multiple devices per person, that every attendee would be connected.

    ‘We do this all the time’ we were advised, ‘our IT staff have it covered’ they said. #fail!@# They increased the bandwidth after we complained, they were shocked to see the number of connections – aww really!! we told you………. it’s rarely a bandwidth issue

    We have a provider who can amp this service up, but our problem is that the venues always argue ‘they’ve got it covered’. They don;t like being asked questions about the service, they don;t understand it, their IT depts are usually a closed shop and rarely willing to even discuss.

    I’m not giving up, i will keep working on an approach where the venues say ‘how can we make sure your delegates get the best wifi experience at this tech event’! or something like that #iliveinhope!!

    • nephthysnile says:

      I understand your pain, having worked closely with event organisers in the past who have had similar issues with their venue coordinators.

      It’s more than a little disturbing that they believe their current level of service is enough for a real world situation. I think perhaps it is a little of professional pride mixed in with a little underestimating demand that goes into the mix for such troubles. A measure of over-confidence in their preparation, as well, doesn’t help matters at all.

      Maybe there should be a gentle push by professional associations in the web industry to give guidelines to venues as to the real demands on their access points….? 🙂 Thanks for the comments though. It helps clear it up for others out there who might think that it’s up to the event coordinators.

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