Providing wireless Internet access to attendees is a big issue for convention centers, especially in the midst of rapidly changing technology. When considering a facility for a meeting or event, asking the right questions is critical, says Pete Nava, who heads up Nava Associates, a Dallas-based meetings technology consultancy.
Key points to address:
• Type of service. Ask what type of service runs through the building. "Note that fiber-optic connections like T1 and T3 lines are generally faster than cable and satellite connections," Nava says.
• Data access points. How many individual data access points are available in the entire building? How many will be available specifically for your attendees? Nava says the general guideline he follows is 20 to 30 clients per noncommercial access point, and 40 to 60 for higher-end commercial access points.
• Support services. Perhaps the most important question to ask is how service issues are handled. Does the center have tech consultants on-site to deal with wireless snafus, or will your meeting be sidelined while you wait for help to arrive?
• Speed. The term "high speed" should be put to the test during your site inspection, says Nava. Use a laptop to visit sites like SpeedTest.net or SpeakEasy.net, which will measure connection speed for free.