Wi-Fi Considerations to Ensure a Smooth Event App Experience

December 20, 2014

Rob Cartagine

Rob Cartagine is the co-founder and lead software developer of AppBurst (appburst.com), a mobile application development and internet marketing company headquartered in Florida's Palm Beach County.

A recent study by American Express found 90 percent of attendees who own a smartphone specifically use it for business at meetings, conferences, and trade shows. Nearly half of event attendees also own tablets. With smartphone and tablet usage continuing to rise and mobile apps becoming a mainstay at events in all industries, it’s time to take a closer look at how Wi-Fi access at an event facility impacts event apps and the attendee experience.  

Wi-Fi Logistics at the Event Facility

Every event facility contains its own set of unique logistics. Is the event located at a hotel with free internet access limited to guests? Other events - especially those with large exhibit halls - may be located in a basement level where both Wi-Fi and cellular reception are intermittent at best. Knowing where app users congregate during the event helps ensure event planners can effectively address connectivity concerns in advance. Also consider the general needs of people attending the event, as those in certain industries rely more heavily on internet access to check work-related emails and perform other tasks during breaks.

A Wi-Fi hotspot at or around the event registration area may suffice for smaller meetings, yet event hosts tasked with planning larger conferences - often with thousands of attendees and numerous app updates planned - need to coordinate with the host facility to better understand the bandwidth and capabilities of existing Wi-Fi. Budgeting for the costs of internet access in cases where Wi-Fi isn’t free, or when options aren’t considered reliable, is an important element to consider in the planning stages of an event. Also make sure the steps taken to connect to Wi-Fi are identified in advance and tested, as well as contact information for on-site tech support should an issue arise during the event. 

The Benefits of Native Mobile Apps

Unlike mobile websites, native mobile apps often utilize content caching to ensure users are able to enjoy access to core event material like the program agenda, exhibitor listings, and speaker bios regardless of internet connectivity. Content caching simply means data is downloaded and saved to user’s devices during the initial installation of the app. Pre-event marketing through e-blasts, social media, and branded event web pages incentivizing users to download the app in advance not only guarantees greater engagement during the event and a higher user base, but gives attendees the majority of app content on their device without concerns about Wi-Fi access. Even PDF documents can be bundled with the initial app download to give attendees access to abstracts and presentations during a flight or other periods of internet downtime.

App Updates and Internet-Reliant Features

The ease of updating content and interacting with attendees are perks unavailable to traditional paper programs and represent major reasons companies and organizations consider mobile apps in the first place. While many attendees are able to use cellular data and small Wi-Fi hotspots can accommodate sporadic app updates, the most engaging features—for example, using live surveys to collect questions and comments from attendees during an event session—heighten the importance of internet connectivity. More basic features like push messaging and social media integration are also great tools to use at an event, but aren’t effective in an offline world. With Wi-Fi access available in nearly every event facility and people increasingly using smartphones and tablets in their daily lives, understanding the relationship between event apps and internet access is an important discussion to have with any mobile app development company.

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