If you haven’t checked out the Convention Industry Council’s APEX resources for meeting planners, you’re missing out on a rich collection of free, downloadable templates and guides that can save you tons of time—and possibly save your budget as well. The newest addition is an Internet RFP Strategy Guide, complete with a comprehensive, ready-to-fill-in Excel file for creating RFPs for high-speed Internet access at events. The guide’s authors are right in the thick of the issues: Matt Harvey, PSAV; Michael Owen, EventGenuity; John Rissi, PSAV; MaryAnne Bobrow, CMP, CAE, CMM, CHE, Bowbrow & Associates; and Mariela Mcillwraith, CMP, CAE, Meeting Change.

The guide includes a bandwidth use chart showing what you need for different meeting activities and a link to the APEX bandwidth estimator, so you can get a rough calculation of your entire group’s requirements. But don’t stop there. Download the guide in order to understand the nuances of negotiation, and why bandwidth isn’t the only piece of information a venue needs to know in order to provide a great experience for your group.

Service and Support
As an example of the type of comprehensive help the APEX Internet RFP Strategy Guide provides, here are the nine questions planners are advised to ask in order to gauge whether the service level at a meeting venue will be enough to mitigate the risk of a network failure:

1. Who provides full-time, on-site support during the event?

2. What hours are the on-site team members available?
Some venues restrict on-site support to office hours. If support is important to your program, work with venues that can commit to having it available as required for your event, including during setup.

3. What level of training have they received on networking?
This could be as little as on-the-job training or as significant as industry certifications. If support is important to you, look for well-trained staff.

4. How many people are trained to support on site?
This could range from one person to a team. Obviously, the more trained support staff available, the faster the response will be.

5. What is the response time to a network issue?
Look for an answer in minutes.

6. Can you provide an on-site help desk next to registration?
Find out if support staffers are there only to manage the network itself or if they can help attendees with their personal devices. If your attendees are not tech-savvy, consider a “tech concierge” to help them.

7. Who is the network service provider and where is the network operations center (NOC)?
This could be a third-party network company, hotel IT, or the on-site AV or network company. If it’s the hotel IT, ask more questions about the support hours and training. If it’s a third-party network company, ask more about response times.

8. What is the response time for network reconfiguration changes requiring the NOC?
Look for an answer in minutes.

9. Are all parts of the network monitored in real time?
Real-time monitoring of all equipment (router, switches, access points) typically leads to a faster response and a quicker resolution when an issue arises.

When You Don’t Need an Internet RFP
The guide also reveals when a planner really doesn’t have to get into the nitty-gritty with high-speed Internet access. This would be when you have fewer than 100 attendees and you can answer “no” to the following questions:

• Will the group be using Internet access for more than general browsing and simple email?

• Will any wired connections be required?

• Is Internet access critical to the success of the meeting?

Next Up: Cyber Security
The current project for the APEX Standards Committee in the Internet realm is the creation of a Cybersecurity Workgroup. This group is starting out by researching the level of awareness the meetings industry has about the types of cyber threats it faces, its current level of preparedness, and how well the industry as a whole understands the unique vulnerabilities inherent in holding off-site events. After analyzing the survey data, the group will release a cybersecurity guide along the lines of the APEX Internet RFP Strategy Guide, says EventGenuity’s Michael Owen, possibly in the first quarter of 2017. Stay tuned!