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Branding Your Wi-Fi

By Tom Hollingsworth, Blog Contributor
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I recently went to a conference on a college campus. As with all conferences, I had some work that I needed to get done between sessions. Most of it needed my laptop instead of my phone, so I pulled my laptop out of my bag and started connecting to the conference Wi-Fi SSID. Imagine my surprise when I didn't see one! I looked through the list and found a multitude of available options with names like "guest" or "private" that were secured. But nothing that jumps out as a conference SSID I should join.

After some discussion, I found out that the conference was just using the college's guest SSID for their connectivity. I decided to connect and was able to enjoy the slow crawl of an SSID that was rate-limited for public consumption. I decided to give up and instead turned up my LTE hotspot and went on about my day. Why did this happen? And how does it impact my perceptions?

The Name of Your Game

If you have a conference of more than five people, you need your own Wi-FI SSID. You need to have that branding for people that come to your conference to be able to reference your event back to what they're doing when they hop on the network. People's perception of your business or your event comes not only from the content and the coffee but the connectivity as well.

Think about your last airplane Wi-Fi experience. Was it happy? Were you able to get work done? Or did you spend more time waiting for emails to send than you did typing them in the first place? Airlines have some of the worst Wi-Fi experiences around. Yet we use the connectivity because we must. The majority of people that I've talked to in my career have a negative opinion of in-flight Wi-Fi.

On the flip side, good Wi-Fi can improve the conference experience quite a bit. If I'm able to send and receive emails and get work done, I'm a happy camper. If I can do more like download video content or accomplish more bandwidth-intensive tasks I'm very happy indeed. My perception of the conference experience has gone up immensely.

The key is providing a way for me to identify the good or bad service. You can't just have an SSID that says "guest". You can't even have one that you're borrowing from the hotel or the event management company. You need to have an SSID that identifies you to the world. You need to have an SSID that shows everyone what you're working on. If your users can go back and say that the Aruba Atmosphere Wi-Fi was the best they've used in months, then that becomes a huge feather in your cap for future users. You can point to that one piece and tell everyone that you did it right.

A Friendly Atmosphere

Speaking of Aruba Atmosphere, I have to take a moment to congratulate Aruba on doing something really awesome at Atmosphere 2018 this year. Remember how I said that you need to name your conference SSID so it's easy to find? What if you didn't need to do that at all?

Aruba worked with major mobile providers to set up a Passpoint secure system that just worked. As outlined a bit in this blog, building a conference Wi-Fi setup isn't easy. But Aruba made it so easy to connect to the Wi-Fi at Atmosphere that many users probably didn't even realize they were connected! Thanks to the interoperability provided by Passpoint, once you walked into the conference area your phone automatically joined the network. No fumbling for SSID and password on the back of your badge. No typos. No issues. Just easy connectivity. And the best part? It's automatic for every Aruba event this year. As soon as you're in range, you're on the network.

Systems like this are great for smaller conferences too. Have your event staff set up an SSID with Passpoint integration and your attendees will be connected as soon as they step through the doors. Send them an email ahead of time to connect their laptops and other devices so they don't have to spend precious moments trying to get connected when your CEO makes a groundbreaking announcement that you want to share on Twitter. Or they want to upload that awesome photo at your booth with a celebrity hacker or football player.

The key here is to make sure your conference Wi-Fi is fast, easy, and identifiable. You want every part of the conference experience to be successful for your attendees. Making sure they can see how successful your Wi-Fi is goes a long way to making that happen.