Linda E. Schwartz has developed and implemented marketing and communications programs for associations and their members for more than 30 years.
With last month’s smartphone set to be obsolete almost as soon as you’ve mastered its apps, it’s difficult to keep up with the ever-changing world of onsite technology. However, what remains constant is that event attendees expect Wi-Fi to power their technology gadgets. The hotel and convention center for your next meeting have agreed to include free Wi-Fi in your contract! That’s good, right? Well…maybe. And maybe not. Here are some recommendations from Anita O’Boyle, director of event services at SmithBucklin Corporation, on how to ensure you get the Wi-Fi coverage you really need — and your attendees expect — at your next meeting.
Let’s face it, you can’t see Wi-Fi! When you go on a site visit you can view the layout of the meeting rooms, check out a few hotel guest rooms and visit the ballrooms and large spaces where your trade show will be held. So, when your hotel or convention center representative notices you looking at folks beavering away at their laptops in the lobby and agrees to include Wi-Fi “at no extra charge,” you’re very pleased. But what does “free Wi-Fi” really mean? Make certain that your technology needs and expectations match what your venue is offering the same way you would double check a room setup. Your due diligence before the event will ensure your conference runs smoothly and you don’t face any last-minute issues and up-charges onsite.
Anticipate how and how often attendees will use Wi-Fi. Will speakers need Wi-Fi to access the Internet during their presentations? Will you have 3,000 people logging in at the same time every day to check their email? Will 500 people at a general session be logging in for two hours to follow a presentation on the speaker’s website or live stream? Are you using a mobile app? Does your “free Wi-Fi” extend throughout the facility (sleeping rooms, session rooms, trade show floor, etc.)? Do your attendees expect to stay connected 24/7? Understanding Wi-Fi coverage needs will eliminate attendees crowding around that potted plant in the corner of the lobby where there appears to be a bit of a signal — if they lean to the left.
O’Boyle advises meeting planners to fully vet tech requirements so there are no surprises onsite. Here are six tips to use when planning your Wi-Fi needs:
In today’s high-tech world where everyone has a laptop or a tablet or a smartphone (or all three!), “dead zones” are deadly and can result in huge attendee dissatisfaction with your meeting. Nothing is more frustrating for attendees than finding out they can’t check their email between sessions or use your mobile app in the exhibit hall. Many of yesterday’s technology nice-to-haves have become today’s must-haves. Make sure you’re providing your attendees with the experience they desire, so they can tweet about your great conference in real time! AC&F