What is this? You can't afford to offer free internet at your event? WARNING: 'Forget about locations without free internet for the moment!'
Does this sound familiar? Indeed, I've been occupied with this subject for a while. In fact, my recent trips to the United States to the IMEX America Expo and the ICCA Congress in Puerto Rico made me realize how narrow-minded we are here in Europe. While on the go, I was able to make virtually trouble-free connections to the Internet at any airport, any hotel and yes, even at the two major international events I was attending.
Unfortunately, more than half of all event venues still do not fully comprehend this. A report, (ICCA Venue Trends Survey) shows that less than half of the sites surveyed offer free wireless internet. I continue to be amazed, and frustrated, that this is still possible at the end of 2012.
Why is free wireless internet not standard at every venue?
When I speak with venues about this subject, there are two commonly heard objections:
- Providing hassle-free wireless internet to thousands of visitors at the same time is extremely complex technically.
And that's correct. However, the trouble-free processing of thousands of liters of urine and feces is, technically speaking, also extremely complex. And what about keeping such an area precisely at a steady 20 degrees? And when was the last time a conference or event was organized without sewers or without the benefit of climate control? As far as I’m concerned, wireless internet should become part of the 'standard infrastructure' of all event venues! The fact that the implementation of this would be a technically complex undertaking, is an argument that I find completely irrelevant.
- This certainly requires a huge investment; so how will we ever recover the cost?
That is also a valid point. And that's where 'we' as an industry are able to assist these venues. We could in affect all work together to ensure that these venues don't stick out their necks, and are rewarded for their investment. After all, 'he who pays the piper calls the tune'. Therefore, we will only book at venues with hassle-free internet available for our visitors. Right?
And of course, I understand that factors such as 'accessibility', 'capacity' and 'appearance' seem much more important when selecting a venue. But I'm convinced that if sites realize that they are losing turnover because they are not offering wireless internet, then we will have solved this problem together.
5 Advantages of Free Internet
Personally I do not understand how, as an event planner, you can afford NOT to offer your participants free internet. So, to help you push this subject higher up on your selection criteria list, here are a number of direct advantages to offering a decent internet connection to the visitors at your conference or event:
- Live feedback & customer service: when the attendees at your conference or event are connected, you are suddenly no longer isolated. From anywhere and at any time, people can contact you to provide feedback. By responding immediately and adequately, you will be able to significantly increase the level of your service and the satisfaction of your visitors. Let's face it: (small) problems always occur; wouldn't you want to be informed as soon as possible so that you can still do something about it?
- Friends of your participants will hear of the event: regardless of whether you are involved with Social Media or not, there will be visitors to your conference or event that certainly are. And once they are connected, there is a great probability that they will share their presence with their network. Especially if it concerns an extremely pleasant or instructive experience. That will result in a huge positive boost for your event's reputation.
- The collection of photos and videos from the participants’ perspective:a famous saying in our profession goes like this "an event never took place if there are no pictures of it". After all, you want the people who did not attend the event to see what they have missed. Nowadays, more than 80% of your visitors walk around with a camera in their pocket. By offering them an internet connection you can easily tap into this huge potential and capture your conference or event in a fantastic way.
- Participants will also remain involved and accessible even after the event is over: it's almost 2013, so it’s highly probable that you are seriously trying to get to grips with Social Media to promote your event. During the event itself, people will feel the greatest need, relatively speaking, to connect with social channels. By offering them the opportunity for a hassle-free Internet connection at that moment in time, you will also be able to keep in touch with them after the event.
- Participants will have access to their office: okay, this may be the only valid reason why you would want to offer your visitors NO internet. However, time is scarce. And the fact that the time spent 'out of office' won't necessarily result in double time spent in having to catch up at the end of your conference or event, can give people a good feeling. In my case, this always makes me very happy.
Additions and refinements: I enjoy reading your comments!
Do you see more benefits regarding free internet access for visitors to conferences and events? I would love to read them below. Or are you working at an event venue where you find yourself completely marginalized? I enjoy reading your views on this story!
Freelance Project Manager, Entrepreneur and networker with a passion for events and Social Media. Gerrit is partner of How Can I Be Social (HCIBS), co-founder of Triqle Event Intelligence, board member of the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) in the Netherlands and professional speaker.