WiFi at events – utility or luxury, free or fee?

As an academic and existing practitioner in events management, I am constantly reading and keeping up to speed with the many changes our industry goes through. My particular passion is corporate events and venue management and over the years worked in many venues and also sourced venues for my clients when working within the agency sector.

10+ years ago we were seeing the installation of ‘high-speed’ internet connections within meeting rooms with ISDN lines, at the time a huge advancement and great selling point, the needs of the presenter or trainer were being met. Individual delegate technology

requirements did not feature as highly on the essential venue selection criteria as far fewer attendees brought laptops into the meeting environment and more so expected to work offline.
It is now 2013 and we are still seeing a debate over the ‘accessibility’ of high-speed connections within our event venues and accommodation providers.
We now live in age when 53.2% of mobile phones in the UK are smart phones; according to Ipsos Media Tech Tracker carried out July 2012 more than 1 in 10 consumers now own a tablet in the UK with most users optimising their performance via Wi-Fi connection.
Take some time to read some of the current Conference News articles with some interesting views “Wi-Fi is becoming a hygiene factor for the industry and is being viewed in exactly the same terms as heat, lighting and air-conditioning”
Research currently being carried out within the industry and the driving force behind this; ABPCO Association of British Professional Conference Organisers who launched their campaign ‘The Conference Cloud’ in July 2011, is constantly gathering momentum and at the forefront of the agenda within the corporate sector.
ABPCO say ‘Access to good quality Wi-Fi is becoming fundamental to the success of interactive conferences now and in the future. We want to work together with venues and the events industry to make free wi-fi a reality for delegates attending UK conferences and events.’ Access the ABPCO website for further information.
How high are our expectations now and how much have we come to expect from the events and venues we visit? I take it for granted that as soon as I enter a university building my Ipad and Smartphone automatically connect to the University wireless network, our students and delegates who use us as an academic venue also have use of their own guest network to connect.
Posing the question, do you work at a venue which offers truly free wi-fi? How easy is it for your conference delegates to connect? The interesting debate planned at Confex 2013 taking place 19-21 March should also add fuel to the ‘free’ Wi-fi debate.

Caroline Westwood – Event Manager and Event Lecturer

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Mark Norman
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Senior Lecturer in Events Management

I lead on the administration for the Event Management Hub website alongside teaching modules including; Festivals and Outdoor Events, Event Law and Risk Management and The Live Tourism Event