As technology continues to change, a reliable Internet connection has become one of the most crucial pieces of success at meetings, conferences and trade shows. However, the ever-evolving world of devices, bandwidth and network infrastructure has also created challenges for planners and suppliers in contract negotiations.
“The pricing model for selling Internet services varies from venue to venue and city to city,” Matt Harvey, vice president, client network services, PSAV, says. “Dealing with those inconsistencies can be a very frustrating process for planners.”
While the price tag for keeping a meeting or trade show connected can vary, one element is clear no matter the location of event: planners want to keep those expenses as low as possible. Venues cannot afford to give it away because they are buying from a third party, but planners can take steps to more effectively manage those costs. Here’s how.
SEE ALSO: 5 Reasons Why Free Wi-Fi Might Not Be the Best Deal
1) Embrace education
It’s time for some planners to do some homework.
“Planners have a great understanding of the costs of food and beverage, transportation and room blocks,” Harvey says. “In order to have more productive conversations about connectivity costs, planners must take steps to gain that same level of understanding about Wi-Fi services.”
That understanding can help planners recognize the levels of differentiation for Internet access at meetings.
“It’s similar to planning a menu at meeting,” Harvey says. “There’s a price difference between chicken and steak.”
While Harvey says no one needs to become an expert, planners can lay a solid foundation of knowledge by keeping an eye on new technologies and regularly reviewing the glossary of industry terms available at the official website of the Convention Industry Council.
2) Know your needs
A meeting is one-of-a-kind - - and so are its bandwidth requirements.
“At the end of the day, a supplier is going to charge based on bandwidth, and planners want to be able to negotiate that before they get into the building,” Michael Doyle, Principal, Michael Doyle Partners, says.
Harvey breaks down that bandwidth into four distinct categories: the needs of presenters, attendees, exhibitors and show managers. Each group uses Internet for different objectives, and of course, each group uses a varying amount of bandwidth.
“Breaking down an event into separate needs helps keep things manageable,” Harvey advises.
While managing the needs of all of those groups may still sound overwhelming, it’s easier than expected. Harvey recommends that planners take advantage of the APEX Attendee Bandwidth Estimator for Meetings and Events.
YOUR BANDWIDTH: Use the APEX Estimator to find out what you need.
Still, planners must recognize that their needs might not be the only factor that impacts Internet access, too.
“It’s not just your requirement,” Doyle says. “The venue needs to balance your bandwidth needs with other groups who will be there at the same time.”
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3) Start early
While planners are accustomed to dealing with a range of last-minute requests on-site, it’s important that the list of unexpected needs does not include more bandwidth.
“Plan for your Wi-Fi and network services as early as possible,” Harvey says. “If you discover you need additional bandwidth brought to the venue at the last minute, it can be very expensive and sometimes downright impossible.”
4) Capitalize on sponsorship sales
Regardless of the bill for Internet access, it never hurts to have someone else pick up the tab.
“A sponsorship is one of the better ways to offset the costs of providing Wi-Fi for your attendees,” Doyle says.
Harvey highlights that there are opportunities to offset costs by offering sponsors the ability to raise their own brand awareness. With the name of the wireless network, the password that attendees enter to access it, the customizable pop-out page that greets them once they’re logged in and the final landing page, planners can offer valuable ways for companies to get in front of their attendees.
“That forced landing page offers prime real estate with metrics that can support the value of a sponsorship,” Harvey says.
Harvey says that web analytics give marketers an understanding of how many people visited the page, how much time they spent on it and how many clicked through advertisements.
Looking for more knowledge on Wi-Fi? Find it here in an October Convene article from Timothy J. LaFleur, CMP.
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