Offering Free Wi-Fi at In-Person Events Without Breaking the Budget

Author: Convene Editors       

cell phones

How to offer and pay for Wi-Fi service at events is a hot topic among members of PCMA’s Catalyst Community.

PCMA’s Catalyst community offers members a platform to ask each other questions, share ideas, or, as the website says, “communicate and collaborate.” Here’s a sampling from a recent Catalyst discussion.

We’ve been providing Wi-Fi complimentary for our in-person event attendees of 500-plus people for years and are considering dropping that this year,” Diane Dukes, CMP, vice president of meetings and events for the Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS), wrote on the PCMA Catalyst forum. [I’m] curious if other planners are doing the same? With so many people having access to phone data and 5G networks, does it make sense to provide Wi-Fi to one-third of attendees who use it? Especially with the high cost of internet. Please share what you are doing for your groups.”

That is an interesting question and I will be interested to hear other responses. Personally, I think the meeting space Wi-Fi should be a property amenity and it is always a concession that I ask for.

Barry Schieferstein, Director of Learning and Events, American Society for Nondestructive Testing

The amount that some hotels are charging for wireless internet on the meeting-room levels is ridiculous, but the thought of eliminating it has not yet crossed our minds. We too have offered it for years and I know there are still some people who don’t have unlimited data. It might be an age-related thing — with college kids on my account, I couldn’t survive without it.

Beth Martino, Senior Manager of Meetings and Events, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

With hotels introducing the “resort fee” that covers a multitude of costs, often including Wi-Fi in public areas, I think charging a Wi-Fi fee for attendees is almost [like hotels are] double-dipping! I agree with the others — it should be on the concession list — and not linked to the using of the in-house AV company. Be aware of potentially exorbitant costs for wired internet too — get those charges agreed on for whichever AV provider you are using.

Simon Melser, Vice President, Business Development, Image Audiovisuals Inc.

With international attendees, you must have Wi-Fi. Many of them, especially junior-level employees, don’t have the same phone plans in the U.S.

Renee Olson, Senior Program and Marketing Manager, CASSS — Sharing Science Solutions

Wi-Fi is such a hot topic right now. As the conference host, Wi-Fi should be provided for the attendees. The level of the Wi-Fi can be very different from venue to venue. I tend to add Wi-Fi as a potential sponsorship item to help offset the cost. I would encourage you to understand what the attendee’s Wi-Fi needs are and ensure the venue can deliver it. Many venues are not ready to support the amount of bandwidth that is needed. Some venues are just not equipped for it yet. Wi-Fi is a fixed cost for hotels and for any upgrades they did they need to recoup the cost as it is expensive — just think about your own home Wi-Fi and the cost. The cost of their upgrades may cause some pricing adjustments. Anything is negotiable, so I leverage it at the time of contract. It is also good to set the right expectation with the in-person attendees as having “bad” Wi-Fi can cause a negative experience for them.

Sandy Yi-Davis, Head of Event Design, Strategic Meeting International

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