Venues, PCOs and technology providers came together at International Confex last week to explore how to develop models for offering free Wi-Fi to conference delegates as part of the ABPCO Conference Cloud campaign.
The latest chapter of the discussion took place during the International Confex in London in a session of comparison between the various players involved who have investigated the possible economic models, considering on the one hand the cost of required infrastructure and sustainability, and on the other the viewing experience of the delegate.
The issue has been long focus of PCOs and the British event organizers, who in 2012, through ABPCO (Association of British Professional Conference Organisers) started the campaign ‘The Conference Cloud’, through which they have received over 200 convention centers and event venues they provide wi-fi to delegates (now boast of a special Free Wi-Fi).
The International Confex session was conducted by Michael Foreman, managing director of Kenes UK and responsible for external relations ABPCO, featured a panel made up of William Jones of Max WiFi, Justin Hollins of iBAHN and Mike Clanton of mymeetingprofessional.com. Here are the main points emerged:
- Being connected to the Internet has now become an essential requirement and the type of wi-fi should reflect the use that people are doing: the latest mobile devices are, the more you need an upgrading of the wi-fi dedicated budget.
- The convention center needs to have a return on investment in infrastructure for the wi-fi while the leaders by free: one of the proposals is to charge users “strong”, that is using a lot of bandwidth and downloading large amounts of data (average 5% of the delegates). Or, the gratuity may be temporal, for example only for the first 30 minutes of use.
- You can provide as free reminding delegates that offer it to the convention center or the venue, for example, access to the connection can be done via an application that can be used as a platform to sponsor. In any case, the landing page login is a potential source of economic return through sponsorships.
- The speed of technological development makes the hardware obsolete in a matter of three or four years, but the kit can be reused or moving the old technology in areas of the facility with less internet traffic or even selling them to those who do not need more infrastructure updated.
- A wi-fi quality is that users perceive to be this: different audiences consume data in different ways, and it is for this reason that the bandwidth offered must be based on real needs and how to use delegates.
Justin Hollins of iBAHN spoke about the issues of cost and ROI: “Wi-Fi must reflect the type of usage. As people upgrade their phones and other technology, Wi-Fi should also be upgraded. We need to plan for the future and budget for Wi-Fi as it has become a basic human need.
Hollins also looked at the importance of driving delegate behaviour whilst they are connected through Wi-Fi: “They may be getting free Wi-Fi, but remind them that it is yours. Apps can help with this and also provide another platform to offer sponsorship.”
The ABPCO Conference Cloud campaign currently has in excess of 200 venues committed to offering free Wi-Fi to delegates. The full listing can be found here.