Millbrook: Net benefits

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Wireless Internet access is a necessity rather than a luxury at most events, yet paying for it is still the norm. Kevin Leaver, head of events at Millbrook Events, explains why the concept of paying for Wi-Fi in venues should have been dropped in the last century…

Venues in the UK need to get smarter at delivering what event organisers, and ultimately exhibitors and delegates, actually want. For example, we exhibited at a well-known trade fair last year and were charged almost £100 for Internet access over the two-day event. When you have already paid for the space, the

set-up and displays, that extra expense leaves a sour taste in your mouth. Of course, the use of the Internet at events has increased dramatically.

Venues and event organisers regularly cater for business needs, offering support for live streaming for presenters who are unable to attend in person, Twitter walls, which feature instant updates, live feeds of the event to the web and exhibitors demonstrating products or websites at their stand, including the use of QR codes (quick response barcodes). In addition, delegates are increasingly using their smart phones to stay in email contact with the office.

All of this technology does not come cheap. You can’t just plug in a home server and open the doors. It is important to consider how many devices will be logging on, what download speeds and search response times will be required, how to apply security settings and how you manage the different bandwidth priorities of the event within the venue. Event organisers also need to ensure they have in place an acceptable use policy and comply with the Digital Economy Act when it comes to retaining customer data and tracking the activities of users.

However, nowhere does it say that the end user should be the one to pay for all of this. Venues and event organisers need to be savvier when it comes to attracting business – and a free Wi-Fi package is a great way of standing out in a crowded marketplace. Delegates and exhibitors will vote with their feet if the overall experience isn’t up to scratch so, quite frankly, the sooner free Wi-Fi becomes the norm at events, the better.