Thursday, June 29, 2017

Indecisive about Your Event’s Wi-Fi Needs? Why it’s Keeping You up at Night


Most of my event planning colleagues have limited knowledge about Wi-Fi, bandwidth and access points. If you are like them, you are struggling with how much bandwidth your event really needs and is free Wi-Fi all it is cracked up to be.

It really boils down to connections, applications and expectations. Let me explain by helping you sift through what the attendee wants and the venue has to offer.  

 

The Attendee


At a basic level, attendees expect the same Wi-Fi experience with you that they can get at home and the office. They are not encumbered with only having access in certain rooms at certain times and they can upload and download most apps without restriction.
However, they pay for this freedom and most office networks have a finite number of devices attached to it.

So why is it, when thousands of attendees gather for a conference, they expect lighting fast Internet without a fee? I will tell you why; they have been conditioned to expect it because free Wi-Fi is everywhere – from the coffee shop to the hotel room.

But it isn’t free and you need to level set them with the expectation that great Wi-Fi carries a cost.

In addition, I highly recommend you avoid a plan to limit Wi-Fi to a certain area. All you will do is frustrate your attendees. I was at a conference last year where the only Wi-Fi access was in the hotel room. Guess what happened? Attendees showed up late, left early and missed out on a lot of great conference content.

The Venue


You need to know how the facility is going to provide Wi-Fi to your attendees. Here are a few great questions to ask:

1.      How old is your wireless infrastructure? Most hotels and conference centers should be upgrading their broadband every 5-10 years. So if you have a center that hasn’t touched their Wi-Fi configuration since 2004, which may have a problem.

2.      Are you using Dual Band? 2.4 Ghz is the old standard Wi-Fi frequency while 5 Ghz is the new. Most progressive venues use a combination of frequencies at the same time thus allowing attendees and presenters to use the higher band for areas that need a stronger radio signal.

3.      Will the conference IT staff be constantly monitoring Internet activity? It is important to have someone monitoring overall Internet capacity and the amount of uploads and downloads that is going on within the conference. If an attendee decided to back up their entire laptop to the cloud at your conference, you want the IT staff to be able to identify the IP address that is doing the backup and put a hold to its ability to suck the life out of your bandwidth.

4.      If you are reaching your peak usage, can the venue add more bandwidth? This is probably the greatest insurance you can have. They will see the peak building and quickly work toward a solution to add more dedicated bandwidth to your conference. It won’t happen instantly, but an experienced person knows when to bring on more resources.

5.      Will your bandwidth be shared or dedicated? You really want dedicated bandwidth for a number of reasons, but it will be the more expensive option. However, it will be the more secure and fastest option for your users.

6.      Understand all your connectivity options when you are at the negotiating table. Once you understand what your attendees need, the apps that will be utilized and what your estimated bandwidth capacity requirements are, work with your venue to come up with the fastest, most efficient solution. Try and move toward a reasonable fee, but understand that free is probably not an option. Work on a service level guarantee of a certain up-time and what your recourse is if that guarantee is not met.

How Kalahari Resorts & Conventions Can Help


Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, located in Wisconsin, Ohio and soon to be Pennsylvania, has excellent IT staff just waiting to speak with you!

7 Solutions to Sell New Exhibitors on Your Next Trade Show



For a new potential exhibitor, trade show pricing can be intimidating. Most trade show booths are in the thousands of dollars and if you multiply that by the number of shows exhibitors plan per year, you can see why they might be sweating the details.

In addition, according to International Meetings Review, the majority of growth for booth sales is going to be with small to medium sized companies, who are already stretched with finite talent and resources.

But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. If you are willing to be creative and flexible, there are ways to get the new exhibitor at your show.

Seven Show Solutions


Provide a Justification Tool Kit


Organizations such as
Construction Financial Management Association, CMAA and Power Nigeria already have developed such kits; all you need to do is tailor and tweak it to your conference. Exhibitors need resources to help them justify the expenses and lay out the benefits to their management, especially since your trade show exhibitor has never pitched this type of expense to their boss before.

Create a Booth in a Box Option


Rather than inundating new exhibitors with complicated contracts and the need to work with 10-12 separate suppliers, create a turnkey solution that has one fixed for everything they will need.

Offer a New Exhibitor Discount


You can offer a one-time discount to entice them to your show. My recommendation is that you not be too aggressive, because if you are, they will be “one and done” when it comes to your trade show. 10-15% is reasonable and not so low they can’t come back and justify an increase to their boss next year.

Discount One Item


Discount drayage, electricity or carpet rather than discounting the entire exhibitor fee.  


Let Them Bring in Their Own Vendors


Whether it is an
audio visual rental company or computer rental organization, most potential exhibitors have relationships with companies that may or may not be on the show manager’s list. When new exhibitors are “forced” to work with unknown vendors, it creates more stress for them. Make it easy for them to say yes to your show by eliminating this obstacle.


Create a “Non-Booth” Experience


This is where you will need to become creative with options and space. Perhaps you let them come into the trade show for a day with their iPad rentals and park in an open space. Or you invite them to a “meet and greet” event with other exhibitors.

This option is a bit touchy because of the recent trade show piracy that has been going on where non-exhibitors are showing up at trade shows and poaching on potential customers. The key here is to have rules and a way to clearly identify who is part of your show and who is not.


Show Them Around


New exhibitors need to be mentored and feel welcomed. Have the show manager introduce them to potential new clients, seasoned exhibitors and give them a tour of the show. Have them come in earlier than the rest of the exhibitors in order to spend more one-on-one time with them.


In summary, try one or more of these options to grow your show. Once you get potential exhibitors on the trade show floor, it is should be easy to bring them back year-after-year.

About Hartford Technology Rental



We at Hartford Technology Rental would love to work with you on your next trade show and brainstorm about great solutions. Give one of our technical sales representatives a call at 888-520-5667 or contact us online to learn more about how we can help you! 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Free Wi-Fi at Your Event? 5 Reasons This is a Bad Idea



Wireless Internet connections at meetings have gone from a "nice to have" to a "must have" for participants because they wish to remain connected to their office and family, even when they are hundreds of miles away from them. With the increased amount of open WiFi "hotspots" in hotels and conference centers, attendees may connect to them without realizing the possible risks of doing so.

This blog will explain some of the potential risks of connecting to an open WiFi network from the participants and event meeting services organization point of view and explain what to do to minimize those risks.


What is the Risk?


A Wi-Fi network is, simply put, a data transmission system. Free WiFi is accessible to anyone. Many hotels and conference centers require a passcode or your hotel room number. However, because the network is open to all hotel guests, data transmitted through WiFi network can possibly be intercepted by any computer user connected to the network. Don't ever equate FREE, for SECURE. They are not one and the same.

What about Privacy?


Again, the data you transmit through an open WiFi network may be accessed by others. It’s not secure! User ids and passwords are at potential risk in this environment and anything that is on those systems.

How Does This Happen? 


Data is sent over the Internet in packets (think bundled file folders). For example, e-mail messages or login information, is constructed from several packets, pushed through the bandwidth, together. If you want to log in at your e-mail account over a non-secured connection, the data is not encrypted, so attendees could potentially possess your login information.

What Should Attendees Do To Prevent This?



  1. When you see a free hotspot, check the source. You can see if the source is a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Those can be suspicious, especially when they’re called “Free Wi-Fi” or “Free hotspot”.
  2. Certify that you are on the right WiFi network for the conference. Currently, “Twin” networks are becoming increasingly popular at large events or venues for phishing attacks. Their address will be very close to the right connection. Be aware, and if you have any doubt, flag down your event organizer. 
  3. Put in a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This avoids sending files with sensitive information over an open network. 
  4. Password protect all login information, or better yet use encryption.
  5. Use SSL for both incoming and outgoing e-mail messages.
  6. Always keep your firewall and security software up-to-date, and turn off file and printer sharing.
  7. Password protect your laptop and mobile devices. 



What Should Event Organizers Do?



  1. Obtain a secure and robust WiFi network. Having experts available to assess your security risk and help determine the best network configuration is the best course of action. Renting a WiFi network array should help in both areas, especially with a large number of attendees at your conference. 
  2. Communicate the right network name and credentials to your attendees. Do it before the conference and several times during the event.
  3. Have your AV and IT partners, monitor suspicious WiFi network activity and act to stop it. Ask them to communicate any breeches to you and your team. 


Providing a properly secured and fast WiFi network to your attendees is as important as a great speaker or fantastic educational content. Don't let a slow or unsecured network bring your conference to a halt!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

5 Ways to Enhance Your RFP responses



Every hospitality marketing representative answers Request For Proposals (RFP) and is very familiar with the way to respond. Even though "dates and rates" are still part of the focus, it isn't the total package. Think of your RFP response as a way to tell your destination's story. Yes, it will take more time to accomplish -- but in the end --- it will hopefully yield your city or venue more group business.


Here are 5 things planners ask for, the usual response, and tips to enhance your next response:

PLANNER PICK #1: Event Date and a Few Alternatives

TYPICAL RESPONSE: Most CVB marketing or hotel sales personal look at the dates and either at this point move onto #2 or set the RFP aside because they do not have those dates available.

ENHANCED ALTERNATIVE: Call the meeting planner and discuss what dates you do have available. Try and determine if there is any flexibility with their company or association. Let them know there are savings to their bottom line if they can be flexible. If they still won't budge, thank them for their time and throw the RFP in the trash. 

PLANNER PICK #2: Number of Attendees, Meeting Rooms and Sleeping Rooms Required

TYPICAL RESPONSE: If your convention center or hotel isn't large enough to accommodate this group, again the RFP is discarded.

ENHANCED ALTERNATIVE: Perhaps you need to know more about the meeting before your respond. How many meeting rooms do they need and what size? Can you spread the meeting over several spaces instead of just one? If your hotel has the meeting space but not the hotel rooms, perhaps you work with another hotel next door on overflow? 

PLANNER PICK #3: Cities, States, and Areas of Interest 

TYPICAL RESPONSE: Looking at the cities the planner is considering puts a lump in your throat or a hi-five among office staff. Either you are slumping in your seat or feeling great you have good probability of a win.

ENHANCED ALTERNATIVE: Looking at all the other cities and states, put together a plus and minus page on your area compared to the competition. Tell your story by accentuating the pluses. Use referral quotes but most importantly tell the planner why they would want to meet in your fair city. Think of it this way: give them the story that makes it easy for them to persuade to their boss. 

PLANNER PICK #4: Venue Requirements

TYPICAL RESPONSE: Just the facts ma'am and lots of them. Number of meeting rooms, dimensions, sleeping room types, urban, suburban, or resort hotel. Amenities. Distance from the airport and shuttle service. Restaurants and bars on premise.

ENHANCED ALTERNATIVE: Find out more about the group. What are their interests? Are they bringing their spouse or significant other? Do they want to be downtown or out near the airport? What do they like to do after the meeting? Again, tell a story about your property and what makes it special, but tailor your response to their needs. 

PLANNER PICK #5: Food and Beverage 

TYPICAL RESPONSE: Usually the hotel staff includes every choice available to the planner or a very short listing of food and beverage choices. Neither alternative is particularly helpful to the planner.

ENHANCED ALTERNATIVE: If the planner is making a site visit, ask them to sample some of the menu ideas your banquet staff has come up with. If this is not possible, put together alternative menu choices for the days they are there. Determine if the group wants plated entrees or buffet style. Include healthy choices and local influences, including your choices in beverages.

In summary, it is important to cover the facts about your property and destination in your RFP, but equally important is the ability to sell it. Tell your story and don't be afraid to take risks. Sell the benefits of going to your destination, convention center, and hotel. The best way to advertise a convention center and hotel space is through the RFP process. Use it to tell your story!