Now that you have read through the first four parts of this series and have a good grasp on what your Wi-Fi needs are, you and your team are probably discussing two items regarding your next conference:
1. Is your Wi-Fi access going to be free and
2. If it isn’t free, how are you going to pay for it?
While the debate about "free vs. fee" Wi-Fi will continue this year, it is with all certainty that you are going to require fast, secure and robust Internet service. If your meeting is tech driven and it is large, your Wi-Fi access will not be free.
Here are 8 ideas to keep Wi-Fi costs under control and potentially appear "free" to the attendee. I would recommend that you implement as many of these ideas as possible to keep your budget within reasonable control.
Sign a multi-year and/or multi-meeting deal with your supplier.
If your Wi-Fi provider can forecast revenue into multiple meetings or years, they can forge a long-term relationship with you, know more about your events and put together competitive pricing based on the total revenue they will receive over the course of the contract.
Look at an outside vendor to provide Wi-Fi network arrays and technical support.
In order to keep your budget intact, understand all your Internet conference needs and make sure the venue doesn't mandate in-house exclusivity for Wi-Fi.
Have the presenters go to the Wi-Fi Rooms.
Rather than having several Wi-Fi configurations in different rooms throughout the day, put the speakers in the rooms that meets their Wi-Fi needs. You will save a lot of money on labor and monitoring peak usage if you know ahead of time some presenters use a lot of bandwidth and some use none.
Build the Wi-Fi Cost into the Room Block Rate.
While this sounds good on paper, Wi-Fi needs are going to vary depending on how many devices your attendees bring to the meeting and what apps are running on them. Building a fair and reasonable Wi-Fi cost can be built into the room rate if you know the total consumption of Wi-Fi for your conference.
Build Wi-Fi Costs into the Registration and Exhibitor Fees.
While this too sounds great, it is something that could also backfire. Attendees may see right through what you are doing. For example, if your reg fee is $50 more per attendee over last year's event, attendees may ask why the increase. Exhibitors may want a reduced fee if they bring in their own private network. The trouble with this solution for exhibitors is it may interfere with the overall network signal on the trade show floor (which will be discussed in Part 6). Most of all, if this solution doesn't provide pricing transparency; it could be a real problem for attendees and exhibitors.
Customize Your Wi-Fi Solution Based on Need and Charge Accordingly.
Separate Wi-Fi needs into 6 categories -- organizer, attendee, exhibitor, speaker, sponsor and media. Have an understanding of what each segment needs from the Internet. The key to this solutions is having clear communications -- understand what they are bringing, using and where each niche will be positioned in your meeting space.
Sell Sponsor-Branded Wi-Fi Splash Pages.
In case you are wondering what a splash page is, it is the page attendees’ will first see when they log onto the Wi-Fi system. By selling a series of sponsor-driven pages, your organization can gain monetary contributions to offset the cost of your Wi-Fi solution.
Look for Local Sponsors.
With Internet-based applications such as Yelp and Foursquare, you can tap restaurants, attractions, and night-life for potential sponsor opportunities, like never before.
For example, your organization can host a Tweet-Up at a local attraction and ask everyone to check-in once they are onsite. You can work with the venue ahead of time to extend a special discount to attendees who write a review about their experience. And you can charge a sponsorship fee to that establishment that will help you pay for your Wi-Fi.