Charles Christian’s Blog

I’ve been attending a lot of conferences and events over the past three months and one of the things I’ve noticed is the importance of the availability of free wifi. Why wifi?

One reason is increasingly delegates and other event attendees will tweet the details of the conference to their respective followers – and if a conference organiser cannot appreciate the benefit of this kind of free publicity, then they shouldn’t be in the event organising business in the first place. Secondly, even if delegates aren’t into tweeting, they still need wifi to access their emails and keep in touch with the wider world.

So why can’t they use their own 3G smartphones?

Well… they could except if they are foreign delegates, they are going to be severely spanked on their data roaming bills. And that, of course, is assuming they – or any other delegates – can get a decent signal, as all too often conference rooms are housed in hotel basements or at the back of buildings, where the 3G signal is weak or pretty much inaccessible.

Then there can be geographic factors. For example, New York City has an overloaded 3G network infrastructure, so if you attend an event there, don’t be surprised if your email messages takes six hours to be delivered. Closer to home in the UK, two of the most popular venues for tech shows in London are constructed in such a way that phone signals either cannot fight their way into the building through the bunker-like walls or else they create a natural Faraday Cage to block signals.

Oh yes, and if you are an event organiser, don’t even think of offering delegates one of those pay-by-the-day/pay-as-you-go wifi deals that hotels still try to foist on their guests. Today, free wifi should be as much a part of the standard package for delegates as the conference literature, free pens and stewed tea and coffee organisers have traditionally served up during intervals in the programme. In fact given the choice, most delegates would probably opt for free wifi over free coffee.