The Evolution and Legality of Choice in Exhibitor WiFi and Connectivity
exhibitor wifi service choices
  • by Seth Burstein
  • Mar 11, 2019
  • exhibitor wifi

Let’s say you fly into one of your favorite Florida resorts. You love all that the resort has to offer, but you want to take the opportunity to order in from Chick-fil-A, a treat you don’t have in your hometown. You find a local food delivery service and place an order for your family, but once your hot, crunchy chicken sandwiches arrive at the hotel, the staff confiscates your food and insists that you order room service if you’d like to eat in your room. Any hotel patron would find these demands highly unreasonable, and the resort would undoubtedly have some very angry and demoralized guests on their hands ? guests who would be unlikely to return.


In that same vein, imagine you’ve built a beautiful, highly specialized new booth display for $1 million. However, the show decorator will not allow the exhibitor-appointed contractor from your exhibit house, who architected the booth from the ground up, to complete your build and hook up all of your fancy new tech. You’d be very disgruntled to learn that you now need to explain the complex setup to a team of inexperienced general contractors who’ll likely be unable to get your stand operating optimally. No one would blame you for putting a lot of thought into whether or not you’ll be returning to that show the following year.


Now let’s consider the network connectivity for your brand new booth, where your team of 15 sales people are going to demo nonstop over the next three days using laptops, tablets, and specialized VR demo stations. It’s similar to the scenario in the hotel. You, as an exhibitor at a convention center in the United States, are legally permitted to use whatever networking solution best suits your business ? and by extension, your swanky new booth ? be it cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth or another wireless technology. You know who has your back on this? The FCC. But for some reason, event planners, organizers, producers, and other venue workers continue to perpetuate the myth that exhibitors do not have a choice in selecting the best networking solution for their event Internet connectivity needs.


Its simply not true that you have to settle for the convention center’s WiFi provider, who typically provides generous kickbacks directly to the center. The airways cannot be owned. Just as you have the right to bring in your own floral arrangements, furniture, or a specially designed booth with a team of EAC pros to build it, you’re entitled to choose the best wireless provider to ensure that your websites, apps, videos, virtual reality, augmented reality, AI, chat bots, and so on perform optimally for your product launch, demo, presentation, or any other booth activity that’s mission-critical to the success of your business.


We’re not saying that there’s no place at all for the venue’s chosen WiFi partner. The default solution will work fine for many exhibitors, but there will also be exhibitors for whom a few hundred, or even thousand, dollars is the difference between exhibiting at a particular event and selecting another show to attend instead. Or the company may need specialized high-performance networking with a custom service provider to support their private onsite network and help them make the most of their event participation. And of course, we can’t forget trade show managers with very robust exhibition calendars who may need to attend 10 to 20 events in a row, and for whom it’s simply more efficient to bring their network with them from show to show instead of having to order and wait for installation at every one. For these road warriors, we’d recommend loading an Internet kit into their trunk of standard trade show supplies.


As exhibitors, we’ve all experienced a significant dip in venue wireless (or even wired) network performance as soon as the venue doors open. For those of us who work in healthcare, technology, science, and other innovative fields and are fully dependent on reliable connectivity to do our jobs and showcase our products and services in the best light, we need alternate options. Companies that provide networking and exhibit WiFi rental solutions, like Trade Show Internet, offer options that support a more comprehensive variety of exhibitors attending more shows. When tough economic decisions must be made by marketing teams due to tight budgets, rental kit solutions often provide exhibitors with affordable connectivity options. Likewise, many companies with very large displays and big sales teams need specialized networking via their own onsite IT and connectivity teams who are dedicated to their job and clients. One size does not fit all in event connectivity any more than one booth fits every business for every show.


Remember when stagnating taxi companies thought that everyone would spend the rest of their lives calling disgruntled, overworked dispatchers to get transportation to them, leaving many people stranded with critical travel timelines? Or when newspapers thought that the only way to find a job or a partner or a used air mattress was in their classified sections? Nowadays, we have no such limitations. Transportation is provided by Uber, Lyft, and other companies who help move trade show attendees around conference cities along with local taxis. For years, many taxi drivers were angry about this, but now these services coexist, with more transportation options for more people in more accessible ways. And poor newspapers have had to acquiesce classifieds to an array of sources, like craigslist or various apps that allow for the sale of used goods with the tap of a button.


We encourage event producers, organizers, and planners to consider what will work best for those paying for the privilege of being on their expo floors and to assist us in providing options for the exhibitors who need alternate connectivity solutions to support their business goals and event objectives. Overpriced and underperforming WiFi can send exhibitors running. We’ve all seen seemingly great events die on the vine and disappear due to increased competition for exhibitor dollars and an unwillingness to evolve. With so much riding on high-performing connectivity to get ROI, it really is advantageous for those organizing and managing events to proactively provide these options, for the benefit of their exhibitors and their attendees. After all, no attendee wants to sit through a demo where the exhibitor can’t properly showcase their wares because of subpar connectivity.


We love working with event organizers and producers and the planners who run the shows to help negotiate these services with convention centers upfront, just as they do with many other components of their events. This allows the organizers to offer their exhibitors a competitive set of solutions to suit today’s connectivity requirements and to delight those exhibitors with true freedom of choice. No one wants an angry brand exhibit manager turning up at the show site office to complain. Healthy competition makes things better for everyone. There will still be plenty of exhibitors who’ll happily fill in the exhibitor kit’s house WiFi forms and will be perfectly satisfied with the way the show is executed for them.


But isn’t it time to provide more? Just like hotels, taxi firms and newspapers have had to evolve their offerings, event producers and organizers need to start thinking about expanding their selection of technology solutions for convention center shows and addressing what exhibitors really need in terms of event connectivity… performance and choice.