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Trade Show Internet Access: Everything You Need To Know For Your Next Event

Shot of three coworkers looking at a digital tablet while standing in an office

Trade shows and events yield an impressive range of promotional perks, making them an ideal addition to any marketing strategy. From small companies to global corporations and every size and scope in between, working the trade show floor can help you connect with your demographic and strengthen your overall brand. Most importantly, these live marketing events deliver ample opportunity to size up what your competition has to offer and how to strategically outshine them during the function.

No matter where we go, we often feel the need to stay “plugged in” with access to the Internet. This is especially true when working trade show exhibits and booths. As a marketer, you will want your employees staffing your exhibit to have online connection for a wide range of reasons. First and foremost, you will want them to have access to the data they need to effectively run presentations, post social media updates, answer visitor questions, take trade show leads using online software, and even generate the needed paperwork for a sale, all while working your trade show booth. Additionally, even while manning the stand, you will still want them to be able to read emails and respond to customers who may not have made it to the exhibit.

Your employees aren’t the only ones that you will want to grant Internet access to. You will also want to consider ways to keep your booth guests and new visitors connected. If they enter your trade show exhibit and find they can’t get a signal, many will instantly move on to the nearest competitor’s exhibit or booth to ensure that they can stay plugged in.


Changing Internet Behavior Changes How Business Use Wi-Fi At Events

Yes, most venues will offer Internet access of some sort. However, these venues can still find themselves plagued with connectivity issues. Why? According to a PCMA article, Why The FCC Is Fighting Wi-Fi Wars In The Convention Industry, many reasons can contribute to the disconnect. Outdated systems and setups have played a major role in various venues falling short with their connectivity.

Many hosting show halls were built with fixed stations for connectivity that, while sufficient for previous corporate generations, are not enough for today’s constantly plugged-in world that relies on smartphones and mobile devices to grant them constant access to information, no matter where they roam. PCMA member, Bill Reed, noted in the article that, “The traditional model at convention centers is built upon outdated behavior models, and the infrastructure is not in place to support highly connected attendees.”

The article goes on to discuss how, to combat the ever-evolving Wi-Fi reliance; many organizations are looking for newer innovations and options to keep their companies connected. For some attendees, using the venue network will still prove a relevant solution. However, Reed notes that, as Wi-Fi reliance continues to grow, “More organizers are bringing their own network in order to get a flexible design of access point locations rather than the fixed locations built in to the current convention center model for Wi-Fi.”


FCC Laws Respond To Business’ Need To Stay In Touch During Trade Shows

The FCC is also stepping in to assist business owners in their quest for unwavering connectivity. Recent FCC laws, dubbed the Open Internet Rules, have been put in place to help minimize business owners’ concerns that their employees will miss out on invaluable data by not having easily-accessible Internet during the event. The three main components of the Open Internet Rules includes:

  • Broadband providers can’t block access to Wi-Fi connection to lawful sites, applications, content and devices.
  • Broadband networks can’t slow down (aka “throttle”) access to lawful sites and applications.
  • Broadband providers can no longer offer quicker access to designated users while throttling and/or blocking others.

Despite the FCC’s latest efforts, some trade show exhibitors have still fallen victim to potential unlawful disconnect and disruption. Case in point, Trade Show News Network recently ran an article, FCC Fines Smart City $750,000 for Blocking Consumers’ Wi-Fi in Convention Centers which outlines allegations that Smart City knowingly impeded various convention attendees from accessing Wi-Fi during an event. While not outwardly admitting the infraction, Smart City decided to pay the penalty without an admission of guilt to minimize bad publicity, as well as expected costs of fighting the charges.

Even without a clear admission of guilt, the settlement sends a very clear message to broadband providers. Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau was quoted in the article stating, “It is unacceptable for any company to charge consumers exorbitant fees to access the Internet, while at the same time blocking them from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot-spots to access the Internet.” With the threat of litigation, broadband providers may think twice before attempting to impede or outright prohibit access to Wi-Fi, making trade show participation even more appealing to business owners in every industry.



Make Sure You Keep Your Trade Show Exhibit Wi-Fi Ready

Now that the online playing field has been leveled, it’s critical to ensure your exhibits stay Wi-Fi ready at all times. As an exhibitor, you will have three main choices to consider before every event. What is your first option? Working with the hosting venue to purchase their connection package. While this may seem like the most convenient option, it’s important to note that it can prove an expensive one; you will want to check your budget before moving forward with this one.

You can also consider personal mobile hot-spots at live marketing events. Purchasing a unit will create a berth for Internet connection. These hot-spots mean that anyone visiting your booth should be able to connect online as well.  However, please do your homework and ensure you have chosen a provider with ample experience and good references.

Tech for Trade Shows Exhibitors White Paper

If you do decide to exhibit at a Technology show you may want to request our Tech for Trade Shows Exhibitors white paper which outlines how exhibitors are currently incorporating technology into their exhibits to maximize results. Request your free copy of Tech for Trade Show Exhibitors and learn how you can integrate technology in many different ways.

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About the Author

As President of Skyline Exhibitor Source, John focuses on the overall vision and direction of the company's large exhibit projects and provides guidance in education, implementation and creative ideation. John has been directly involved in the trade show industry for the past 16 years, and the past 11 years as President of his company that helps clients get the most from their Nashville trade show booths.

One response to “Trade Show Internet Access: Everything You Need To Know For Your Next Event

  1. Thanks John for sharing this!
    Problem is, internet isn’t a luxury anymore, it is vital to most businesses. Check before participating in a trade show what kind of wifi quality you can expect and prepare a plan B – you need your own 3G as a backup plan!

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