HEAD TO HEADBetter connectionsSolving Wi-Fi issues at an exhibition is one of the hottest topics of discussion right now because it affects all stakeholders: Venues, organisers and exhibitors. So how do we improve connectivity?Graham Gee IT dIrecTor, earls courT and olympIaFollowing a period of intense research and numerous trials we recently installed a new Wi-Fi system at Earls Court and Olympia (EC&O). This subject therefore remains extremely close to our hearts. Organisers are increasingly keen to use digital solutions to enhance their visitors' experience; indeed for some shows wireless is now essential in order for the event to be deemed successful. Despite this, no manufacturer of wireless technology offers a guarantee that their system will work and yet there are a number of consultancies promising organisers they can provide the Wi-Fi within venues.Our view is that Wi-Fi based on the 2.4GHz band will never completely work in an enclosed environment when there are potentially thousands of devices trying to compete for a limited number of connections. One solution often proposed is to put more access points in but this will not resolve the problem due to the technical constraints of 2.4GHz. Our solution recognises that devices will increasingly have the capability to connect to 5GHz. The increased Wi-Fi experience on a 5GHz network, coupled with a decline in older devices using 2.4GHz, will mean those left have a better chance of connecting. Ultimately it is the need to move to 5GHz that needs to be understood by the industry. It is frustrating that despite considerable investment being made by venues in installing new systems, customers expect it to be free of charge. Comparisons to coffee shops and hotels are meaningless as a system that covers a venue is entirely different to one that requires a few cheap access points. We also need to factor in the maintenance required to keep it working and the costs associated with providing both this and wired connections. It isn't a free service to purchase and operate so why should it be a free system to provide? As organisers start looking at developing their own applications, I wonder if this call for free Wi-Fi is aimed at securing larger margins for these initiatives? If this is true, then a much more open dialogue is required.Tom mcInerneydIrecTor, eTherlIveAs an organisation on the frontline of exhibition Wi-Fi, it is hard to ignore the evidence we are presented with daily. Firstly, many customers are seeing 100 per cent year-on-year demand for onsite networking and Wi-Fi services, meaning we are right to be taking this opportunity to consider what constitutes the best industry model.Secondly, we are currently seeing 20-25 per cent of exhibitors taking up Wi-Fi services per show, indicating there is considerable scope for increased usage. Before we discuss the solutions, it is important to understand that as an industry we have two distinct audiences: Attendees who expect connectivity so they can continue working or interacting while onsite, and exhibitors who require highly reliable connectivity for their stand while keeping booth staff connected.One of the main tasks is education and setting expectations around Wi-Fi with both groups. For example, if it's an exhibitor and connectivity is critical for their stand, they should expect to pay for it. Meanwhile, attendees should be able to connect to a free network at no cost to themselves - just like expecting toilets to be available. That doesn't mean the costs of deploying the network should be a barrier, as many potential revenue strategies exist including sponsorship and ability to collect marketing information when joining. The attendee network should be supported but not to the same level as the exhibitor network and with enough speed for only basic email and browsing. Although some exhibitors may use the service, those who rely on it should be looking to pay.Connectivity requirements need to be concise and early in the booking cycle. Exhibitors need to be engaged to confirm what services they actually want. To support that engagement loop, venue staff need to be trained to present to customers the services available to them - or bring in a specialist partner. In our experience, exhibitors are happy to pay for a reliable, beneficial service, just like power and stand design. If venues get it right, not only will attendees stay longer at shows but more exhibitors will take up service.neIl roberTson-ravo socIal busIness & onlIne manager,Imago TechmedIaThe key issue with Wi-Fi connectivity is network interference and access management by the appropriate party. The venue (or provider), organiser, exhibitor and visitor all contribute to the problem yet we can work together to find a solution. But this will only be achieved if the network is managed at events. Wireless connectivity is an unwritten necessity in this hyper connected age. The knock-on effect for all parties is they expect to get "free Internet" with 100 per cent uptime. The fact is there is no absolute guarantee. Organisers have to set clear KPIs as to what they think an acceptable, concurrent users count will be during an exhibition. It is unlikely 5,000 or more individuals will connect en masse but it could happen, so the infrastructure needs to be ready for that. If a network cannot handle such a load, then all parties need to be made aware upfront. We also need clear guidance from venue/vendor on what the peak and average use is of its wireless networks during similarly-sized shows and post-event feedback to the organiser on where bottlenecks may have occurred. For example, was there a large group of stands next to a theatre, which in turn caused larger connectivity demands? All this should go into next year's planning and be based on real statistics.As organisers we expect to pay for bandwidth, but the first step is for the venue to proactively manage the network. This should be part of the onsite service and be free of charge. It is unfair to expect an organiser to pay for a private Wi-Fi set-up when a suitable hall system already exists.In Wi-Fi utopia, there would also be no network interference. The only way to do this is through mitigation. Free venue support and management of Wi-Fi with clear control of the exhibitors at the request of the organiser should be standard. We must put in place rules and the authority to remove sources of interference from a stand should it be detrimental to the larger network[s]. If we achieve these two things, then the solution isn't too far away. www.exhibitionnews.co.uk 21FOOD FOR THOUGHT
BACK TO BASICS22 www.exhibitionnews.co.ukCONSTANT COMMUNICATIONWhen a show ends, organisers strive to keep visitors interested all year round to produce a repeat visit. Domenic Donatantonio looks at the methods used to keep visitors hookedhe crowds have cleared, the stands have been packed away - another successful show under the belt. Your exhibitors have said your visitors loved the show, as demonstrated by the bagfuls of items bought and promotional material taken away.So a job well done? Well, yes and no. Because now the hard work starts to get people to come back next year.Not so long ago, a note in the post six weeks before the next show would suffi ce as a reminder. However, organisers are now employing far more sophisticated tactics to get repeat visits to shows. Centaur marketing director Nolan O'Connor said the fi rm uses a number of methods to contact its visitors after a show has closed. "The regularity and depth will depend on the show and its affi liated brand," he said. "On the whole, every show will run a 'post event' survey with questions that specifi cally relate to a visitor's experience at a show, or interaction with the show brand. This targets attendees, non-attendees and even potential visitors that have opened one of our emails but not registered."O'Connor explained that for shows where exhibitors use badge scanning machines, visitors will be sent a list of exhibitors they interacted with and were scanned by. "This enables the visitor to contact exhibitors with ease and not sift through carrier bags of information they may have collected and dumped under a desk," he said.REPORT AND ANALYSISCentaur also produces industry reports to complement its shows. For example, its annual National Home Improvement Survey is . Contact your visitors after the show.. Update the show website after the show and include exclusive video content.. Send out a survey to your visitors.. Provide industry-related statistics. . Keep a steady but unobtrusive flow of related content throughout the year to keep visitors primed for the next show.KEY TIPSaffi liated with the National Home Improvement Show.A number of shows will also provide exclusive access to online streaming of seminar content recorded live. "This allows visitors to access seminars that they attended, or indeed seminars they didn't manage to attend during their visit," said O'Connor. "Employee Benefi ts Live is a great example of this."All of Centaur's business travel show visitors are invited to join the Business Travel Club, which meets every other month in London to network and debate industry issues. This allows the fi rm to keep the brand of the Business Travel Show alive during the year when the show is not being promoted.According to Media 10 MD Lee Newton, the nature of exhibitions Tmeans there are peaks and troughs for maintaining interest 365 days a year."We research our visitors both onsite and after the event via the Internet in order to build a robust enough sample and get feedback that is accurate and enables us to take necessary steps," said Newton. "Any quantitative study should be to a statistically accurate number of people, therefore we aim for 1,000 responses. These are visitors chosen at random - it is the best way to get the most representative sample."Media 10 normally sends out a communication thanking visitors for attending. This is done simultaneously with a show website update including video, galleries and new content from the exhibition. CONTINUING EDUCATIONCloserStill Media group marketing manager Lucy Pitt said it takes note of continuing professional development (CPD) needs and tailors show content accordingly."As CPD is central to many of our events' propositions we offer show presentations synched to audio online," she said. "Not only does this give attendees additional CPD hours, it allows us to extend the show's shelf life." Newton said Media 10 tries to keep in touch with all visitors as regularly as possible but without encroaching into spam mail territory."We are fortunate we have brands with events that take place several times a year and - in the case of Grand Designs Live - in other territories too," he said. "This means the brand gains more resonance with visitors throughout the year." With focused marketing, you can make the memory of a good show last well after visitors have gone home.