The (lingering) Fear of Technology for
Conferences and Events - Part II

YES OR NO: Should WiFi be accessible to all attending a conference/meeting/event?

Many have been there; at a conference, you pull out your phone to tweet or look something up, only to find there is no WiFi connection.

Hyper-connectivity has become part of daily life and to find one disconnected in a place that connection only seems logical leaves many scratching their heads. 

Event attendees might be wondering what is stopping event organizers from pulling the trigger to include WiFi at conferences; here are two possibilities:

1) If people want to connect they can use their mobile (3G, 4G LTE) connection.

Organizers are typically SMART phone owners themselves and they know that their phone has a mobile connection granting them access to the internet, so why does the conference need to provided WiFi, especially when it is going to cost them more to do so? Not offering WiFi can be viewed as a cost saving measure.

2) Giving people a WiFi connection means they’ll be on their phone playing or working, ignoring the presenters.

First, if you have this fear, you likely have the wrong presenter. According to Scott Stratten a.k.a. @unmarketing, author of The Book of Business (Un)Awesome & Unmarketing.

“If playing Angry Birds is more exciting than your talk, that’s not the audiences fault.” … “I want it to be so good they don’t want to miss a second, but so amazing they want to tweet/share/send every line.” 

That could be a post itself though. Attendees aren’t looking for WiFi for the purpose of avoiding conference materials or as a back-up should the speaker should be a dud; they are more often than not seeking the connection to enhance their experience.

“Today’s conference attendees, armed with laptops, flip cameras and smart phones, are no longer sitting quietly taking notes during presentations.

They are using their new tools to document, take notes, check the presenter’s facts, search for resources, post and publish their reflections and connect with others in and outside the room.” Tweeting At Conferences And Events: The Good, The Better, The Best. by Jeff Hurt

Studies in academic environments have shown that “adults who tweet during a class and as part of the instruction:           

  • are more engaged with the course content
  • are more engaged with the instructor
  • are more engaged with other students
  • and have higher grades than the other students.”

From Now Proven! Using Twitter At Conferences Increases Attendee Engagement by Jeff Hurt - Source Twitteracy: Tweeting as a New Literacy Practice by Professor Christine Greenhow of Michigan State University.

People aren’t using Social Media to share details of their breakfast (though if the breakfast is really good they might – thank you to those who tweet our breakfasts!) and they aren’t looking for a WiFi connection so they can beat their high score on Angry Birds. People are often using WiFi connections and Social Media as a way to share information, collaborate, build connections, ask questions, further thinking and continue conversations.

Concerns of costs need to become concerns of value; the value you can gain, the value your attendees can generate and receive. Worries of distraction should act as a challenge to find engaging speakers and create sessions that people can’t help but talk about.

What are your thoughts on providing or having WiFi at the conferences and events that you plan or attend? Is it necessary? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? What else effects decisions about offering WiFi?

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