A document defining what venues should include in a basic free Wi-Fi package is to be drawn up following a round-table meeting of venues and professional conference organisers (PCOs).
The event, which took place at Twickenham Experience, was organised as part of the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers’ (ABPCO) Conference Cloud campaign for free Wi-Fi access for conference delegates.
ABPCO chair Michael Foreman said: “It went really well. We had the right audience, with all the major venues and PCOs in the country. The key outcome is that venues and PCOs need to work together to define what free Wi-Fi is. To define the basic requirements for delegates that they don’t have to pay for, like checking emails. We’ve also got to communicate what the client is expecting in terms of connectivity.
“We worked through a number of ideas; what questions need to be asked by the organiser and we came up with a document which outlines this.”
Foreman added that there was some interesting debate around the concept of ‘basic’ connectivity, with some people saying full Skype facilities should be available, while others argued that only voice calling was a basic and video was not.
“For the venues, they need to define what ‘basic’ is themselves – this an opportunity for them to add value as some packages will be better than others,” he said.
Iona Courtenay-Warren from Hotelscene agreed: "We need to be very clear about the difference between free and free to use Wi-Fi. Clients don't mind paying for a service, but want it packaged as part of the rate, not a line item. Clients are interested in total cost, not separate items."
Ian Bull from Cisco added: "What a fantastic debate, it's great to see venues and PCOs coming together to share their views and to learn and understand the potential revenue opportunities. There are many ways venues could package Wi-Fi offerings to cover the high density of users. For example, using Wi-Fi as a means of promoting event sponsorship and value added services to users."
The Conference Cloud campaign has already signed up more than 100 venues across the UK committed to offering free Wi-Fi, while more than 200 individuals have signed the petition. ABPCO plans to host a further discussion on the topic at its annual conference in January 2012 in London.