WiFi: A conference requirement

    December 13, 2005

Last week, one comment kept recurring at Lawrence Ragan Communications’ annual Web Content Management conference in Chicago: “Why don’t they have WiFi?”

The conference was held at the ancient Knickerbocker hotel, where in-room broadband ran $9.95 a night. (The day is coming when hotel-wide WiFi will be free.) You even had to pay, I was told, when connecting to the WiFi in the lobby. And although the ballroom where the conference was held was just off the lobby, the signal didn’t reach that far. Thus, a number of attendees who would have liked to blog the conference were frustrated in their efforts.

Blogging the conference would have provided Ragan with a number of benefits. The links to the company from these blog postings would have given it a ton of Google juice. Readers of these blogs would have learned about the company and ultimately some would have been enticed to attend next year’s conference, or perhaps some other Ragan professional development offering. The cost of providing WiFi in the ballroom (where every session was held) would have been dramatically offset by the free publicity provided by these would-be bloggers.

IABC offers free WiFi at the trade show at its international conferences, but not in the meeting rooms where bloggers would need it to write in near-real-time about the sessions. I’m not sure what PRSA or other communication organizations do, but I’d be surprised if any made WiFi pervasively available wherever their conferences are taking place. I hope I’m surprised soon.

Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.