The WiFi vs. hardwired Internet connection question is not simple and straightforward. The question “can I get away with a WiFi connection?” prompts the answer, “it depends.” Even “can I get away with using the show provided WiFi or do I need to bring my own hotspot?” results in the same, “it depends” answer.
It depends on what you plan on doing via the Internet. Will you be playing video or will you just be tweeting?
It also depends on how many devices are connected at one time. Will the WiFi network you purchase from the show be solely for your booth or are all exhibitors using it? Are attendees using that network as well?
It even depends on where your booth is located in the building. Is your booth close to the nearest WiFi access point or is it far away?
And of course, it depends on how important what you are doing via the Internet is to your trade show success. Are you running demos of your product over the Internet or are you just looking to post a few pictures on social media?
If your success hinges on dependable access to the Internet at high speeds, then the answer is most likely going to be, buy the hardwired connection. You may not need a dedicated line and can opt for a shared connection thus saving some money.
If the Internet connection is important for your success, but you are not transferring a lot of data back and forth, you will probably be safe bringing in your own WiFi network. One such option is a personal mobile hotspot. You can purchase a mobile hotspot from many mobile carriers or device manufacturers. Another option is to rent a 4G Internet kit from an independent vendor.
If an Internet connection is a nice little extra, but your success is not dependent on its reliability or fast speeds, then using the show provided WiFi for exhibitors might be all you need. Notice we said Wi-Fi for exhibitors.
The free WiFi option that shows provides is meant for use by attendees, it’s not for exhibitors’ use. Tapping into the attendee WiFi network is like holding your 40th birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. Sure, they might not stop you, but you just might have bumped a five-year-old from their desired party date.
Perhaps you are now thinking, “The show organizer said we can’t bring our WiFi network with us. We have to buy it from them. Now what?”
In most cases, you most certainly can bring in your own network. As a consumer, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) protects your right to use compliant wireless devices in hotels, conference centers, and convention centers. Just this year Marriott was fined $600,000 after the Federal Communications Commission found the company blocked WiFi networks during an event in Nashville.
You should print out that notice and case linked above, laminate them and have them on hand at all times during the trade show. Show those documents to anyone telling you that you cannot use your mobile hotspot or 4G Internet access. If you get pushback from the show, you can report them to the FCC as evidence in the commission’s ongoing investigation of in-house Internet service providers.
If you are still not certain what type of connection you need, talk to your internal IT department and ask them. If you don’t have expertise in house, bring in an outside expert to evaluate what type of service you need and exactly what the show is offering.
There are many areas of technology to consider for your trade show booth. Read the Tech for Trade Show Exhibitors white paper to enhance and advance your trade show program and learn how to utilize your options. Click here for your free copy.