Meetings Today: How important is Internet bandwidth to your programs (i.e., Wi-Fi), and do you think hotels are being more or less flexible with their Internet bandwidth pricing? Any tips to share with your fellow planners to get free or discounted Wi-Fi for your meetings?

Angie Silberhorn: Our attendees are well-traveled and generally have their own data plans that meet their bandwidth needs. This makes our Wi-Fi usage surprisingly low--only about 30 percent of attendees using basic level Wi-Fi. -- Angie Silberhorn, CMP, Conference Director, Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), Oak Brook, Ill.

Illene Page: I think Wi-Fi is a non-negotiable. However, it still varies greatly by hotel and country. -- Ilene Page, Global Meeting & Event Planner, Front Page Events, Palo Alto, Calif.

Stacy Wald: I order Wi-Fi when I am on-site. The reason is to see if the internet “bleeds” from the guest areas (room and lobby). Since the AV department did not budget for Wi-fi, then I have better chance to negotiate a better rate on-site. -- Stacy Wald, CMP, Director of Meeting Events, Data Trace Management Services, Towson, Md.

Gary Schirmacher: Wi-Fi is critical to the world in general. The first thing my kid’s friends ask when they come to my house if for the Wi-Fi password. No one wants to pay for low-bandwidth internet access. They will pay, however, for fast, reliable and easy to access internet bandwidth. My biggest advice would be for planners to know EXACTLY how much bandwidth their attendees are using at ALL hours of the day. Too many planners ask for the fastest internet 24/7 during their events and end up with a bit of sticker shock. Know the usage rates at the venue and hotels, when is the need for the highest bandwidth; probably not on the weekend or at night, and maybe not during lunch if people go out for lunch. -- Gary Schirmacher, CMP, Senior Vice president, Industry Presence & Strategic Development, Experient, A Maritz Global events Company, Boulder, Colo.

Liz Whitney: Internet in the meeting space is becoming a must with our attendees. We feel that this should be part of the meeting contract at no extra cost to us. We ask for complimentary Wi-Fi during the negotiation process. It is interesting that some high-end venues charge a lot for meeting-space internet and the smaller venues give us internet at no charge. It is a very mixed bag. It is also hard to go green when a venue charges a lot for internet. -- Liz Whitney, WLP, International Warehouse Logistics Association (IWLA), Des Plaines, Ill.

Wendy Sutowski: Every event we host now requires Wi-Fi in the meeting space to allow use of our mobile app as well as allowing our attendees to continue doing business while out of the office. The flexibility of costs varies from venue to venue. Some are willing to waive certain fees but not others. Some are willing to reduce but some are simply exorbitant. -- Wendy Sutowski, CMP, Director of Events, The American College, King of Prussia, Pa.

Gina E. Allega: We typically don't have specific requirements for bandwidth on most of our programs (a few exceptions). So for a majority of programs, we just get the lowest pricing or try to have the cost waived since we don't use much. -- Gina E. Allega, CMP, Senior Program Manager, Meeting & Event Services North America, BCD Travel, Cleveland

Debbie Kopkau: Yes, very Wi-Fi dependent. Not seeing any change for the ones that offer it for free. If the venue did not offer it for free, they are maintaining the cost, but it has been more based on bandwidth or number of devices. You may want to explore this with your AV company. They may be able to provide a router and great bandwidth for one line from the hotel. -- Debbie Kopkau, Director of Certification, MBA, CAE, CMP, GMS, Michigan School Business Officials, Lansing, Mich.

Scott Shellman: Internet is ever-more important nowadays than ever, and guests expect to have it for free. It is so commonplace to be able to get onto a business’s Wi-Fi that they expect it in their guest room and in the meeting. I wish hotels would quit nickel and diming groups on Internet coverage--they know guests need it and they should supply basic Wi-Fi throughout the hotel--build it into their room rates! If groups need enhanced service, then charge for that, but it has essentially become akin to turning the lights on. I can’t wait for the day when we can wheel in a free-standing Wi-Fi unit and just bypass the hotel’s service. -- Scott Shellman, Principal, Framework Meetings and Destinations, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 

Geoffrey S. Duncan: Wi-Fi is extremely important. Many clients make their hotel decisions with bandwidth as a top priority. No streaming = No booking. With so many “free” hotspots, clients expect internet service to be included or extremely low cost and demand higher capacities but are not willing to pay for it. Almost ransoming: “Give it to us for free or we’ll go elsewhere.” -- Geoffrey S. Duncan, Director of Sales & Marketing, Radius Display Products, Dallas

Jack Molisani: More flexible, because I demand them to be. Here is something I put in my RFI/RFP each year: 

“Wireless internet (150Mps, unlimited IP addresses) in meeting rooms and exhibit hall should be comp. This is a requirement, not a request. If your property doesn’t normally comp internet, build that cost into the guest room rate and then negotiate with and pay your internet provider directly.”

The above wording accomplishes a few things: 1.) I am acknowledging that there is a cost involved with internet and I am not asking for it for “free”; 2.) I pass the cost on to the attendee via their room rate; and 3.) I know that most hotels are receiving a kick-backs or commissions, so taking me out of the payment process allows the hotel to (at minimum) waive that markup behind-the-scene. And if I hotel doesn’t want to do that? Well, I’ll go to a hotel that will. -- Jack Molisani, Executive Director, The LavaCon Conference, Long Beach, Calif.

Carl Lambrecht: Our meetings are too small for this to be a concern. -- Carl Lambrecht, General Manager, Laurel Industries, Highland Park, Ill.

Don Pietranczyck: It’s all about Wi-Fi, especially on the tradeshow floor. People are not only using it for social but also for POS and streaming product information for display/sales purposes. There needs to be a coming together of the industry to see how we can negotiate better Wi-Fi fees with convention centers. They are currently holding all the cards and pricing to reflect that. -- Don Pietranczyk, Senior Manager, Experiences and Activations, New York City

Diana Bryant: We typically only order Internet for presentations, not for all attendees. Fortunately, many venues have comped Wi-Fi in the meeting space and sleeping rooms. I ALWAYS make this a request in our RFPs. If the contract doesn’t include it, I return it and specifically request it again and have had very good results-- Diana Bryant, Director, Conferences & Meetings, TVPPA (Tennessee Valley Public Power Association), Chattanooga, Tenn.

Kay B. Clark: I try to negotiate a flat rate at the time of contracting. (I don’t want surprises two years later when we are on-site.) At every meeting I ask the Internet provider to give me daily reports showing our total bandwidth usage. That way I can negotiate with actual data for the upcoming meetings. It has been helpful to show previous meetings actual usage reports and I have successfully kept Wi-Fi costs down. -- Kay B. Clark, CMP, Director, Meetings & Events, Material Handling Industry, Charlotte, N.C.

Samantha Vogel: Internet bandwidth is vital to our show as we are a gaming and streaming show! In terms of show production, cities often tell us we’re one of the most complex production shows outside the Super Bowl. As planners, while we have a wide breadth of knowledge about a lot of things, we’re not always experts when it comes to the gritty details like bandwidth. A few years ago, we started utilizing some of our in-house corporate resources.  Now we travel with a network engineer from our GameStop office. Our network engineer is able to talk to us and our sponsors and really understand the needs of the show. Then they work directly with the center to negotiate the proper amount of internet bandwidth and come up with creative solutions to ensure we have what we need at a fair price. Don’t have a network engineer on staff? No problem, you can easily contract one to help you achieve your needs and save you money in the long run. -- Samantha Vogel, CMP, Sr. Manager, Meetings & Travel, GameStop, Inc., Dallas

Tracy Orpin: Bandwidth is very important. I feel hotels are way off base with their pricing. I hope more include it like Disney does. I do my best to negotiate the bandwidth and pricing when the contract is done. Sometimes it is hard because the bandwidth changes with the amount of attendees. -- Tracy Orpin, CMP, IAAP, Kansas City, Mo.

Katie K Riggs: I would say more venues are finally updating out of date technology which is good. This also means that they are attempting to charge a pretty penny for it. I suggest placing it in your RFP from the start. We always look for a discounted buy-out option for meeting space or complimentary W-iFi. We also ask for it complimentary in guest-rooms. Once again the best thing is to ask up front when they are competing for your business. -- Katie K Riggs, CMP, CMM, CAE, HMCC, VP, Client & Conference Services, Raybourn Group Int., Indianapolis

KD O'Neal: Bandwidth is critical to the programming at our institution with the increase demand to make programs and sessions more interactive, engaging and informative. -- KD O'Neal, CMP MBA, Conference & Event Services Manager, University of Dallas, Irving, Texas

Jef Robinson: This is extremely important, especially as a tech organisation! We always expect free Wi-Fi to be provided as standard, but ask for “best available." Large meetings and conferences are slightly different, but as a general rule we expect free Wi-Fi in hotel rooms and public areas.--Jef Robinson, Global Category Manager–Travel & Meetings, Anonymous, London

Chere L Brooks: Very important to our conference; we usually offer it as a sponsorship item to help curb the cost. -- Chere L Brooks, Learning Events Manager, Habitat for Humanity International, Atlanta

Leslie Zeck: We cannot afford the high cost of convention center Wi-Fi so we only offer the lowest possible bandwidth that is the cheapest if it is not already free to us for booking the convention facilities. -- Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, HMCC, Director of Meetings, International and American Associations for Dental Research, Alexandria, Va.

Megan Martin: Mission critical. As more meetings are going digital with materials, Wi-Fi is going to be a critical component to the meetings. My suggestion is to negotiate the price during the contracting phase. -- Megan Martin, CMP, MPA, Senior Meeting Manager, National Conference of State Legislatures, Denver