First, there was this Tweet from Ron Hogan: Planning to blog at #BEA09? The New Media Zone will have about 10 electrical outlets; you’re responsible for your own WiFi.
Then – a correction: To repeat last night’s clarification from Roger Bilheimer, the #BEA09 New Media Zone has 10 electrical outlets AND internet connections.
Then, Kat Meyer pondered how much she’d be bringing with her: is it true about no wifi? should i not bring my 40 pound laptop to Javitts? #bea09
BEA attendees warned those giving sessions that it’s BYOW for BEA: RT @russmarshalek: If your session on social media requires streaming content, make sure u have wifi. #obama #bea09
Then the sessions began, and Ron Hogan quoted one presenter as saying: #BEA09 Use online resources to reach your customers: Facebook & Twitter along w/email.
Yeah. It would be a lot easier to do that if THE VENUE HAD WIFI.
Are you freaking kidding me? It’s almost like a drinking game – every time a presenter talking about the publishing industry touts the use of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or any other online almost-real-time social media at a conference, and the presentation is in a place with shitty internet connection, grab your flask and chug. It’ll dull the pain. How many times are people eager to hear about new advances in social media publicity and online horizontal marketing going to hear about how important Twitter is within a venue that won’t let them connect? It’s looneytunes!
I went through this at Digital Book 2009, where the wifi in the McGraw Hill auditorium was abysmal, and the “avonguest” connection that was available soon became completely overwhelmed with the number of people hopping onto it. From years working in IT, I know to carry backup plans when dealing with technology – and my cell phone, my wireless broadband, and my laptop were all unable to maintain a connection, no matter what I did.
So I gave up, even though there were a number of people online who couldn’t attend the Digital Book conference who were eagerly waiting for Twitter updates. It was the one logistical flaw in an otherwise fantastically-planned conference.
The lack of available wifi and outlets makes it seem that BEA isn’t interested so much in building the kind of real-time buzz that folks looking in from points online enjoyed with conferences like Tools of Change, Digital Book, or Making Information Pay.
I’m well aware of how expensive venue space is in New York City, and for an event like BEA, spaces that contain an event that massive are tricky. But wifi isn’t, and really, if you’re a publisher and you want to make a splash? Spread the word that you’ll host a wifi connection free for random folks at your booth, and people will Tweet the wisdom and your name all over the damn place. It seems that wifi is available at the Javitz —for a fee.
So from the perspective of a conference attendee who is eager to share immediately with a curious audience what’s happening at your event, here’s a wishlist:
I carry a backup recharge power source, a small laptop, a power cable, an iPhone, charger, two USB cables and two thumb drives. Most of the time I have to use all of it, especially the backup source.
At Tools of Change in Publishing, there were extension cords run up and down the sides of the room, with outlets available in every aisle, and people plugged in from their seats. It was the first conference I’d ever seen where A/C power was a priority for those attending – and boy howdy, everyone had a laptop and was writing like crazy.
Wifi. FREE WIFI.
A paid connection? FAIL. I get annoyed with hotels for doing this, and conference venues are no different. If Holiday Inn Express can get me free Wifi in my room, why the hell should I pay $14 or more for the same service in my room at an upscale hotel?
Same for conferences: if people are already paying to get into the event, sometimes to the tune of several hundred dollars just for a day’s worth of activity, include the Wifi. At the Javitz center: it’s $30.00 a DAY, according to Heather Osborn (via Twitter).
That is a goddam outrageous ripoff.
Further, if there is free wifi for attendees, make sure it’s sturdy enough to handle the traffic, and make sure the connection info is available in more than one location.
ToC was also one of the first conferences that actively cultivated the use of Twitter coverage and collated every mention of their conference hashtag. The attendees were a community of press coverage, each one tweeting the speeches and the presentations they attended – and if the tweets from one were more interesting than another, folks would switch rooms mid-session. Live real-time coverage helps the attendees get as much out of the experience as they can, AND cultivates a potential audience of new attendees for the following year. I bet ToC will have epic huge attendance in 2010, because the online feed of information from the 2009 conference was exceptional.
Seats near those outlets.
Ever spent 2+ hours on the floor near a wall because that was where the outlet was? I once spent most of a conference under a table because the only outlet available was in the far corner. It’s pretty hard to network when I’m trying to stay on the network at the same time and my only option is to look like the mother of all introverts (which I am).
Chairs near outlets are always a plus. I hear from Alison Heittman via Twitter that at Google’s IO 2009, there’s lounges and power outlets in amongst the seats. She wishes for power stations to charge a variety of gadgets – which is a smart idea, and a great advertising opportunity for whatever vendor decides to host “charge stations” and… by golly, offer those charging up their phones a chance to, I dunno, read something?
The disconnect between actual online access and directives to seize the opportunities of online access at conferences about publishing is approaching absurd humor levels. Don’t be the conference where half the online coverage is gripes about the lack of online access. If you want real-time coverage and instant interest that may last to increase attendance for next year, remember:
If you wifi, we will Tweet.