Thanks to Explore and the hundreds of folks that have come to our events (we didn’t call them “Explore” until this year) over the last few years, Social Media Explorer is in the event business. While we’re not a trade organization or even built to the point of being a large event (we’re typically between 250-350 people), we are often too big for many hotels and local meeting spaces. What this means is we have to look to larger hotels and even convention centers to host our events.
Keep in mind, too, that I’ve been a professional public speaker for a few years now. In addition to hosting Explore, I’ve spoken at dozens of events with various sizes and venues. From Dreamforce to SOMESSO (held at Emirates Stadium in London) to the community center in Inez, Ky., I’ve played a lot of places and dealt with a lot of different types of conferences, facilities and set-ups.
One thing that used to bother me quite a bit was the fact that several events didn’t pay speakers. It still bothers me to a degree, but I certainly understand it more now. The cost of putting on even a one-day conference is staggering. Meals alone at one of my Explore events run in the 20-25K range. Add to that any room rentals (which can sometimes be waived if you spend enough on food), audio-visual, staging, power, Internet access, special furniture for exhibition space, travel expenses for staff and speakers and the like and you’re looking at 50-75K per day just to open the doors. And that’s just my little events. Two- and three-day conferences in big convention centers are hundreds of thousands of dollars to put on.
Some of the expense I can understand. Food and catering requires supplies and manpower. Special power setups may require special wiring or safety precautions. But others I just can’t.
On Wednesday of last week, one facility, a hotel in Nashville, Tenn., that we won’t be doing business with, quoted my team $15,000 to provide Internet access to 300 people for one day. If I could have, I would have indicted them for fraud on the spot. For $1000 or so, I could call my friends at AT&T or Verizon, give every person in the room access to a MyFi card and that facility can stick their $15,000 charge.
That is, of course, if they don’t block the wireless signals from the room, which they probably do to ensure they entrap you in the fraud.
No, this isn’t a “wireless should be free” rant, though I believe wonderful places like Starbucks, Panera Bread, Chick-Fil-A and the like have certainly conditioned us to think it should be. (It should be.) Rather, this is a warning to hotels, banquet facilities and even convention centers around the world to know that we’re onto you. We know it doesn’t cost that much to supply Internet to people in your building. The fact you would try to rape your customers of unnecessary charges just because you have the power to block wireless signals and force people to pay up is just bad business.
And the nickel-and-diming beyond Internet access is pretty amusing, too. Run power to classroom style seats with some power cords and power strips? Might run you $2K in some facilities. You think gas is expensive? Just to put coffee out in the morning for events in many hotels — $40-70 per gallon.
Sure, I’m a small guy on the block in the event business and many of the tried and true professionals here will roll their eyes and tsk-tsk me away as a n00b. But if there’s one thing I think I’m onto, it’s proving that an event doesn’t have to bow down to overcharges and arrogance that equates to the raping of the business world.
I’m going to fight to make sure Explore events pay fair prices for fair value. It might mean we have to sacrifice some fanciness from time-to-time (or buy everyone MyFi cards), but dammit, I’m not going to let hoteliers, banquet facilities and convention centers do this to me. Because when they do, they do it to my audience. I like you too much for that.
If you’re in Minneapolis, Irvine (Calif.) or Portland (Ore.) and know of a facility that will be fair, let me know. We’re coming to town and will gladly spend our money with them.
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