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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Winnipeg Convention Centre's Turn to Get Wireless

There's a story by Geoff Kirbyson in last Sunday's Winnipeg Free Press that MTS Allstream and Rogers are spending $1.5 million over the next six months to upgrade the wireless service for Jets fans and everyone else who uses the MTS Centre.

So, here's a related question for you:

Q: Which of the following is most likely to have free wireless service in Winnipeg?
a) Safeway stores b) Your child's orthodontist c) Winnipeg Convention Centre d) Any McDonald's

You're smiling right now, because you know which one it isn't.

Let's say you want to live tweet an election debate, conference, trade show or other event at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Or maybe you need to send email or access an important document for just-in-time delivery to the floor of your convention?

And forget the 3G or 4G (or any G for that matter) - you want the speedy snap of wireless.

The WCC will give you an hour's worth of free wireless, then pull the plug on their sluggish signal. After that you have to hike over to the offices on the mezzanine floor and make arrangements to pay by the hour or day to keep using it.

Get Wireless
Convention Centre pulls plug on free wireless after one hour.
Now, I like the WCC. I'm not a critic, I'm a customer. Over the past 30 years, I've enjoyed wonderful events there, everything from concerts and home shows, to the Signature Awards, political debates and the yearly career symposium. But the lack of robust, free wireless for the past couple few years is now quite bothersome. It's a situation that's been documented in an excellent post by Erica Glasier last summer.

While some North-American conference centres are announcing free WiFi - doubtless enough of a factor in bookings to equip themselves with it - and our own hockey palace is boosting its signal, the WCC is silent on its plans.

It's not like conference attendees can get much free WiFi at the Delta next door, either. The hotel has no wireless in the rooms - only high speed cable access. The only place you can get free wireless is in the hotel's main floor lobby. But at least it lasts for more than an hour.

I do have faith, though, that the WCC will come through, because it's their turn - even if they have to partner with another service provider and plaster a "free wireless compliments of" message throughout the building.

In spite of logistical challenges in outfitting a building of that age with systems that will work well, the centre must get it done. How can conference goers land at our new airport terminal, enjoy strong and free WiFi there and while taking in a Jets game - and not expect the same from the venue that's hosting their conference?

Get a Social Voice
Even before the free WiFi  is up and running, though, the Convention Centre should really take a dip into social media for voice lessons. If you search for Twitter, WiFi, or Facebook on the WCC website, you can hear - or see, rather - the digital crickets chirping. If you Google "convention centres on twitter" you'll find WCC's more progressive Canadian counterparts are already on Twitter - and finding their social voice.

Sure they use it as another broadcast channel for events ranging from United Way wind-ups to State of the Province addresses, to boat and bridal shows. But much more importantly, they use it to connect with their community and their guests.

After all, people don't connect with buildings, they connect with real people inside those builidings. So, these centres are using their authentic social voice, rather than their institutional voices on Twitter.

Here's a sampling of how other Canadian conference centres court their guests by using their social voice on Twitter.

Now, this might look like the nuisance stuff. But I am so impressed that there's someone tweeting for the Ottawa Convention Centre that would take the time to ask a guest about their meal and the speaker at an event. That scores you big points. And if someone does have a bad experience, like the fellow with the note on his bike outside Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre, you get to smooth feathers or pass the message on to someone who can make it better.

Those kinds of social media interactions are the daily grind of dedicated community managers and such a welcome human voice. And at the WCC - it's a voice they need.

Get Manitoba Bold
So how about it WCC? This is 2012. Tech is a part of everyone's life including the conference and event patrons who converge on your facility. The competition down the street is putting big bucks into making sure their guests have a great WiFi experience.

My Manitoba Bold idea for you?

Let your guests connect with each other through strong and free wireless, and give yourselves permission to start connecting with them through social media.

Get wireless, social and Manitoba bold. We'll all enjoy you more.


  1. Couldn't agree more. However, there was an interesting article this past weekend in the Vancouver Sun that was trying to crack down on "Laptop Hobos" because they were ruining the atmosphere of their business.

    Just another side to the coin:

  2. Thanks for the link, Josh. Looks like they have come up with ways to deal with that situation. What concerns me about the Convention Centre is that not even legitimate patrons have access to a strong and free wireless signal.

  3. Thank you for directing us to your blog, Raman! We appreciate the well thought out ideas here and indeed,they are #MBBOLD! Please let me know if you'd like to discuss this idea further as we are planning our State of the City Address (March 16) with Mayor Sam Katz at the Convention Centre. We are also planning a post event Tweet-Up and would like to make it as easy as possible for our Twitter followers!

    1. Thanks for your comments, Stacia. Would love to touch base before the event. Tweet-up is a great idea, too.