One Reason Exhibitors Hate Your Conference or Tradeshow

Convention Centers Rob Exhibitors

Image: Francis Storr

Every exhibitor in the world loves exhibiting but hates to exhibit…

HUH?? You ask, what the hell does that mean.

What I mean is that they enjoy being on the floor and getting to know their customers and potential clients. Even the exhibitors that are not that good at exhibiting can find joy in the personal interaction.

What they hate is the process that it takes to get them there.

Have a look at these internet costs from a major convention center in the U.S.

This is shameful, this is ridiculous and this is ROBBERY. It really is. There is NO reason that internet service should cost this much and any argument that you can give is a load of shit. You are fibbing.


Internet Costs at Conventions is Robbery

Do convention centers, hotels, associations and show producers really think that we are this freaking stupid? Do they not realize that we have access to the same magical internet that they are trying to sell us?

Let’s see what I can do with the magical internet in my office……I can compare what they are charging with what something actually costs.

  • An 8 Port Hub Rental is listed at $185.00… I can buy a new Linksys 8 Port Hub for $67.00. They are making three times the purchase cost every time they rent the stupid thing
  • The 24 port hub is $280 to rent… yet it is no heavier, slightly larger and has a purchase price of $64.00… It is less retail yet they are charging more to rent it.
  • They are billing labor at $125 per hour. I know that the guy that is installing the internet is probably making $30-$40 per hour….you do the math.

Regarding the cost of the actual internet service, I have a thought for everyone:

Every Holiday Inn Express offers free high speed internet to guests, convention centers should be no different.

In fact, I would venture that there are very few exhibitors that are looking for more than this type of speed so please Mr or Mrs convention center robber-baron, save your shit-ass excuse  for someone that will actually believe your load of crap.

If you think that my Holiday Inn Express analogy is off the mark, let me explain.

Imagine that each room is a 10×10 exhibitor… there you go, it is the same thing laid out in the same way….

You have people set up in squares within squares, both are on a footprint that is roughly the same size, both have roughly the same numbers of people trying to access the internet and both have roughly the same amount of bandwidth being used.

This is why no convention center’s argument can possibly hold water… period.

There are exceptions to the rule, for instance, if I checked into the Holiday Inn Express and needed more internet than they provided, yes of course it would be expensive but the fact remains that 99% of exhibitors would only need what the what the Holiday Inn is offering.

Well Keith… what about giant shows with 4000 exhibitors??

OK, What about it. I Hate to tell you but there are hotels out there with 4000 rooms and they deliver the internet just fine and when they do charge…. it is $10 or $20 bucks, not THOUSANDS of dollars. The MGM Grand in Vegas has like 10,000 rooms and they do not charge $1,000 for internet in the rooms (but they probably charge $1000 in the convention center).

You want to know the real reason the internet costs are so high… it is because everyone and their brother is making a nickle off of the service and they know that they have you trapped so they GOUGE YOU.

I would call this unethical, immoral, disgusting and even illegal in some parts…yet no one does a thing about it, it has been this way for years and it is not going to change anytime soon. We are like sheep.

There are even cases where the association that you are supporting with your sponsorship and exhibiting dollars are double dipping on services like this. They are robbing you with a smile on the front end and sticking a knife in you after you walk by….

With friends like these, you may actually be better off with your enemies, at least you know where you stand.

This is one of the shames of the meeting and event industry and yet exhibitors are so used to taking it that they have stopped complaining and have quietly stopped exhibiting.

There is nothing wrong with making money, the service providers deserve to get paid. What they are not entitled too is gouging the exhibitor because they have a monopoly and because they can.

If there is a convention center person out there that would like to explain why an 8 port hub rental is 3 times the purchase price, the comment section is below…you can’t blame it on labor costs, they are extra.

While you are at it, please explain WHY internet costs are so expensive. Do you use gold plated wire, do the Internet Fairies deliver such a magical internet experience that makes every booth visitor buy whatever the exhibitor is selling or is there another reason?

Please, tell me………



About the author

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston is the Publisher and Chief Writer Guy of PlannerWire | You can learn more about him here , connect with him on Twitter , Facebook , Google + and LinkedIn.


Leave a comment
    • Oh I know, ya gotta love the guts it takes to put that in there like it is some awesome deal! They are actually calling out how much they are screwing you by calling it something good……..

  • Totally agree some of the extra charges are ridiculous. Internet connections should be a part of the deal. Sometimes extras are just insulting valued customers. Just because they can gauge customers doesn’t mean they should

  • Keith, you’re such a trouble maker! :-) I think many shows should treat wifi like a co-op. Negotiate and purchase a wifi buyout so that everyone gets Holiday Inn Express service. Let the exhibitors needing extra bandwidth upgrade on an ala carte basis. Add $10 – $20 per day to the booth cost to fund.

    There’s no question that the infrastructure for a big building cost is huge, but spreading the cost would be more palatable than gouging for basic service.

    Alternatively, exhibitors should look into 3G or 4G service offered by vendors like 

    • I love causing trouble!

      You make a couple of valid points, I have used 3g service in McCormick and it was not horrible and served my clients needs at their booth and I am sure that no one would have a problem with even $50 a day….

  • LOL this so reminds me of how some cheap hotel has Internet for FREE but go to some high end hotel charging 5 times the rate and you have to pay 11.95 a day to have Internet in your room.  Tell me how any of them justify that!

    • I believe that hotels and convention centers actually think that we are stupid, I really do… I actually feel bad for my hotel sales people sometimes when they are trying to justify the cost and then secretly tell me that they know it is BS

  • Amen, Keith!  As a former CC event coordinator (read as “the bad guy who had to explain costs to clients”) I think this is a holdover cash cow from the 80s & 90s when the IT infrastructure was being installed and planners didn’t know the difference between a “hub” and a “hubcap.”  Hotels & convention centers — It’s time to find a new profit center…

  • Hey Keith,

    I love the post and totally agree the situation with Wi-Fi costs at shows is crazy, so I’ve included it in my roundup of the best recent tradeshow posts: Hope you like the post. Regards, Jenni Summers.

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