Another hotel with no idea about social business or connectivity

This post is not strictly about enterprise social media, rather more about the way some companies and organisations treat those who are engaging with social media.
I was in Durham yesterday at the N ortheast Economic Forum. It’s a conference focused – as one might expect – on the economy of the northeast and it attracted some big-hitters from the Cabinet.
I had been asked to attend by the Department of Children, Schools, and Families and the Cabinet Office, because they were launching the latest part of their FutureStory project and they wanted to start getting the project regularly blogged. I thought that it looked interesting – the project focuses on getting kids to think about their future career in a fast-changing-and-globalising world, so it can’t be a bad thing.
So off I went to the conference, with notes all pre-prepared so that while I was blogging and tweeting I would not have to go looking up names or departments. On arrival at the Ramside hotel in Durham I found there was no wifi internet available. I settled into a few drinks at the bar with fellow blogger David Terrar and the people from FutureStory unsure if I would be online in the morning.
The Ramside hotel people told us all – don’t worry. There is broadband. We are getting it all setup especially for the conference. And we even have someone from BT coming onsite to make sure it all works… so that was reassuring enough to relax and enjoy a few pints of Maxim.
Yesterday, on the morning of the event, me and David checked out the conference area. The organisers had put on a really good show. An agenda packed full of useful information on how the northeast is developing this amazing cluster of green and renewable energy firms. But we still couldn’t find any Internet.
We were told that the Internet was available in the press room. The press room was on the other side of the hotel and on an entirely different floor… so the hotel assumed that nobody at the conference might want to be connected during the event.
So, we visited the press room to see how it was all set up. The man from BT was there and informed us that he had setup a 1.8mb link. At first I never really thought about it, until I started trying to use the connection. It took about 5 minutes to load up a Twitter page, and Tweetdeck would not even function.
The man from BT had plugged a wireless dongle into a router. So the entire visiting media – and bloggers – were all expected to be sharing this wireless connection. I had better connectivity with my own mobile phone, but all my notes were prepared on my Macbook.
The hotel did listen to our suggestion that the press room be abandoned, and the ‘router’ brought to the main conference room. But even with access from the main hall, the connection was terrible and so much that could have been done live during the speeches from Cabinet ministers such as Ed Milliband and Alistair Darling was lost.
Nevertheless, the event was interesting and full of good information – particularly the FutureStory launch. To their credit, the Cabinet Office and DCSF people had been calling the hotel and checking that Internet, power etc would be available and getting positive responses from the hotel. What else could have been done if the hotel promises you that they are able to get you online? 
It just seems that the Ramside hotel definition of providing Internet access for hundreds of conference delegates differs from that faced in the real world. How can we all remain connected at conferences, sharing information in real-time to those who can’t make it in person, when hotels and conference venues don’t have a clue how to support the bloggers in the audience?
The question that intrigues me though is that the dongle connection was via Vodafone, but it was a BT engineer setting it up, and he was using his own personal SIM to create the connection rather than any corporate account. Was he an imposter in a BT jumper, smuggled in to make it look as if the hotel was making more of an effort than they really were?

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