• What Planners Need to Know About Renting Charging Kiosks

    Mobile device charging stations may be among the least sexy pieces of event hardware. Though they lack the mystery and intrigue of, say, a cyber café, event planners are coming to realize that they are desperately in demand. When it comes to choosing among companies, models and features, there are some major considerations.

    As with most rent or purchase decisions, planners have to lay out their objectives first. ANDREA BAHR, systems manager at dmg::events, suggests that planners begin by asking, “Is this a new revenue stream, an attendee benefit or both? The answer to this question helps define what you’re looking for in the product,” she explains. Once the sponsorship offering vs. attendee amenity question is sorted out, there are other considerations:

    Suppliers – In the past three to five years, manufacturers, such as goCharge and plug-n-charge, have emerged to service the event industry. Familiar companies like Tradeshow Multimedia have developed charging stations to complement their existing product lines. General service contractors and audio-visual companies have also added them to their list of offerings to event organizers and some convention centers have installed units in public areas.

    Models – The units vary in size from a desktop model to one more than nine feet in height; the larger the unit, the more sponsor visibility and the greater number of features available.

    Features – in addition to the charging “tips,” most units offer static (billboard-type) signage, wrapping (the unit is covered with graphics), video capabilities, and a combination of several features or charging only. While all charging units charge mobile phones via one of three standard tips—mini USB, iPhone 4 and iPhone 5—the number of tips per station can vary. Also, some models charge other devices including cameras, tablets and laptops. GoCharge provides storage lockers so users can leave their devices and come back when they’re charged. Virtually all models operate on a 110-VAC circuit and draw very little power.

    Costs – The cost to rent a mobile charging station depends on the model, number of units being rented and the amount of signage or wrapping. Generally speaking pricing ranges from $1,500 to $4,000 (excluding shipping, drayage, electricity and labor for an electrical drop if required) per unit for a five-day period.

    Revenue – The more full featured the unit is, the more valuable the sponsorship opportunity. That said event organizations sell sponsorships at between $5,000 and $15,000. Tradeshow Multimedia’s Power2Go unit, for example, is 9 feet tall and two-sided (double the exposure for a single sponsor or room for multiple sponsors) and includes electrical outlets for charging laptops and other devices prompting users to return often and stay longer at the charging station.

    Placement – having a plan for where the units will be placed can inform the type of unit to rent and increase the value of the sponsorship. High-traffic areas may be the best place for more expensive units; however, lower-end models could be a better choice as an amenity in a less-trafficked VIP lounge, for example. Andrea Bahr reminds planners to consider the cost and need for electrical drops when choosing where to put a charging station.

    Shipping – Vendors and planners alike admit that shipping costs (based on the unit’s weight and dimensions) are among the biggest factors to consider when selecting a model and a company to provide charging stations. When the models are similarly appointed and priced, the geographic location of the supplier can make a difference in the final selection.

    Drayage – although general contractors sometimes provide drayage services to event management free of charge or at a reduced rate, the cost to move charging units to the show floor, lobby, or conference area, plus any labor costs for installation, should be figured into the rental cost.

    On-site service – The service models vary from vendor to vendor. According to BEN RICHMAN, GoCharge has developed a plug-and-play service model: all files are pre-loaded, the machines are wrapped and shipped and work immediately out of the box with no technical expertise required. RICHARD ST. CLAIR of plug-n-charge attests to a similar model for his units, however, for more complex installations, his firm provides on-site technicians for an extra charge. Tradeshow Multimedia’s ANNE ABBOTT prefers sending technicians to every show and builds that service level into the price.

    Although few planners will admit it, mobile device charging stations are quickly becoming a requirement for all types of events, says Andrea Bahr. “If we want our attendees to use their devices and the apps WE provide them with, we MUST offer them a way to charge their phones and computers,” she says. Another way to look at it, says Richard St. Clair, is to think about the cost of renting digital signs and other types of kiosks. “If you’re going to rent TV screens anyway, you might as well rent charging stations instead. They keep people at the event and bring in a captured audience of attendees for sponsors,” he explains.