The following is a guest post by RTWgirl, a freelance travel writer and travel blogger. You can follow RTWgirl on twitter @RTWgirl_
I am a freelance travel writer, and in September, I left to go up to Vancouver, Canada, for a travel assignment. Vancouver happens to be my hometown, so I go there several times year to visit my elderly father, family, and friends. This visit was going to be different because I was going to be working while there. I was scheduled to be there for a few weeks and didn’t want to roam with my American mobile provider and come back to a costly cell phone bill.
In the past, I would purchase a SIM card from Canadian cellular companies like FIDO or Rogers to use while visiting. In case you didn’t know, Canadian mobile plans, especially prepaid plans for travelers, are some of the most expensive mobile plans in the world. The average cost of a mobile data package is $25 Canadian pre-tax, and that’s only for 500 MB of data. In the past I would buy a phone and text plan, but now that most of my friends are using iPhones and its iMessage service, data is almost vital for communication. And this is only for data for my smart phone; I have not touched on needing Wi-Fi for my laptop or tablet.
I searched on Google for different services available before I left. A friend who had traveled to Canada previously used a worldwide SIM card. I checked it out and broke down the costs. It was virtually the same as buying a SIM from the foreign mobile company but handy in the sense that you were able to get the card prior to your departure. Then I came across XCom Global — I looked at their website and Twitter account, and read positive reviews from users and a great review on the tech website Engadget.
Under normal circumstances, you would contact XCom Global and receive the device prior to your departure. But since I did not know about the company in advance I ordered the hotspot to be shipped to my address in Canada. The unit arrived to me in Vancouver in a carrying case with two batteries, a charger, and an instruction manual. I hadn’t even left the FedEx parking lot when I connected my smart phone to the mobile hotspot. It was so simple to connect. When I got back to my father’s house I connected my laptop and tablet to the hotspot as well. I was beyond thrilled!
I traveled with the hotspot unit throughout British Columbia for my assignment. I went up to Whistler via bus and was able to work steadily on my laptop and phone for the two-hour ride there and back. I used it on the ferry to the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island. I took it with me on a solo hike through a provincial park and was able to inform my family that I was safe. I even used it on my regular ride on the SkyTrain, Vancouver’s version of a subway system. There wasn’t a place that I had issues connecting with the hotspot in Vancouver. Service may vary in some foreign countries, but the Wi-Fi connection in Canada worked out well for me. It worked out even better because my phone bill wasn’t atrocious when I got back home.
The only issue I had when using the mobile hotspot unit was its battery life. I think the spare was a bit old and would die quickly, but I found a solution to that. As someone who works on the road, I carry an external battery charger. I was able to plug it into the mobile hotspot to keep it running. I know I must sound like an addict, but when you are a freelancer and work on the road, it’s pretty vital to be constantly connected.
I’m currently in New York City, and my cousin from Australia was in town for ten days on business. We didn’t speak to each other before he arrived, otherwise I would have told him about renting an XCom Global unit; he told me that on his last two-week trip to the Philippines, his and his brother’s cell bills were about $2,000 AUS each! They had to make phone calls back to Australia for work and check emails. Had he rented an XCom Global unit prior to his trip, he could have powered up to five devices and saved a lot of money. I’m interested to know how much his bill will be for this New York trip—we texted each other a lot just to meet up, and I would have to turn off my data and text him internationally because he didn’t have data and access to his iMessage.
If you’re on a short business trip and have a return flight booked and have had big cell phone bills in the past, this is a great option for you. Your phone will be connected so you can read emails, send texts, and make phone calls from online services like Skype or Viber. If you travel out of the country with a team for sales meetings or a convention/trade show, this is also an option for you. I had a great experience with XCom Global, and it’s definitely going to be my go-to company for data service for short international trips. I couldn’t recommend them more.
Jordan International Aid (JIA) is a faith-based, all-volunteer, humanitarian aid and relief organization. While they are huge proponents of development rather than relief, there are times when natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, drought and disease, or human made-disasters (war, genocide, injustice) demand immediate responses on a large scale and JIA stands ready to step in and help.
When the Philippines was devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, JIA immediately went into action. Dr. Enoch Choi, the medical director for JIA, contacted us to see if we would once again provide XCom Global’s Disaster Relief Wi-Fi hotspots to their volunteer crew – as we did when they responded to the tsunami in Japan in 2011. He described our contribution of Internet connectivity during their Japan relief efforts as “essential.” Of course, we were more than happy to lend our support to JIA’s Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Relief and had units dispatched to them immediately.
JIA plans to send a team of about a 100 volunteer doctors and nurses to provide medical care. “What we always find is there is an overwhelming need and we are there to provide care where patients can’t get care,” Choi said.
The main challenge is safe passage into the affected areas. The Government estimates that some 4.3 million people are affected, across 36 provinces, and initial assessments show that thousands of homes have been destroyed, roads are impassable and people need food, water, shelter and power.
Jesse Mendoza, JIA president, and a small initial survey team arrived in the Philippines earlier this week on board a C130 military plane and were able to successfully reach Tacloban. Jesse posted photos showing the devastation as well as the XCom Global devices being used in the field. While he thanked us for making it possible for them to stay connected, we’d like to thank Jesse, all of the JIA volunteers and the countless others from relief organizations who are there providing aid.
At XCom Global we literally service the world. On any given day we have customers using our rental devices in every time zone. While our WiFi devices are simple to operate and in most cases only require powering on once you reach your destination, there are occasions when a glitch pops up. When this happens we want to be able to provide immediate assistance. We are very happy to announce that we are now offering 24/7 phone support – someone is available to help you through your issues no matter what time of day or night it is, no matter where you are in the world!
Typically issues can be resolved in just a few minutes. You can still e-mail us at tech@XComGlobal.com with questions, but for the fastest response please call 1-877-520-8242. This number will work from anywhere around the globe. Rest assured we will be here round the clock if you ever need us!
The Philippines was hit again. This time with Typhoon Haiyan, believed to be the country’s most deadliest natural disaster on record. Once again XCom Global would like to lend a hand in the best way we know how – by keeping you connected with Disaster Relief Wi-Fi. Any volunteers who are heading over to the Philippines to help with the recovery should contact us. We will provide XCom Global mobile hotspots at no charge to provide relief workers with fast, reliable and secure connections to the Internet. As you can imagine, having this access in the field improves their ability to access and share information as well as communicate with each other. We have provided Internet connectivity to a number of relief workers in the past and they have all told us it is invaluable.
When Japan was hit by a devastating tsunami in 2011, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), the oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States, took us up on our offer to help. Carl Williams, Disaster Relief and Recovery Coordinator for the JACL described how when the crisis hit, the JACL rallied to coordinate the efforts of a number of non-governmental organizations to shelter and feed thousands of Japanese people affected by the disaster. Many of the groups also provided medical assistance to people with disabilities and the elderly. Mr. Williams said, “I made good use of the hotspot device extended by XCom Global and would not have nearly the success with relief work without it.”
Those who would like to request a rental device should Contact XCom Global. Rental units will be shipped to them in advance of their departure from the U.S. at no charge.
The holidays are the perfect time to plan a romantic getaway or visit family overseas. Wherever your Thanksgiving travel plans take you, be sure to include XCom Global to save a ton of money on international data service. With XCom Global’s mobile hotspot rentals, you can safely connect up to 10 devices to the Internet over a secure Wi-Fi signal, and share the 3G/4G service between them.
What’s more – XCom Global has some terrific treats for you this Thanksgiving! Rent your international mobile hotspot from XCom Global between now and November 30th, and get your first rental day free!
To redeem: when you are placing your order using the online ordering system, the checkout process will ask if you have a promo or discount code. Enter the code “FIRSTDAYFREE″ to receive the first day free on your purchase order. Thank you all for your continued support!
The sale runs now until November 30, 2013.
Are you putting together a trade show on a tight budget? Many companies are facing the pressure of differentiating themselves at trade shows and events, particularly in the face of budget cuts. With increasing competition, companies must find new ways to create engagement and drive sales leads at trade shows. Here are 21 simple tips you can use to cut costs and do more with less:
If you’re attending a trade show and need wireless Internet access, the cost can easily add up to thousands of dollars. The San Diego Convention Center is known to charge upwards of $1200 for a single Ethernet connection, plus another $150 for each additional IP address! Bringing your own portable MiFi hotspot is not only cheaper, but also much more reliable – and you can bring it back to the hotel to use in the evenings for more savings.
Many companies spend large amounts on printing heavy catalogs and informational pamphlets, and then end up having to pay more to ship it back after the show because people don’t want to carry it. Today’s consumers are technologically savvy, and prefer to be able to scan signage at every conference session and exhibitor booth so they don’t end up with a jumble of information after the show. Leave the expensive catalogs at home and just bring a small product brochure or a custom flyer instead, along with a good reason for people to keep it after the show (product discounts and/or custom access to a website tend to work well).
There’s no good reason not to use social media to promote your trade show, and it’s completely free! Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media networks to promote your product before, during, and after the show. They can also allow you to find other exhibitors and professionals that are attending the event.
Educate your sales people on the nuances of trade show interactions before the show begins. Representing your company and the brand in a two-to-three minute interaction requires a different mindset from the usual sales call – all staff members should be briefed on how to effectively interact with trade show attendees.
Plan your booth’s design to be flexible so that it can reconfigure to any space during your show’s schedule. Modular designs are ideal because they are more cost effective than purchasing a different booth for each show, and are typically easier to set up and tear down. Booth designs should also be lightweight in order to minimize transportation costs.
Many trade show exhibitors tend to get caught up in the whirlwind and excitement of trade shows, completely forgetting about their main business objectives while they are there. Know what your objectives are before you leave for the show, and avoid fine dining, first class reservations, and other perks that make the trade show feel like a vacation. You can still have fun, but ensure that business is the primary feature of your trip, and don’t get caught up in distractions.
This one should be obvious – giveaways can eat up your show’s budget in no time, and people often become more focused on the giveaway item than the role it plays in your sales process. Rather than freely giving out thousands of items to people passing by your booth (most of which end up in the trash), choose to reward only your top prospects and leads that are qualified for your products and services.
Official trade show hotels can get expensive, try considering alternatives such as boutique hotels or bed & breakfasts. Air BNB offers lodging for a fraction of the cost hotels charge, and allow you to have a kitchen to cook meals in instead.
Planning ahead for services and deadlines can help you avoid many hidden costs in the long run. Most convention centers offer discounts for early registration, and many of the services they offer also have a premium charge if they aren’t ordered beforehand. Always book your trade show services as early as you can.
Last minute shipping can become a nightmare, so make sure all shipments have sufficient time to arrive on schedule without having to expedite it. Take at least 6 months to plan exactly what you will you need, and it also helps to consolidate your shipments in order to lower shipping costs.
There’s no need to have all of your employees on the trade show floor during set-up and teardown. Instead, bring only your most organized workers and bring in the rest of your staff at the start of the show. This simple step can help reduce food and lodging costs, along with unnecessary labor expenses.
During trade shows, it’s not uncommon for employers to offer their employees a per diem amount for each meal, which can add up over time. Consider catering one meal per day, which is usually much cheaper than offering employees a per diem amount.
Consider purchasing second hand displays and other equipment. Many exhibitors sell theirs off for a fraction of the cost when they are upgrading to new equipment.
Rather than paying to ship your product samples back home after the show, consider donating promotional items to charity instead. Many shows offer this service and it can be a tax write-off for your company. Ask your show organizer if this service is available.
Booth sharing has become a popular concept in recent years because it allows non-competitive companies to split the costs of the rental.
If you have the option to use public transportation instead of taxis or renting an automobile, take advantage of it. You can save quite a bit of money on driving expenses.
Waiting until the last minute is never a good idea, particularly when you are shopping around for trade show goods. Last minute shopping doesn’t allow you to do an optimal price comparison, and you could be charged a premium for rush delivery.
Buying items in bulk can save hundreds of dollars, particularly for pens, supplies, and trade show giveaways. It may not seem like much, but the savings add up over time.
Create marketing materials that are easily modifiable and can be used for multiple venues. Avoid printing materials that are venue or trade show specific, as they will quickly become obsolete. Having the same content everywhere will also help to produce a more consistent brand experience.
Instead of paying for flights, hotel rooms, baggage fees, and other travel expenses, consider using local staff during the show. Even if you are only able to replace one staff member with a local person, it can save you hundreds of dollars that you can use for other expenses.
Review your invoices after the show ends. It’s not uncommon for event organizers to double charge for services, or confuse your service orders with a neighboring booth. By reviewing your invoices at the end of the show, you may catch errors that can save your company hundreds of dollars.
Trade shows are an excellent opportunity to build customer relationships, so why do so many companies stay in the dark throughout the entire event? Today’s consumers are tech-savvy and stay connected to the Internet while they are at a trade show exhibition – so should you!
It takes more than just showing up and meeting people, the key to making a trade show a success is to focus on driving engagement before, during, and after the event by using social media networks. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn — the correct use of these Internet channels can help you make a lasting impression with attendees and stand out among the sea of exhibitors.
Here are some helpful tips on how to use the Internet and social media in order to make the most of your next trade show exhibition:
Facebook is currently one of the top tools to get the word out about your trade show, but it’s important not to overdo it with updates. Too many posts about the trade show can increase your opt-outs. It’s considered best practice to post about once per week before the event starts, then during the event post only during the event only post one update per day.
Use the official event #hash-tag and tweet before, during, and after the show. Promote competitions and special offers through Twitter, such as “the first 30 people at our booth win a prize!” Keep a dedicated staff member or team to engage followers and reply to posts. You can also display your feed live at the show using LED signs from Twisplays.
Take your promotional strategy to the next level by using video to broadcast your message at the event. Create activity at your trade show booth and film the excitement, and then share the excitement by posting the videos on your social media channels. Videos are a great way to create buzz and build your brand online, driving more traffic back to your site.
Make your booth a location on Foursquare so that participants can “check in” each day to receive special offers. Encourage visitors to leave tips about your products by offering exclusive discounts and prizes.
Having secure, reliable tradeshow Internet access at your booth is an ideal way to drive sales and sign-ups, and it will encourage people to stay around a while. It’s a good idea to create a closed loop WiFi hotspot to keep people around in case there isn’t a reliable or strong wireless network in place at the trade show itself. It’s also nice to offer charging stations to help event attendees to connect and communicate, in turn boosting your buzz.
Make use of QR codes in your booths, brochures, giveaways, and promotional materials. QR (short for “Quick Response”) codes can be read by smartphones to provide additional content and special offers. They are particularly helpful for people passing by quickly that want to get more information from your booth.
XCom Global recently launched a Trade Show Internet Package for conference, event and trade show planners. The Trade Show Internet Package has been developed specifically for use at high-density events with a large number of attendees. Secure Wi-Fi access can be granted to as many users as needed, for a flat daily rate, at speeds greater than or equal to those that the venue can provide.
“We can provide significant savings on Internet access to trade show exhibitors and event organizers,” said Seiji Nishimura, founder and CEO of XCom Global, Inc. “Exhibitors are able to connect to secure and reliable wireless Internet at a fraction of the cost that the venues charge. This enables organizations to engage with visitors more effectively, actively sign up new accounts, and drive purchases in real time. In addition, event organizers can cost-effectively provide Internet access to their attendees, which is not only appreciated, but sometimes required for the day’s activities.”
In a recent case study, the owner of Knock Out Radio revealed that their radio show used XCom Global’s Trade Show Internet Package to broadcast their live radio show for rates substantially below the amount venues charge for Internet services.
“There is basically no set up involved and I have instant Internet access from wherever I am” said Randy Harris, owner of Knock Out Radio, “venues typically charge up to $500/day for an Internet connection – XCom Global has already saved me thousands of dollars.”
XCom Global’s Trade Show Internet Package contains everything you need to get online at your event. There is no need for any software installation or activation codes, simply connect and you are ready to go! The rental kit is battery powered, connects to 3G/4G wireless networks, and provides private and secure Internet access using the latest in security technology, including WPA2 and IPSEC for VPN pass-through.
To understand what VPN pass-through is, we must first discuss VPN. VPN or “Virtual Private Network”, allows you to connect securely to a network such as your business or home while you are away. With VPN, you can access your company’s resources connected to that network such as printers, fax machines, files and applications while maintaining the secure connection you would have if you were standing inside the office.
The two most common types of VPN are PPTP and IPsec. PPTP stands for “point to point tunneling protocol” and IPsec stands for “Internet protocol security”. PPTP is less secure than IPsec VPN connections.
VPN comes in handy especially when you are connected to the internet through a public Wi-Fi connection. But what if you want to connect to your own private connection while already connected to a private connection? Now you will need to use VPN pass-through.
VPN pass-through allows you to establish an outbound VPN connection while already connected to a private network. For example, while visiting a business, you connect to their secure private network, but find out you want to connect to your own private network at home. VPN pass-through allows you to “tunnel” through the business’s connection, through the internet and establishes a connection to your network at home. VPN pass-through does not allow inbound connections, only outbound connections from an already secure network.
XCom Global’s mobile hotspot rentals are incorporated with VPN pass-through for IPsec, ensuring the safe transmittal of data to and from your company’s account. With the push of a button, you have instant access to high-speed, wireless, and low-cost Internet in over 180 countries worldwide. Customers don’t need technical expertise to use a mobile hotspot, and it does not require any unauthorized unlocking for provision of secure and private connections including VPN pass-through.
The cyclone in India. The earthquake in the Philippines. The typhoon in Japan. The devastation and loss is heartbreaking. We are so grateful to the many volunteers who step up in the tragic aftermath to help with the recovery. XCom Global would like to do its part as well. If you or anyone you know is headed abroad to assist with disaster relief, please have them contact us. We are providing Disaster Relief Wi-Fi free of charge to those who are volunteering their time to help out in the recovery efforts.
XCom Global Wi-Fi hotspots can provide teams with fast, reliable and secure connections to the Internet which improves their ability to access and share information as well as communicate with each other. We have provided Internet access to a number of relief workers in the past and they have all told us it is invaluable. As an example, All Hands Volunteers, a U.S.-based, 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides hands-on assistance to survivors of natural disasters around the world, used our rental devices while assisting with Japan’s tsunami recovery. Eric Zdenek of All Hands explained, “With the help of donated XCom Global internet devices, our staff was able to coordinate the efforts of our global network of volunteers to begin our tsunami relief effort. All Hands Volunteers’ Project Tohoku helped over 60 families and businesses in Tohoku with 110 completed jobs that ranged from canal clearing, home gutting, school clearing, and park rehabilitation. With the help of XCom Global internet devices, our crew on the ground was able to coordinate the help of over 370 volunteers from 22 countries for a combined 18,000 hours of donated labor.”
Those who would like to request a rental device should contact XCom Global. Rental units will be shipped to them in advance of their departure from the U.S. at no charge.