Meeting venues are connecting live and virtual audiences with the flick of a switch.
If you’re looking to book a board meeting, keynote speech, product launch or annual general meeting in Toronto, your hybrid event planning process just became a whole lot easier.
Meeting and business event venues here are investing in state-of-the-art broadcasting equipment and technology so that virtual guests feel just as much a part of the action as in-person attendees. Some venues have even built dedicated on-site studio spaces where podiums, HD cameras, professional audio equipment, teleprompters, audience seating and sophisticated interactive platforms connect all attendees seamlessly with the flick of a switch.
Hybrid will be a business event staple going forward because the technology enables organizations to boost attendee registrations amid government-mandated capacity limits. The Province of Ontario has started to cautiously ease capacity limits for select indoor and outdoor settings where proof of vaccination is required. For example, conference and convention centres can host up to 50% capacity or 10,000 people (whichever is less) for indoor events.
Four marquee Toronto venues describe how they’re making it easy to host engaging, professional quality, hybrid business events.
StudioEx—located right inside the Enercare Centre, Exhibition Place—is a new full-service, hybrid studio outfitted with an HD camera, three-point lighting, graphics computer and monitor, a custom background, uplighting to match corporate colours and seating for up to 100 guests. Destination Toronto recently broadcast its annual general meeting from StudioEx.
“StudioEx is a great opportunity to get our clients thinking about the future—what their live events are going to look like and what tools they have at the Enercare Centre and [Exhibition Place’s] Beanfield Centre to accomplish their goals,” says Laura Purdy, general manager, Exhibition Place.
Pro Tip: Studios are great for live streaming, but they can also be used to create pre-recorded messages that are broadcast during live segments and posted on client websites.
Enercare Centre, Exhibition Place, 100 Princes' Blvd., Suite 1
Ontario Science Centre
The Ontario Science Centre has turned its auditorium into a fully functioning production studio with high-speed Internet, professional audio and lighting, multiple cameras and live streaming capabilities. The state-of-the-art equipment can be relocated to any room within the Science Centre, says Carrie Jackson, manager, corporate and adult learning experiences, and manager, audio visual services.
On September 26, as part of Word On The Street 2021—Toronto’s Book and Magazine Festival—the Science Centre hosted a live papermaking workshop that was also broadcast to a virtual audience. “I think this is why hybrid events have become so popular—you can reach more people and at a greater distance,” says Jackson.
Pro Tip: Involve the production team from the very beginning—they keep up on the latest developments in virtual platforms and can provide insights into the unique needs of your off-site attendees.
770 Don Mills Rd.
Toronto Reference Library
The Toronto Reference Library reopens to in-person meetings, conferences and trade shows in November. The venue is outfitting its Beeton Hall Events Centre with fully integrated hybrid event technology, including strategically placed cameras and flexible room layout ideas to help virtual attendees feel like they're part of the physical space.
“We can augment any of our rooms to support a virtual or hybrid event, but it’s unique to offer a permanently outfitted room so that clients can just show up and it’s plug and play ready,” says Beth Kawecki, manager, service development, venue and community space rental.
Kawecki says trade show clients are booking events for 2022 that will make use of 360° imaging technology to recreate the look and feel of the physical venue for their virtual trade show component.
Pro Tip: Hybrid event planning tends to focus on engaging virtual audiences, but don’t forget that the in-person attendee also needs to feel that they’re having a connected experience.
789 Yonge St.
Globe and Mail Centre
The Globe and Mail Centre’s answer to the pandemic shutdown was to lease its spacious conferencing rooms to the film industry. Now that indoor gatherings are allowed, the five-year-old venue is welcoming executive-level meetings and planners are asking about hosting get-togethers of up to 100 guests, says sales manager Julia Mae Baguisa. “Our space was built for this purpose; we’ve always had the bandwidth to do hybrid meetings.”
Hybrid events are a game-changer, but many clients don’t realize that the more complex platforms have higher production requirements. “You need many more people on the back-end for queuing your speakers, managing your Q&A and polling—it’s not a one-person show,” says Baguisa, who recommends hiring a production manager to advise on everything from pre-recording segments to rehearsing the presenters. “It goes a long way to how your content will be received.”
Pro Tip: As the quality of hybrid events rises, so too do the expectations of attendees. Attend a number of hybrid events to understand the attendee experience, how these types of events are evolving and to budget appropriately for your own events.
351 King St. E.