Strauss event & association management is one of Canada’s most connected event and association management companies with more than 20 years of experience in managing healthcare, business, and trade associations and delivering signature events for associations and not-for-profit organizations.
1. What does the future of business events look like?
What we’re thinking about now is twofold: what does it take to get events back and how do you continue to engage audiences today that you’ve been able to reach that maybe you couldn’t engage before? These are groups that didn’t participate in events before because of accessibility issues, cost and geography, so now we’re looking at how you put those pieces together.
Some people think of a hybrid event as something where you livestream everything that happens from a podium, and while that is an option, it’s maybe not the best option for all groups. Livestreaming comes with a higher cost than recording for later broadcast. Something else to consider — there is an opportunity for additional monetization if you do record some things for rebroadcast later. One thing that people have really liked about virtual events is that ability to work with their schedule by watching recordings later.
We have to consider that if conferences go back to the traditional format of full day or multiple days, I don’t think you can livestream that. It’s too tiring for the audience at home. What we encourage our clients to think about is livestreaming the opening keynote, or recording the most popular sessions to send out for playback later. Or you could do both. The less you do live, the less potentially expensive it is.
2. What are some of the advantages of working with a planner to host a hybrid event?
We’ve been looking at hybrid and virtual events the same way we’ve been looking at in-person events. If you are an organization hosting an event, do you want to be running around and worrying about the logistics and execution, or do you want to be engaging with your participants? Most of our clients hire us because they respect our expertise but even more so, they want to be able to participate in their events.
The other advantage is that we work with multiple clients, so we get the chance to evaluate and test lots of platforms and systems, which helps us figure out what’s best for you. We bring the expertise of working with many organizations in numerous industries in getting to trial things, and our clients benefit from that.
3. What are some best practices emerging around hosting hybrid events?
We treat these events as significant as a traditional in-person event with the same level of planning and execution. If you’re an organization that is known for your high level of professionalism that’s what people are going to expect at a hybrid or virtual event.
You also need to be prepared for the technical support. In person, you’d always have somebody registering or having credit card issues at the last minute at the registration desk. That same type of scenario applies for virtual events and hybrid events, but when you’re doing all that online and in real time, you have to have staff dedicated to the in-person piece and the online component. You need to think about if you have enough staff in place to provide customer service in both capacities.
One of the benefits of a hybrid or virtual event, and I can use a recent client example, was around a keynote speaker. She lives in Boston and she broadcast live from her home. She didn’t have to charge for travel, so she charged half of her usual fee as a result.
There are also people who say, “I’d love to do your event, but I can’t fit it into my calendar” or “It’s too much travel for me to come to your event.” There’s always been a reluctance at in-person events to have a speaker via videoconferencing because people want to meet them, they want to have that Q&A and that engagement. Now, I think there will be an acceptance at a hybrid event that maybe you can bring in some of your speakers virtually.
4. How will Winnipeg adapt to this new reality?
I don’t know that we are going to adapt any differently. The RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg has great bandwidth, so that certainly will help. I think the first meetings to come back are going to be regional, then national and international. I think we’ll see a faster return than some larger centres will.
Team Winnipeg turned 20 years old this past January, so our partnership model and our publicly owned convention centre will allow us to be really flexible. Now everybody is saying they’re going to be flexible for the next 12-18 months but if we look further out, we’re going to need flexibility for awhile.
5. What opportunities do you see for Winnipeg to elevate experiences in hybrid meetings?
It’s going to be cool and the local industry is looking at some of those virtual or hybrid opportunities, like how could we be promoting Winnipeg in advance by showing off virtually some of the attractions in a way that we haven’t before? Not looking at a commercial but more an engagement opportunity with attractions and events to get people excited about coming to experience the Manitoba Museum, or Journey to Churchill.
I think adapting to virtual and hybrid technologies and experiences will allow us to pre-sell our city in a way we haven’t before.
This interview has been edited for clarity, length and grammar.