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A hybrid future: How event venues are adapting

VEI takes a look at how convention centers, hotels and other venues are adapting to the digital disruption of events and preparing for a hybrid future.

A blend of new tech

Many have invested in technology, from thermal imaging (for temperature checks) and virtual venue tours to contactless technology for a touch-free delegate journey.

Of course, the biggest investment for venues has been in hybrid event technology. Going forward, organizers and venue managers will be equally concerned with the experience they deliver for remote attendees as the one they provide on-site.

Broadcast studios

As every week goes by, more venues announce new tech. Some have installed temporary or permanent broadcast studios. Singapore’s iconic Marina Bay Sands has built a hybrid event studio with broadcast quality live-streaming offering a range of 3D backdrops, mixed reality functions and holograms.

RAI Amsterdam has built studios for events of all types and sizes. Mathys Taekema, business development manager, says: “Together with a range of partners, the venue team created a plug-and-play event concept, 'The Stage is Yours', which has state-of-the-art tech and seating for up to 1,175 people.”

Other examples include The Orange County Convention Center in Florida, which has launched a digital broadcast center for hybrid conventions and tradeshows, and also the Javits Center in New York City, which has added a 30,000-square-foot broadcast studio.

Other notable venues offering hybrid capabilities include ExCeL London, Australia’s ICC Sydney and Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace Convention Center.

Event tech platforms

Partnering with event tech platforms has become popular, too. Early last summer, etc.venues made the step of partnering with several technology providers.

The venue group, which has 17 meeting venues throughout the UK and New York, went on to create and host UKickstart to showcase hybrid event technology. The multi-location hybrid event, where groups of 30 socially-distanced attendees gathered in-person at various venues across the UK, featured panel discussions, which were live-streamed to each hub, as well as to a global audience online. It was the first gathering of event professionals post-lockdown and attracted more than 1,400 delegates.

The group has continued to invest in hybrid and is developing its own 3D virtual venue lobby modeled on an actual etc.venues property to enhance the online attendee experience.

The monetary potential of cross-location events, as used by etc.venues, is being recognized by large hotel chains. Global hotels can help organizers to connect delegates at multiple properties and turn local events into global initiatives. The likes of Hyatt, Hilton, IHG, and Marriott, for instance, have developed resources and tools to make it easier for groups to plan and execute hybrid events.

Time to train

Education and training in virtual and hybrid events have become very important for venue teams, too. For instance, tourism organizations in Singapore have made upskilling event professionals a priority so they can fully support their clients’ needs. The Singapore Tourism Board has also developed interactive virtual tours of local attractions to help organizers inject a fun and cultural element into their event programs.

These stories of resilience from the venue community show how creativity, agility, state-of-the-art tech, and education are fundamental to business development. And these will only become more important as the events industry moves towards a blended future of digital, hybrid, and in-person events.


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