Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

September 16 2015

Why The Traditional Definition Of A Convention Center No Longer Exists


When attendees used to walk into a convention center, the experience most likely felt the same regardless of the host destination. Signs pointed to ballrooms, breakout rooms and exhibit halls. The facility looked and felt like it was designed with one purpose in mind: to house thousands of people.

Creating A Multidimensional Experience

Plenty of these convention centers remain in cities around the world. However, today’s attendees are looking for more than a massive venue where they can sit next to hundreds of colleagues while listening to presentations or browse products from a seemingly endless stretch of exhibitors.

“A new trend is starting in which organizers are asking, ‘what is the powerful experience we can deliver for our delegates?’” Raymond Larivée, President and CEO, Palais des congrès de Montréal, says. “In Montréal, we want to make sure that everyone who comes here for a meeting gets the knowledge and networking opportunities they’re looking for, but we are also dedicated to giving them more than what’s on the conference agenda.”

For Larivée, that means placing an equal degree of focus on what’s happening outside the center as what’s happening inside its walls. For example, the Palais and the City of Montréal recently collaborated to deliver a need at the top of every attendee’s wish list: free Wi-Fi inside, and outside (downtown and in Old Montréal). It’s called MtlWiFi, and it ensures that an attendee connected to the free Wi-Fi on Level 1 of the Palais will continue to stay connected when he or she walks out the door.

“Now, when attendees walk out of the center, they will connect to free access as they explore Old Montréal and walk to their hotels,” Larivée says.

Embracing Transformative Technology Inside, Too

The Palais is ahead of the curve in his outside-the-center engagement efforts, but Larivée and his team are winning plenty of recognition for their interior innovative design, too. In 2014, the Palais was named one of Convene’s Best in Show High Tech Venues for its 88 55-inch HD screens and its 90-square-foot video wall. Both components deliver more than a cool factor, too. They’re designed to help planners unlock more earning potential for their organizations.

“When we invested nearly $5 million to upgrade our technology infrastructure, one of the big goals was to make sponsorships more successful for planners who come to Montréal,” Larivée says. “We wanted to give our clients opportunities to generate substantial additional revenue.”

The high-tech features inside the Palais has paid big dividends for the host, too. For 2014-2015, the venue hosted a record-setting 837,000  attendees, including one of the biggest names in technology. Last April, Cisco hosted the company’s top 2,500 worldwide accounts at the Palais for Cisco Partner Summit. It marked the first time the company hosted the event outside the US.

“From a technology perspective, Cisco applauded the venue for being more than state-of-the-art,” Larivée says. “We were proud our technology solutions and bandwidth exceeded the needs of a global technology leader like Cisco. We also allowed Cisco to adapt the space to literally reflect their brand.”

Shaping An Experience Away From The Program

The AIPC Gold Quality Standards venue can clearly check off every box on a planner’s list of high-tech touch points, but the facility also offers a unique opportunity for attendees to discover more than the sessions on the schedule at a conference. It’s at Espace 1001, an old shuttle bus terminal that has been converted into a captivating 18,000-square-foot venue that regularly hosts blockbuster exhibits. Currently, the venue is hosting the debut of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel exhibit where visitors can experience the ceiling paintings from the Chapel via cutting-edge photographic reproduction. It’s all part of Larivée’s hope that he and the team at the Palais can help attendees in Montréal discover more while they’re there.

“We want to deliver the multi-dimensional experience,” Larivée says. “We want to help attendees discover the city, discover the culture and discover what makes the community in Montréal so special.”

This educational article was brought to you by Tourisme Montréal. For the past four years, Montréal has been the #1 destination in the Americas for international association events. During this period, the Palais des congrès de Montréal hosted 155 international conventions and welcomed 418,400 participants to these events.

Tourisme Montréal brings a special brand of savoir-faire to the table, with streamlined solutions and a staff of experienced managers at its Montréal office as well as its satellite offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Paris.

Moreover, once a meeting is confirmed in Montréal, the Convention Services team is there to accompany planners every step of the way—from the first site visit until the departure of the last delegate—and provides a wide range of attendance-building tools and helpful advice to ensure the event is a success. As part of “Team Montréal”, a coalition of the city’s convention and meeting industry leaders, Tourisme Montréal is dedicated to making planners Montréal experience rewarding, efficient and successful.

Click here to learn more about what sets the Palais des congrès de Montréal apart from the competition.

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