How Houston First has Reworked the City Experience for a New Era of Events

A Sponsored Message from the Houston First Corporation

Author: Jennifer N. Dienst       


The George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) anchors Avenida Houston, a convention and entertainment district comprised of full-service hotels, varied dining experiences, nightlife, entertainment, and green space.

Home to one of the country’s top 10 largest convention centers, Houston has had to quickly adapt in recent months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. After kicking off campaigns and virtual experiences to keep the destination top-of-mind, Houston First Corporation introduced new tools to help groups continue to meet safely and productively — whether online or in-person. In August, the Avenida Houston Virtual Studio opened at the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB). The permanent broadcast studio has more than 5,000 square feet of space for virtual and hybrid programming and offers flexibility to suit a group’s specific needs — organizers can choose to work with on-site AV staff or bring in their own team.

“This allows Houston to host fully online or hybrid events while incorporating attendees or presenters from numerous locations anywhere in the world, all with or without an in-person audience,” said Houston First’s acting president and CEO Michael Heckman of the new venue. “This flexibility will be key to maintaining our relevance in an increasingly digital modality.”

The turnkey setup offers opportunities for engagement through the integration of various platforms, including chat, polling, and other interactivity features. Organizers can also depend on the support of an on-site IT team to help navigate the studio’s broadcasting and livestreaming capabilities.


The new Avenida Houston Virtual Studio at the GRB offers organizers a turnkey solution for livestreaming and broadcasting or recording.

For groups who choose to meet in person, organizers can take solace in the destination’s widespread commitment to public health and safety. Houston Clean, an initiative forged by Houston’s local hospitality community, has raised the bar on the protocol implemented at local venues, attractions, hotels, and businesses. Thermal cameras, hand-sanitizing stations, and electrostatic spraying are among the protective measures used by Houston Clean partners. To boot, the GRB recently became the first convention center to install the new Integrated Viral Protection (IVP) system, a heated HVAC filter that researchers say is 99.8 percent effective at removing and killing SARS-CoV-2 viral particles.

Houston First has also been busy reimagining how groups can safely gather and connect. “Adaptation and creativity is the name of the game in the times of COVID-19,” said Heckman, who gives the real-life examples of drive-in movie nights in lieu of crowded theaters, and organized outdoor tailgating and viewing parties for local sports fans. “For some of our large banner events which were forced to cancel earlier in the year, like Comicpalooza, we’ve found opportunities to organize smaller tie-in events that benefit our vendors while also encouraging our patrons.”

To collaborate on creative solutions for your own business events, contact Houston First at (713) 853-8949 and [email protected].



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