When looking for sites for hybrid meetings, more than one-third of respondents to Convene’s Recovery Dashboard surveys conducted in late summer and fall were looking for venues with broadcasting facilities — and convention centers around the world have worked quickly to meet the demand. As they do, we’re noticing a trend. In most cases, these aren’t bland, cookie-cutter facilities, but designed as spaces that reflect their destinations.
For example, in high-tech Singapore, Marina Bay Sands launched a broadcast studio at its Sands Expo and Convention Centre, which is hologram-ready and equipped with broadcast-quality livestreaming in a space that can accommodate 50 people. In New York City, where the already massive Javits Center is expanding, a recently installed broadcast studio also is on a big scale: It accommodates up to 300 socially distanced attendees. And the “Stream Stage” theater in St. Louis’ America’s Center Convention Complex now can be used for digital and hybrid meetings of varying sizes (see story below).
As venues upgrade and reimagine their broadcast facilities, they also are accelerating the trend of making local communities — not visitors — more central to the life of convention centers. In Washington, D.C., GATHER by Events DC is a new virtual platform and production studio that will include cultural and entertainment programming, featuring local artists and musicians, along with business events.
And in Long Beach, California, which has pioneered a turn-key approach to meeting design, the Long Beach CVB has launched “Long Beach Live,” turning the entire Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center into a multi-camera, multi-space broadcast facility. The center’s services will include making a director of creative initiatives available to act as an executive producer to manage the simultaneous execution of live events and a broadcast production, as well as a show producer with a background in television and film to manage a convention center production crew.
Thinking Differently in St. Louis
The “Stream Stage” in a 1,400-seat theater in St. Louis’ America’s Center Convention Complex has never been sold as a standalone option at the center. But — as most of us have found ourselves doing in the last months — Kitty Ratcliffe, president of Explore St. Louis, which oversees both the city’s destination marketing organization and the center, has been looking at the convention center’s assets with new eyes.
Working with Smart City Networks and PSAV, Explore St. Louis upgraded the theater’s technology, creating a flexible, professional space that can be used for digital and hybrid meetings of varying sizes. “You can put your presenter on the stage and they can walk around and talk as if they are presenting to a live audience,” said Ratcliffe, who came from the stage where she held a press conference about an art exhibition on display at the center when she spoke with Convene.
It’s a solution that works right now, she said, and into the future in which hybrid meetings become “just a part of the regular program.”
Explore St. Louis is also exploring new partnerships. The organization has developed a two-year pilot project with T. Rex, a nonprofit technology incubator, to develop space at the center that will support AR and VR programming. T. Rex serves as an innovation hub for the city, and the plan is for the center’s expansion in technological capacity to benefit both its own business event clients and the larger community, including local public schools, Ratcliffe said. T. Rex’s offices are next door to the center, and when the center’s newly approved expansion project is completed, will be connected to the convention center campus by a park. “Just having a creative group accessible to us has caused us to think differently,” Ratcliffe said. “We got lucky with the geography.”
Barbara Palmer is deputy editor of Convene.