When the organizers of Dx3 Canada decided to add a virtual component to their event this past March 6-7 in Toronto, they had twin goals. Because the second annual conference and trade show — dedicated to digital marketing, advertising, and retailing — drew most of its 3,800-plus attendees from around the city, the first objective was to “get some exposure outside the greater Toronto area,” said Duncan Payne, co-founder of Hut2Hut Events, which produces Dx3. “Specifically on the West Coast, … to entice people to actually fly out next year.” Second, Payne hoped that by providing some of the first day’s content virtually — including a broadcast of two keynote addresses — to local non-attendees, it would encourage them to register to attend the second day of the conference.
To achieve those goals, Dx3 found an ally in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC), which also places a high value on all things digital. Dx3 was the first hybrid event held at MTCC since it was certified by Virtual Edge Institute (VEI) as a Digital Event Center — meaning that the facility has been assessed by VEI representatives to ensure that it is equipped to plan and execute digital events. Bill McDonald, MTCC’s chief information officer, emphasized that adding a virtual component to a meeting is all about “defining expectations — because virtual meetings can mean a lot of things. There are varying amounts of facets and varying amounts of complexities.”
With the help of Ray Culliton, MTCC’s assistant director of event coordination, and other suppliers, the keynote addresses — which were open to both paying conference attendees and expo visitors — were streamed, with interviews and content from the trade-show floor inserted in between to keep attendees engaged.
From coordinating the audiovisual supplier and show decorator to deploying its in-house telecommunications team, MTCC was well prepared to execute the event — in part because of the training offered through VEI. “The advantages of VEI itself are their program, their education,” said Culliton, who at press time was completing VEI training to become certified as a Digital Event Strategist (DES). “They basically walk you through from start to finish in their education modules with principles, theories, and industry experts.”
Payne wasn’t satisfied to have the virtual component provide content to off-site viewers and just leave it at that — it was important for him and his team to analyze participant data after the show. They were able to tell how many people had registered for the live streamed sessions, how many of those were from outside the Toronto area, and that 30 percent of virtual attendees actually showed up in person to register on the second day of the conference.
“But the real proof will be with the 2014 event, to see if we pick up any of the people or any of the out-of-towners,” Payne said. “That’ll be the real gem for us.”
Events With the ‘The Potential to Revolutionize’
Kevin Halfpenny is the manager of events at Toronto’s Children’s Aid Foundation – and, thanks to a donation from communications and technology company bxb, a recently certified Digital Event Strategist through Virtual Edge Institute.
“Digital events carry the potential to revolutionize how traditional face-to-face events are produced and marketed while vastly increasing their scope and reach,” Halfpenny said in a recent interview with PCMA. “[T]here is a real opportunity in the coming years for digital event professionals to educate businesses on the growing number of studies proving the viability and profit-generating potential of the medium — either in a hybrid combination with an existing physical event or as its outright replacement.”