In the age of virtual interaction, human-to-human connection is critical to spark creativity, make connections and bring organizations together.
The coronavirus pandemic currently has the world on lockdown, but when it is defeated, we will live in a time unlike any other when the need for human-to-human interaction is critical for organizations to rebuild and regroup.
Virginie De Visscher, Senior Director of Business Development, Economic Sectors for Destination Canada Business Events, says that there is no substitute for the creativity and energy that ignites when groups of like minded people connect, brainstorm and strategize. Here, she breaks down all of the factors that result in innovation and the ability for organizations to capture lightning in a bottle when great minds virtually connect through business events.
In the past few months, everything has changed. What are some of the most innovative ways you’ve seen meeting planners pivot, use technology and continue to provide exceptional events?
Virginie DeVisscher: At first, it was a bit of a mad scramble between cancelling live events, postponing others, and still others pivoting to virtual. But we have to applaud the efforts—planners have risen to the task—those who were unfamiliar with virtual event technology got a crash course in online events. In Canada, venues and event suppliers like the Palais des congrès de Montréal, are embracing the new norm by converting space into streaming studios so that live events can stream to virtual attendees everywhere. Our DMO partners in Québec City and Charlottetown are conducting virtual fams where attendees spend one hour a day over the course of three days enjoying virtual, live and VR/AR experiences to get a sense of the destination and what it offers for business events. COVID-19 has really provided an opportunity for innovation and we are thrilled to see planners and supplier partners capitalizing on it.
Research has shown that emotional connections can drive audience engagement and brand affinity. In what ways have you seen events connect with attendees to give them a lasting impression long after the event is over?
VD: With travel currently paused, we are having to make connections online—I know of DMOs who have hosted online cooking demos, and some other organizations who have created private living room concerts for their key accounts using top Canadian talent. Virtual FAM participants have been provided with VR headsets to use on a virtual deep-sea fishing expedition. Some others have used virtual escape rooms and quizzes to keep sessions engaging and interactive. There is a fine balance to capturing an audience’s attention in a meaningful way. While these virtual connections are both innovative, and important for the time being, we know that when the time is right to safely meet again, there is strong value and demand for meeting in person.
We know that human-to-human connection will be vital once the world safely reopens. Moving forward, how can business events and a strong economic sector strategy help fuel recovery and economic growth?
VD: Business events will be key to economic recovery. As a segment of tourism, they have the power to affect all facets of society, all communities, and the people within them. When you look at the Canadian Tourism Commission Act*, which was formed nearly 20 years ago, it says within the first lines that:
- The Canadian tourism industry is vital to the social and cultural identity and integrity of Canada, and:
- That the Canadian tourism industry makes an essential contribution to the economic well-being of Canadians.
We know that the legacy of business events can mean new opportunities for trade, investment and collaboration, opportunities for business expansion and talent attraction. Ultimately this leads to community strength and resilience (and economic nourishment)—something that our destinations will all need coming out of the pandemic.
A destination’s sector leadership, thought leadership and innovation leadership can be the difference that tips the scale in favour of one destination over any other. Case in point: the recent announcement that the WiSEE (Wireless for Space and Extreme Environment) Conference that will be held in Winnipeg in 2022 is evidence that a collaborative approach, fuelled by research, leads to successful bids. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) event will bring together scientists from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency, along with aerospace and space defense industries and academic researchers in Winnipeg to understand and solve the emerging problems facing wireless sensing and communication in space and related extreme environments..
By spotlighting innovative thinkers, entrepreneurs and small and large businesses we are showcasing Canada’s knowledge capital, creating a thoughtful, community-based approach to tourism will lift up culture, art, community confidence and pride, and ultimately, innovation. It will also be a catalyst for economic recovery not just for Canada but for the countries of the global organizations that meet here.
This article is brought to you by Destination Canada’s Business Events team. Learn more about planning your next event in Canada, or reach out directly to receive our knowledge maps, designed to help you determine which destination is the best fit for your meeting.
*Read more about the Canadian Tourism Commission Act here.