by Trisha Richards
Meetings are to exhibitions as cheeses are to wines: complementary stimuli that enhance the participant experience.
With countless exhibitions incorporating education and entertainment as part of the proceedings, exhibition organizers must also consider meeting venues as auxiliary spaces in which to hold supporting events.
Convention centers, of course, offer plenty of meeting rooms, as do adjacent hotels. But these don’t always fit the bill, when it comes to providing the novelty and excitement today’s attendees crave.
That’s where an alternative space like a movie theater comes in.
Dyson discovers movie theaters
Chris Laidlaw, Dyson Canada’s national product training manager, is responsible for coordinating Dyson Academy, his company’s annual nationwide road tour at which new products are demonstrated to associates from several prominent retailers.
Within a four-month period, he and his small team of six travel to 11 cities across the country and host identical presentations to groups of 200 or more audience members. Collaborating with a venue partner that provides a consistent experience at each stop on their tour is essential for Dyson.
“This is our second year exclusive to Cineplex,” says Laidlaw. “For us, the locations are easy to get to, and we know we’re going to get the same level of quality at every location without complications.”
Since Cineplex Entertainment—best known only as Cineplex, Canada’s largest film exhibitor—officially launched its meeting rentals program in 1991, it has seen a 600 per cent increase in the number of corporate meetings and events held inside of its movie theaters.
And, really, after a brief “Aha moment,” news of the entertainment conglomerate’s rise as a major contender in the corporate meetings and events arena should not be mind blowing.
Accessibility increases interest
A few years back, Convene—a network of meeting, event, and conference venues—hosted a forum for “a small group of well-known and highly respected meeting planners” to discuss elements of most importance when selecting venues for events and conferences.
The company then compiled the results into the top 10 most important factors meeting and event planners consider when selecting a meeting location. Planners indicated that accessibility is the largest deal maker or breaker when choosing an ideal meeting site.
Further solidifying Convene’s findings, the 2017 American Express Meetings & Events Forecast recently confirmed that “accessibility increases interest” in events among North American professionals.
“Cineplex has 164 movie theaters across Canada, all with ample parking, and located within close proximity to transit,” says Darlene Stewart, executive director, Groups & Events, Cineplex Entertainment, who helps to make good use of the organization’s massive real estate during non-operating hours and times when auditoriums are available for events.
“Our locations are built to handle the accommodation and movement of large groups. We offer everything from comfortable seating, large restrooms, spacious lobbies to host receptions and, in some cases, enough space to organize trade shows and marketplaces for attendees.”
As one of Canada’s largest food suppliers, Cineplex also boasts diverse hot and cold menu items available onsite, ranging from classic popcorn and all concession favorites to more corporate catering options like wraps, salads, and desserts.
Fourth place in Convene’s top 10 most important venue considerations, as determined by planners, is quality and capability of audiovisual equipment. According to Cineplex’s clients, traditional venues cannot match the film leader’s plug-in-and-present solution.
“Cineplex is the only venue we’ve come across that has a master podium system that allows us to bring in our laptop-based multimedia presentation, connect seamlessly, and present,” explains Laidlaw.
“With other places we had to go through several technical challenges, such as audio checks, that made set up the day before an arduous task.”
Presenters don’t have to be trained projectionists or audio technicians to use one of Cineplex’s theatres’ 50-foot-plus movie screens and theatre surround sound.
“After connecting any device—like a laptop, tablet, or smart phone—to the podium, a remote allows users to control the pace of presentations effortlessly, and adjust volume with a single control,” explains Stewart.
Moreover, Cineplex staff is always close by for presenters that may require a little extra support.
Believe it or not, participant experience was the least of planners’ concerns, the results from Convene’s study showed. Convene notes, however, that it “would have liked to see this factor score higher.” Nevertheless, it is logical to deduce that engaging attendees will keep them returning to events, year after year.
Rosmarie Climaco-Bardelas, manager, Business Controls, for ENMAX Power Services Corporation, says that enhancing the participant experience is where Cineplex shines brightly (she also mentioned her appreciation for the ease of use of the master podium system for AV requirements). She has hosted her company’s year-end communication meeting for roughly 200 attendees at Cineplex’s Scotia Bank Chinook theater in Calgary, for the past two years.
“Cineplex has perfect seating to host a communication meeting, and then it acts as a treat when you tie in a movie,” she says.
“We have received excellent feedback from all of our employees for both years, and it’s now something they truly look forward to. (Our communication meeting) is a simple event but probably one of the most appreciated events we have.”
Big presentation doesn’t necessarily equal big bucks
While cost was not high on Convene’s list—as price flexibility came in as the eighth most important consideration for planners during venue selection—the 2017 American Express Meetings & Events Forecast notes that “working with budgets that are not expected to increase poses a challenge for some meeting owners and planners.”
Laidlaw admits that Cineplex is not the cheapest solution, “but we’re not looking for that,” he says. “We want to make sure we’re getting the best value for our money, and we would not have chosen Cineplex had they not been competitive.”
Trisha Richards is a freelance writer who specializes in trade journalism, marketing and corporate communications content, meetings and events, and event technology. Her views are her own. Connect with her through her website: www.writereaction.ca.
Photos courtesy Dyson