Visit Indy Offers Incentives to Bring in Hybrid Corporate Events
In an effort to speed the pace of recovery in Indianapolis, Visit Indy has pooled together its tech partners to offer discounted prices for citywide hybrid meetings.
The CVB says it is the first in the nation to present citywide discounts on audiovisual and WiFi. Planners who take advantage of the offer can receive 25 percent off WiFi and 10 percent off AV equipment. Thirteen venues, including Indiana Convention Center and a mix of hotels, are participating.
Visit Indy’s discount is available for events booked by the end of next year and held by Dec. 31, 2022.
As a destination designed specifically to attract conventions and events, Indianapolis is arguably more dependent on group travel than any city in the country, CVB officials say. The ability to bring aboard high-quality AV companies such as Smart City, Bartha, PSAV and Markey’s speaks to a mindset that locals refer to as “Hoosier hospitality,” said Markey's President and CEO Mark Miller.
“What's good for the community is good for the whole,” he said.
At What Cost?
Hybrid events, expected to be the norm for much of 2021 (if not longer), are a particularly expensive proposition for organizations. Traditional in-person gatherings already have extensive AV and internet needs. Those costs could potentially double for hybrid meetings that may require livestreaming, or at least recording, dozens of sessions. The connection quality is particularly important, as technology glitches will greatly affect remote attendee experiences.
At the same time, associations and corporations in need of a cash influx that only in-person events provide, may not be able to afford to hold annual conventions only virtually for a second-straight year. Similarly, the Indianapolis hospitality community is hardly alone in encouraging as many attendees as possible to stay at their hotels, shop at local stores and eat at their restaurants.
Visit Indy reports having 212 conventions on the books for 2021 that are expected to bring 1.1 million attendees to town. If actualized, that will fill more than 680,000 hotel rooms and generate $708.1 million in economic impact. Thus far, only 19 meetings and conventions have been cancelled, a sign that most groups are ready to meet again.
Understanding the situation, the team at Visit Indy set up a coronavirus recovery task force including about 60 key stakeholders, including Miller, to develop strategies to jumpstart the local hospitality industry.
AV providers, like the entire events industry, have been hit hard by COVID-19’s dual health and economic crises. Markey’s, for instance, is operating at about 40 percent of its normal revenue as its rental equipment sits on shelves.
Discounted business is better than no business at all, Miller explained. While the tech community is united in offering discounts, Markey’s and others are still going to vie to win business themselves. “It’s cooperating competition,” Miller said, noting there’s nothing to prevent Markey’s and others from lowering their prices more than the pledged 25 percent. “If a group chooses to come to Indianapolis, that gives us as competitors the opportunity to earn that business from the customer.”
The needs of hybrid events will vary, predicts Miller. And what an organization may want versus what they can afford, even on a discount, may not sync. It’s up to the AV providers to work with planners to strategize about how to most effectively use available funds at a time when many meeting budgets will be reduced due to the economy’s downshift.
Livestreaming 20 or 30 sessions is an expensive proposition (perhaps doubling AV costs), in terms of the needed equipment and Wi-Fi to guarantee high broadcast quality. Miller says a cheaper option would be to livestream general sessions and then record breakouts, making those available 24 to 48 hours later. Some associations, in particular, could choose to hold that content behind a paywall to generate additional funds.
“All of a sudden, that state or regional association can have viewers from all over the world,” Miller noted.
Miller predicts meetings, conventions, expos and other events will have a hybrid component for years to come and that we’re just in the initial stages of learning of what the new normal will look like.
“You can have an interested audience where someone isn’t going to fly halfway across the world to see one keynote or be part of a particular breakout, but they will certainly join virtually,” Miller said.