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SMDH 2018 Audience Credit Ryan Williams Photography 2
Credit: Ryan Williams Photography

If you plan it, they will come. This may have been true in the past, but in the age of live-streaming and virtual meetings it takes more than a room and decent coffee to draw an audience.

“Time is more valuable than ever before, especially among younger professionals. When you think about all the online webinars and interactive media that they'd rather use to save time and the hassle of travel, it can take a lot to convince them to leave the office,” says Darlene Stewart, Executive Director of Groups and Events with Cineplex, adding, “Today, if you want people to come out to an event, there has to be a compelling reason why, and it has to make an impact.”

Choosing the right venue is key to making that “splash”, she continues, especially if that venue promises a unique change of scenery and a “can't miss” experience: “Don't under-estimate the power of curiosity and the fear of missing out. If you can promise attendees something 'new' or different from the countless work functions they've been to before, they'll be a lot more incentivized to come out and convince others to do the same.”

The Theatre Pitch

How do you appeal to attendees who have seen it all before? For Stewart and the cast at Cineplex, the solution is to turn an iconic social hub and cater it towards corporate audiences.

“Theatres are a natural gathering place,” says Stewart. “People already know where we are and the kind of experience we provide, so it's not about changing consumer behaviour but simply gathering them at a familiar place for a different reason which creates a sense of excitement about the event.”

It helps that theatres are built for group experiences. Modern movie houses are designed to accommodate large audiences, facilitate attention-grabbing presentations, and provide ample room for networking. As well, the theatre rooms themselves are purpose-built to draw attention to the big screen.

Socialwest 2018 1 Credit Neil Zeller2
Credit: Neil Zeller

“You have comfortable seating, clear sight lines, and a very large presentation area. Combined with cutting-edge audio and visual equipment, it's an ideal setting for getting your message across,” notes Stewart.

Theatres can be seen as a non-traditional choice for meeting planners. Organizations that have given them a try, however, have become champions for the concept. That includes Twirp Communications, which recently held its Social Media Day at Cineplex's Scotiabank Halifax to take advantage of both its big screen presentation areas and the ability to incorporate online broadcasting with their partners at Atlantic Live Streaming.

SocialWest Founder Mike Morrison also recalls finding Calgary, Alberta's Cineplex Eau Claire an ideal fit for his company's 2018 event, noting, “We had speakers presenting on social media and digital marketing strategies, so their presentations have to look good. When we were looking for venues, we thought where it would look better than on a giant movie screen.” “Having the big theatre screens was amazing. There was no question everyone could see and read the slides from presenters, and with theatre quality sound, we didn't need to worry about being heard,” says Anita Kirkbride, Head “Twirp” with Twirp Communications. “It was also great having three rooms side by side which you can't always get in other venues. That made it easy and quick for attendees to travel between sessions, minimize time delays, and keep the agenda moving.”

With plans to bring SocialWest back to Eau Claire theatre in 2019, he adds, “Everyone loves going to the movies, so to bring a conference to a movie theatre I think was a lot of fun.”

Thumbs Up

Convincing potential guests to leave the comfort of their home or office can be a tough sell. With a unique vision and a venue to match, it's possible to not only draw crowds but garner rave reviews.

Imagine your Meetings at Cineplex.com/MeetingsPlus.

“Holding our event in a theatre gave us access to a unique and easily accessible venue and audio-visual that helped put our presentations over the top.”
Lori O'Doherty,
Executive Director, Toronto Academy of Dentistry

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