Undoubtedly, events have made a significant comeback to the Shaw Centre and the industry itself. However, the pandemic has been challenging and ultimately forced the events industry to change. Our event managers are in constant contact with our clients, collecting every detail to manage their events. We sat down with them to uncover current trends within the industry, hurdles faced by our clients, and how we’re finding solutions to ensure their event is a success.
The Return to Normal
The pandemic took a major toll on the tourism and events industry, being one of the hardest hit industries in Canada and one of the last sectors to recover. From a planning perspective, the everchanging restrictions were especially difficult to accommodate. With the majority of restrictions being lifted, we can once again meet in a semi-normal environment.
Feeling comfortable gathering with hundreds of people can feel strange after becoming accustomed to social distancing and other restrictions as such, our event managers have noted that attendance for events can be unpredictable. “You must have a strong line of communication with your client” says Kyla Orr. “People realize their events can happen again, and there are many last-minute changes and adjustments. We’re also being impacted by global supply chain issues, as are many other businesses. COVID is still lingering, which means people are getting sick just before an event, or perhaps they don’t feel comfortable gathering yet”. Orr states having transparent conversations with our clients and advising them about implemented safety measures is how we’re solving this problem. “We understand the impacts they’re facing, and we want to communicate to our clients that we’re in this together. We’re being proactive and following up with our clients for every last detail to instill our timelines and standards while showing flexibility and empathy.”
Custom Menu Options
A trend all of our event managers have noted, is the rise of custom menu requests. “Each group has its own unique needs”, says Amanda Delorey. “Custom requests present an opportunity for Chef and his team to get creative.” However, these requests do come with an additional cost. Amanda also notes it’s in favour of the client to choose from our main menu as the client receives not only the best value, but with the current supply chain issues affecting the industry, the items listed in our menu are least likely to be impacted.
Kyla Orr is also seeing similar requests from her clients. “Understanding our client’s vision and theme of their events and reviewing our menu to set them up for a strong foundation is the goal. We’re happy to modify a few items here and there versus the entire menu.” Orr also notes that, “Our team also does a fantastic job at accommodating dietary restrictions to ensure our guests have an enjoyable experience no matter what that restriction may be.”
Our kitchen is run by an award-winning Chef, Patrick Turcot, who has a passion for sourcing high-quality food and beverage. Our menu is carefully curated with Sous Chef Jennifer Sands; together, they study global trends but source locally. By visiting local suppliers and forming relationships with them, they offer the freshest product available on today’s market at a fair price point.
Dependence on Technology
With the onset of the pandemic, events predominately shifted virtually, but when restrictions eased, we found that a hybrid event was the perfect solution to get attendees back into our building and return to a sense of normalcy. Now more than ever, we rely on technology to encompass a hybrid event. We leverage our partnership with Encore Canada, responsible for executing the virtual components. We also ensure the client connects with their team well before the event to ensure they understand the services Encore offers. Jawad Alami, our Event Services Coordinator, tell us about his experience with our in-house provider, “It’s always of the highest caliber, and we wouldn’t accept anything less for our clients at the Shaw Centre. We have a standard, and they always meet or exceed it.” Alami adds that “…they have an office on-site, so they’re easily accessible to our clients and us.”
Our event managers noted that our strong relationship with Encore helps alleviate the stress off the client. Having both professionals working side-by-side creates synchronicity with the AV component, and the event manager ensures that all the details are covered. “It’s a shared responsibility,” Amanda Delorey notes. “It’s not just an AV question; it also lands on my plate as an Event Services Manager because there are other things to consider when creating a hybrid production. Things that are great in person don’t always translate well over video. For example, you might want to have an extra background, pipe and drape or adjust the lighting in the room. These are all things that you need to consider when you’re proposing a virtual component.”
Sustainability is a Standard Practice
“Sustainability is on the rise!” notes Greg Giek. Giek shares that convention planners are mandated to show their attendees that solid eco-friendly protocols are in place. “It’s essentially a standard at this point. Attendees don’t want single-use items anymore, and we’re moving away from that narrative in a post-pandemic world. Instead, they want to see water stations for refillable water bottles and items that they can reuse.” When hosting a large event, waste will be an obvious factor, and clients want to know what we’re doing with that waste. Giek tells us that, during site visits or pre-convention meetings, they discuss how items like this can be managed and says that “…it’s all about educating the client so they can relay that information to their attendees.” Sustainability is a key pillar at the Shaw Centre. It’s something we’ve always taken seriously and will continue to practice.
Health & Safety Remains Top of Mind
In almost all of our pre-convention meetings, health and safety remains a topic of interest. Our planners know their delegates will be asking what measures will be in place and likely won’t attend if health and safety is not a priority. Giek notes that we’re going above and beyond what the provincial government asks of us. “We have UV scanners for the escalator handrails, which is a fully guided handrail that passes through the modules as it runs, giving constant exposure to UV-C sterilization.” He also noted that, “We have Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NPBI) to filter out the air in our elevators and have installed automatic flush valves in our washrooms to reduce touchpoints.” In addition to those items our housekeeping department uses Victory electrostatic sprayers as well as a backpack sprayer which uses a disinfectant to clean hard-to-reach areas. The frequent touch banquet items are changed out more frequently, for example, tongs and serving spoons. Automatic hand sanitizer stations are located prior to each serving station. These are some of the measures we’re taking to ensure we offer the highest standard of cleanliness. “These measures aren’t mandatory, but we want our guests to feel at ease when they spend time in our building. Even something as simple as the signage throughout the building helps promotes these features to make our attendees feel comfortable gathering again.” says Giek.
We’ve also given our clients the freedom of choice within their events. Should the client want to enforce mask-wearing or other restrictions, we fully support their decision. We’re showing flexibility and will accommodate groups within their contracted spaces.