It’s no exaggeration to say that for many UK meetings and events venues, simply surviving 2020 was an achievement in itself.
In the autumn, 35 major cultural organisations received £75 million of lifeline grants from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, including BH Live, which runs the arena at Bournemouth International Centre and the ACC Liverpool Group, owner of the M&S Bank Arena and Conference Centre.
Some £334 million of this vital funding was also extended to more than 2,000 smaller organisations by Arts Council England. It helped to protect jobs and support operational costs, whilst aiding investment in hybrid event technology and infrastructure for the reimagining of COVID-secure events for audiences of all sizes.
In-person business meetings, conferences, training and events were restricted to no more than 30 people for much of 2020. As a result, venues turned to hybrid event technology, in order to offer planners alternative ways to continue reaching remote audiences.
Hybrid solutions are now here to stay and a multitude of UK venues have reimagined their offering to not only future-proof themselves for years to come, but also ensure that planners have advanced technology solutions for greater reach and engagement.
Here’s a few of the leading hybrid event facilities across the UK:
Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), Edinburgh, Scotland
The EICC - located in the centre of Scotland’s Capital - launched its ‘Make it Edinburgh Live’ hybrid events solution in early spring 2020.
The solution offers a number of different packages with digital services, which can be tailored to fit the needs of each individual event.
Activity can be partially broadcast from the EICC’s facilities and if planners have certain services already in place, such as event apps and audience polling systems, these can be integrated.
Marshall Dallas, EICC CEO, said of the launch: “Following extensive and ongoing dialogue with our client base, what we discovered is that there is strong demand for conferences and events taking place partially or fully online. So we’re very pleased to have launched our new hybrid model for holding events.”
Tobacco Dock, London
The ‘plug and play’ package features a 16-metre LED screen and studio quality AV.
With multiple studio spaces, green rooms and catering areas, as well as an experienced broadcast crew to harness the energy and content, planners can build an event to their own specifications.
The venue’s layout further lends itself to socially distanced live elements of hybrid events.
“As well as having 57 event spaces to choose from, we’ve five separate entrances, meaning visitors can safely enter and exit the venue with no need to congregate,” explains Jonathan Read, Tobacco Dock’s Commercial Director.
ICC Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland
The aptly named ‘Hybrid Studio’ at ICC Belfast in Northern Ireland also launched in June 2020.
The facility features LED stage lighting, 4K broadcast cameras, vision mixing and green screen effects, plus a full PA system.
Events can be live, pre-recorded, in-person or fully online. With multiple set-up solutions from high stools and comfy sofas, to a more formal lectern and top tables, planners can deliver their message in an environment that suits them.
One of the first events to be held in the Hybrid Studio was ‘World Class Leadership Live’, part of the Northern Ireland Chamber Leadership Series of events.
Remote and in-person delegates were able to interact with live sessions, while speakers delivered keynotes and contributed to panel discussions directly from the Hybrid Studio, as well as from their international locations including the Republic of Ireland, Lebanon and the United States.
British Motor Museum, Warwick, England
The venue has opened a dedicated filming studio and offers 1GB WiFi, including a 100Mb hard-wired connection, to allow for seamless virtual video conferencing.
“Whilst we identified a growing trend in hybrid events pre-COVID, we anticipate the importance for venues to have the right technology and infrastructure in place to deliver these types of events moving forward. It will become a key requisite for organisers,” says Charlotte Dawes, Senior Sales Manager at the British Motor Museum.
ExCeL London launched a virtual event studio, in partnership with production company Anna Valley, in the autumn of 2020.
The studio, located above the venue’s main event halls, features an adaptable digital backdrop and stage floor, multi-camera and full sound system and lighting rig, as well as space for up to 30 delegates.
Remote presenters with broadcast quality feeds can be included in studio activity, while content can be streamed to many leading platforms such as Zoom, YouTube and Facebook.
ICC Birmingham, Birmingham, England
The ICC Birmingham enhanced its virtual event offering by adding a studio in 2020 that enables speakers to engage with online audiences in an environment that reflects their brand and brings their presentations to life.
Other hybrid and virtual formats offered by the Midlands-based venue include web streaming, managed webinars, or a full-service virtual event featuring live or pre-recorded presentations, polling and chat functions, plus virtual exhibition stands.
Manchester Central, England
In October 2020, Manchester Central and Sterling Event Group announced the launch of ‘Live from the Auditorium’, a virtual event solution that provides an interactive live streaming experience from a studio setting. Housed within Manchester Central’s purpose-built auditorium, the solution is designed to facilitate an online or hybrid event.
Manchester Central’s CEO, Shaun Hinds says: “The studio package includes sound, lighting, screens and live camera systems, all operated by a dedicated events and production team, providing clients with the reassurance that their live broadcast will be of the highest quality, will be engaging and will run smoothly from start to finish – eliminating the risk of technical difficulties that are, more often than not, experienced during video calls.”
IET Birmingham Austin Court, Birmingham, England
As the home of the Institute of Engineering and Technology, the AV capabilities at IET Birmingham Austin Court are first-class. The venue’s hybrid event package provides exclusive use of the venue, allowing up to 69 delegates to split up into different rooms, all equipped with large screens to be able to stream content from the Kingston Theatre.
Planners can also make use of the venue’s smaller flat-floor spaces to carry out pre-records, speaker filming or live streaming to a platform of choice.
From Savoy Place, the IET’s London venue, planners can work with IET.tv, the IET’s in-house video and webcasting team. Packages also feature optional add-ons like Sli.do, which can be embedded into the streaming to encourage interactivity.