Go Media Canada embodies the best of Canada through rotating locations across the country. In the past, the event has struggled with the right mix of conference programming and attendee exploration. With the 2018 event held in Calgary, the focus was on capturing the moments and providing attendees with a variety of enjoyable ways to get to know the real Calgary.
Go Media Canada focuses on experiencing the best of Canada. It embodies the heart and soul of spectacular Canadian storytelling. Hosted by a different Canadian destination each year, the annual event connects top international and domestic media with Canadian tourism organizations through one-to-one meetings, networking events, and pre- and post-show tours. 300 delegates attend from the United States and international locations like Mexico, UK, Germany, China, Japan, Asia, India, and others.
Quick Facts About the Event
- The event was held September 30 to October 4, 2018.
- It included farm tours as well as local tours of Calgary.
- Go Media Canada is run by Destination Canada and produced in partnership with local host committees. The host committees for the 2018 event were Tourism Calgary and Travel Alberta.
- The event attracted 300 delegates from around the world.
- 14,000+ guest rooms and 1.2 million square feet of meeting space
- Two large meeting venues, BMO Centre at Stampede Park and Calgary TELUS Convention Centre
- A network of 85+ local industry leaders to connect conferences to Calgary’s intellectual capital
- The Calgary International Airport is twenty minutes from downtown Calgary, providing the area with hundreds of daily non-stop flights to the US and Europe
- The convention neighborhood offers restaurants, entertainment, accommodations, shopping, and theater within walking distance
- 4th most livable city in the world –The Economist, 2018
- In the top 10 of the most walkable cities in Canada
There were three objectives for the Go Media Canada Event in Calgary:
- Change attendees’ vision of the city as more than just the location of the Calgary Stampede.
- Allow attendees to experience the true flavor of the city.
- Create photo-worthy opportunities on a regular basis to help tell Calgary’s story.
With the Calgary Go Media Canada Event, the challenges were to give attendees more time to enjoy the locale outside of sessions and provide an experience they would remember. Past attendees had listed exploration as important to them.
The secondary challenge of creating experiences for attendees that will help them see Calgary as more than just a stampede town was two-pronged. It required overcoming a long-held location stereotype and giving attendees cause to capture the town on their camera and post their images as well as share their experiences.
As many event planners understand, the largest issues are usually the ones you have little control over. The final challenge to overcome was a surprise from an unseasonal snowstorm during the event. On the night of the dine around, Calgary experienced a massive unseasonal blizzard, which blanketed the city in snow! This easily could have hindered or canceled the dine around but not in Calgary.
How Were the Objectives Achieved?
The planning committee wanted to create a memorable experience that would stand out for
attendees. They began by creating a planning subcommittee called the “Magic Committee.” The purpose of the committee, like the name suggested, was to create magic moments and build on Calgary’s urban drivers of music, art, culture, history, and culinary.
The goal was to construct an atmosphere and build the reputation of Calgary as the Ultimate Host City and create indelible experiences for the audience.
Examples of these experiences included:
Airport Arrivals Lounge
A place where groups arriving could meet-up, get destination/transportation tips from local volunteers, grab a locally-made snack, and listen to live music (arranged by the Calgary Folk Music Festival).
Calgary’s Iconic White Hat Greeters
This organization met each arriving group of attendees at their gate to welcome them to Calgary and provide directions and information.
Local Maker’s Market
The host destination typically gifts attendees of the tourism media conference, but Calgary wanted to elevate the experience. Instead of a basic room-drop with a swag bag, they created event memories. Calgary introduced an innovative new approach to gifting. The Local Maker’s Market, Market Collective, collaborated with the Calgary host committee to host a mini-market in the conference foyer. This included 10 local makers who told the stories behind their products and the local features/tie-ins. Attendees perused the mini-market, met the makers and selected their favorite item to take home as a keepsake.
To further elevate the mini-market, Calgary also featured a local coffee roaster who served their local blend, instead of the “typical drip conference coffee” that attendees are accustomed to. During breaks, Made by Marcus (a local ice cream hotspot) handed out ice cream bars.
Plus, the Kananaskis Nordic spa created a relaxation lounge where attendees could take a break and relax.
Through the efforts of 90 Mavericks and 80 local businesses, these local partnerships made a big impression and got the community involved. With their help, the local host committee created authentic, memorable local experiences for the attendees.
Elevated Registration (literally!)
Instead of hosting the conference registration at the convention center or host hotels as is typically done at most conferences, the conference registration was held at the majestic Calgary Tower! The Calgary Stampede transformed the base of the tower in a Canadiana theme with food and entertainment for those waiting in line.
At the top of the tower, attendees could enjoy their first introduction to the city with a 360-degree view of the skyline and surrounding mountains/foothills. Serenading them at the top of the tower were local musicians, brought out by the Folk Music Festival. Registrants were also able to enjoy local Calgary treats and snacks.
Mock Dine Around
The host committee engaged 15 local restaurants spread over four inner-city communities. Each restaurant prepared a special menu for the group. At the conference information desk, there was a culinary concierge, who could take reservations and make group bookings at the restaurant of choice. This way people could book dinners with their peers and colleagues or easily book business meetings at local hotspots.
Calgary planners worked to improve attendee experience and made it their primary focus. While this goal was implemented in every area of the event, here are a few examples where they put attendee experience front-and-center for 2018:
- Instead of generic swag for all attendees, they opened a Local Marker’s Market where guests could speak with the crafters, hear their stories, and select their favorite gift.
- They used local food and snacks throughout the event and during breaks.
- They transformed the registration by making the whole experience more picturesque.
- They created a dining experience that allowed attendees to select their favorite type of restaurants and dine with who they wanted.
- Welcome events became about an experience (like the airport lounge) and not just about handing out brochures.
ELEVATED REGISTRATION RESULTS
Typically this events sees 20-30 registrants on the pre-conference day and the remaining (270-280) registrations on day one. This can cause a true logjam and frustration. With the new take on registration, 200 of the 300 attendees came to the tower on the pre-day, lessening the registration burden on day one of the conference.
TRANSPORTATION FOR THE DINE AROUND
After the unexpected snow, the local team and transportation partners (National) rallied and worked quickly on their toes to provide transportation solutions to get all of the attendees who booked reservations where they needed to be.
The surprise bonus?
Calgary was transformed into a winter wonderland, which was an exciting development for international attendees who don’t get to experience snow.
Inspiration to Change Your Event
The top takeaways for this event revolve around being prepared for the unexpected and relying on groups you may not have thought of for assistance.
Plan for any weather.
Yes, consult the average temperature charts and research what the weather is usually like at that time of year but create contingency plans based on the possibilities. Maybe you’re hosting an event in a town that has 360 days of sunshine. It’s still possible you’ll be there on the five days that aren’t. No matter the season, know that snow or the rainy season can always come early! Having a backup plan will give you peace of mind and ensure attendee experience doesn’t suffer because of an inconsistent Mother Nature.
Look to the community for assistance.
You may be surprised how many local citizens, businesses, and organizations will want to collaborate with you and be a part of the planning or activities. This helps you with planning but also improves the attendee experience through more robust and authentic offerings that are true to the local culture. It benefits everyone to showcase the people who make up a city – and resulted in an amazing event that the local community was proud to host and the international attendees were happy to be a part of.
Work with your venue and hotels early.
Be deliberate in your communication of goals to get these partners on board. The Calgary TELUS Convention Centre and participating hotels shared the event planner’s vision and desire to work with Go Media Canada. Because of this, they were able to eliminate some of the barriers that can exist when wanting to feature local food and beverage that may be outside of a preferred suppliers list. Always ask. It may be clearly stated that there are certain protocols that must be followed but if you have a vision, ask your venues or vendor to support it. You might be surprised just how willing they are to do so.
Creating an experience customized to your host city and using local organizations to flavor your offerings ensures your event will be different from all others. It gives attendees a reason to make the trip and becomes an easy success in today’s visual social media-driven world.