Visit Indy Offers Big Discounts to Hybrid Events

December 4, 2020
Visit Indy Offers Big Discounts to Hybrid 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.

Cooperative Competition

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.

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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact