How Ottawa is helping reimagine business events from Costa Rica to Japan

hybrid event
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by Ottawa Tourism

Conferences and events held in the capital could soon be broadcast in cities the world over thanks to a partnership between Ottawa Tourism and dozens of other international convention bureaus.

Since December 2020, Ottawa’s local destination marketing and management organization has been spearheading – and growing – the Hybrid City Alliance, a new style of destination collaboration geared towards helping clients execute on conferences post pandemic. 

Founded by Ottawa, The Hague, Prague and Geneva, the Hybrid City Alliance’s goal is to encourage and promote multi-city events by connecting localized hubs for delegates to travel to – with the potential to draw on untapped audiences that would normally not attend in person because of distance or finances.

The Alliance, which grew to include 24 cities from 15 countries in a matter of months,helps connect clients to global hubs and provides the tools to host their international conferences in various cities around the world.

Theresa gatto
Theresa Gatto 

This approach allows delegates to meet face-to-face in smaller groups, which will be vital in the recovery process post pandemic, says Theresa Gatto, senior manager, business events at Ottawa Tourism.

“Hosting hybrid events is new territory for most of the industry, so we wanted to do our part to help clients figure out how to make that happen,” she says. “This growing global alliance is providing a little bit of hope that people can meet in some manner, even if it's not at the same scale yet, as they were able to meet before.”

The road to recovery

The Alliance also serves event planners by pooling together insights and best practices from global entities on topics such as how to put together a successful conference bid and whether to host an in-person event or run a hybrid model. 

Throughout the pandemic, the Alliance dedicated much of its efforts to researching hybrid events in order to create an industry standard. The cumulative efforts resulted in a white paper titled Your Ultimate Guide to Multi-City Hybrid Events, an invaluable resource for conference planners in this new-age of hosting, says Gatto. 

“We enlisted the help of some of our clients, stakeholders and partners to figure out what the successes and challenges are when it comes to hybrid events,” she explains. “What is so incredible about that collaboration is that someone in South Korea or The Hague could come up with an idea that has real world implications for Ottawa’s business events sector. We’re seeing the industry trying to help itself rebound, collectively.” 

Delegates also stand to benefit from the international partnership, as they will have access to global conference content without having to travel. This could encourage new delegates to attend events such as association seminars, adds Gatto, as they will be able to network in-person but consume never-before-seen content. 

“This partnership will help organizations bring back their revenue generating events in a new and exciting way,” she says. “It has also kept Ottawa on the international stage, during a time when we could not meet in person, which will help our local recovery efforts as well.”

As one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, it will be more important than ever for industry leaders to continue to collaborate and share best practices on the road to recovery, and the Alliance will be one of those leaders, says Gatto. 

“Our priority is trying to move with the industry through this pandemic, and to adjust as to what meetings are going to look like in the future,” she says. “By partnering with global industry, we are spreading out the economic impact of hybrid events in hopes of seeing a quicker sector recovery.” 

Milestone moments for the Hybrid City Alliance

  • The Hybrid City Alliance was created in December 2020 as a partnership between the four founding cities 
  • News spread of the collaboration, garnering interest from countries across the globe – pushing membership to 24 cities in 15 countries in eight months 
  • More than 260 articles have been published about the Hybrid City Alliance worldwide 
  • The Alliance was awarded the Best Marketing Award by the International Congress and Convention Association in October 2021

For more information on the Hybrid City Alliance please visit: https://www.hybridcityalliance.org