ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.
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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 14 FEATURE: CONVENTION CENTERS Competition Spurs Unique Features As convention centers in the South compete for events large and small, they need to reach out to planners with unique features, accord- ing to the IAVM trend report. "Differenti- ating is key to attracting more business and larger events," the report states. That means centers will need to use creative marketing to promote the unique aspects of their facility and the surrounding areas by highlighting restaurants and nightlife, local tours, muse- ums, shops and outdoor activities. The Memphis Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tenn., adds local flair by capital- izing on one of its most famous legends. The facility often engages local Elvis imperson- ators for events, an experience that will be enriched by the expansion of a nearby El- vis-themed event venue – Graceland. The ex- pansion includes a new 2,000-seat Graceland Soundstage theater and a new collection of museums, exhibits, restaurants and shops that "will allow visitors to follow the path that Elvis took and experience the sights and sounds of the city that inspired him." The ex- pansion is set to open March 2, 2017. In Houston, the Avenida Houston is a new walkable plaza that connects visitors of the George R. Brown Convention Center to sur- rounding attractions, including Minute Maid Park, Discovery Green and Toyota Center. It will also incorporate local art and pro- grammed events to help attendees get a sense of what it means to be a Houston resident. "We are rapidly approaching the finish line on a $175 million renovation that completely repositions the facility and makes it acces- sible, functional and appealing not only for convention attendees but for Houston-area residents and tourists as well, so it is contrib- uting to the life of the downtown area all the time, not just when events are in progress," said A.J. Mistretta, director of public rela- tions for Visit Houston. Engagement And Interactivity Now that event marketing has gone digital, planners are finding ways to engage attend- ees more than ever before. This development is also generating more creativity from ven- dors, sponsors and speakers. "Neither they [speakers, sponsors and ven- dors] nor attendees want to be quarantined in just a room or section of the building any- more," states the IAVM report. "People want to engage at events, moving about and taking in as much information as possible." In late 2016, the Austin Convention Cen- ter hosted the Tableau Software Customer Conference, which offered more than 100 hands-on training labs as well as meetups to engage attendees. These hands-on sessions were conducted in classroom-style settings that had attendees following along with a les- son on a Tableau-provided computer to help learn new skills and tricks. The meetups ► The Memphis Cook Convention Center will benefit from the expansion of a nearby Elvis-themed event venue – Graceland.