Throughout the year we have seen the format of live events quickly pivot. As an industry, we have witnessed the creation of unique events that have been a product of the pandemic. As two of Edmonton’s busiest and safest venues, the Edmonton Convention Centre and Edmonton EXPO Centre have seen an increased demand for more sustainable and hybrid event solutions. Our team recently launched our Healthy Venues Plan and are among the first convention and exhibition centers in Canada to achieve the GBAC Star Accreditation, all to ensure the Edmonton Convention Centre and Edmonton EXPO Centre are among the safest venues in the country to plan and attend events.

Our venues are privileged to work collaboratively with our city’s best event professionals and we are proud to showcase the event expertise found within Edmonton. In collaboration with our friends at PlanIt Sound, we are sharing how planners can successfully plan for digital and drive-thru events.

photo credit: RJ Cui

When the pandemic unfolded in March of 2020, PlanIt Sound owner Rowena Cui paused to reflect, “when something of this gravity shakes your world, you support your community.” With this guiding her, she reached out to clients to reimagine what their events could look like in a virtual world. “Our industry is built through connections and relationships. Crisis breeds opportunity as we navigate this together.”

As a President Elect on the ILEA Edmonton Chapter Board, she recommends this time is crucial to collect event data and share resources to build confidence in the future of the event industry. “You’ll be remembered in a crisis for how you took care of people,” says Rowena.

Along with planners across the globe, March 12, 2020 is a day Rowena will remember for the rest of her career. When the global pandemic was officially declared, Rowena activated her crisis communications toolbox and contacted each of her clients to provide support. PlanIt Sound explored three scenarios for each of their clients, including exploring cancelled and postponed event dates, creating hybrid events and hosting virtual events. The value of offering support from a place of compassion during a crisis proved to be immeasurable.

PlanIt Sound organized over a dozen virtual events, including four hybrid events with no confirmed cases of COVID-19 transmission. For the successful execution of their events, the PlanIt Sound team followed health and safety guidelines and created a list of resources to move their events forward. Guests need to be confident that planners and venues have taken all steps necessary to ensure a healthy environment is maintained. Events must feature enhanced screening and physical distancing paired with certified cleaning and sanitization standards.

Her team planned a “Summer Jam” drive-thru concert and transitioned six events, including United Way of Alberta Capital Region and Dentons Make Your Mark Awards, to an online format. Clients invested in virtual platforms and as a result, United Way of Alberta Capital Region used TikTok for the first time and received over 40,000 impressions throughout the campaign. The most recent event for the Terra Center was the first time the organization engaged a professional planner, hosted a virtual event, provided ticketing, engaged a corporate sponsor, incorporated live entertainment and provided opportunities to match. By pivoting online, Kidsport Edmonton doubled sponsorship and fundraising efforts and additionally hosted the successful sold-out Jason Gregor Pizza Pig-out drive-thru movie at the Edmonton EXPO Centre.

photo credit: cmoore.photog

There are many options available to share content and engage attendees in meaningful ways. Below we’ve shared tips to create immersive and safe event experiences.

  • Prepare a plan. Support marketing initiatives by providing options and scenario planning for the upcoming months. This could look like action plans or contingency plans. Use a checklist to check-in with clients, share updates and project progress.
  • Collect data that is strength-based and solution focused. The event data you collect should include current facts and statistics, resources from official and trusted authorities and measurements of event success. Share your findings in a meaningful and actionable way.
  • Less is more. While we’ve been thrown into virtual world, the digital road was a path we were already exploring pre-pandemic. Rowena advises planners to work through the temporary and ongoing crises with leaner resources.
  • Compelling content creates the right emotions. Produce virtual events like a TV show with segments to entertain and engage to reach event goals through virtual experiences.
  • Provide knowledge for free. Share knowledge and entertainment that is of value to your audiences. Great event experiences should show your expertise through your work and leave attendees feeling satisfied.
  • Get creative with your drive-thru event location–the Edmonton EXPO Centre provided ample parking lot space to host hundreds of cars and create a Haunted Alley drive-thru space in addition to a movie.
  • During this time, we are all making the impossible possible in an everchanging environment. It is important to adapt and be willing to make comprises that benefit everyone.

photo credit: cmoore.photog

While digital and physically distant events have changed the way we connect, our industry has been given an opportunity to re-imagine how we provide experiences to audiences. While we will become more immersive through virtual experiences, nothing can replace the value of human connection we receive through the in-person experience. Through patience and trust, we will build the steppingstones to successfully see our industry through a temporary turbulence. We will emerge more thoughtful, more humbled and with more meaningful actions in the event planning process when we are ready to gather in-person once more.

For more information and to contact PlanIt Sound, email

Set the stage to meet safely with virtual and hybrid events at the Edmonton EXPO Centre.