- Additional Staffing The Butler Did It
- Audiovisual Production, Lighting, Staging Midnite Hour Productions
- Catering Centerplate Catering
- Catering Ginger Island Cuisine
- Catering Toronto BBQ
- Decor, Design Contemporary Furniture Rentals
- DJ Cornerstone Entertainment Concepts Inc
- DJ Third From The Sun
- Flowers Eden Planning Inc.
- Flowers William Fulghum Design Consultant
- Invitations Beyond Digital Imaging
- Lanyards Incredible Novelties Inc
- Plasma Screen Advanced Products Group
- PR OverCat Communications
- Registration Streampoint Solutions Inc.
- Spa Spa Party
- Trade Show Services Stronco Group of Companies, The
- Venue Enercare Centre
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TORONTO With a population of more than 5.5 million, including 2.5 million in Toronto proper, according to the 2006 Canadian Census, the Greater Toronto Area is Canada's largest market place. It is also, as the country's economic capital, home to more businesses and corporate head offices than any other city in the country. For event planners, it's where the action is—and the annual BiZBash.TO Event Style Show is the best place to go to get plugged in, meet the city's top suppliers, and gather fresh ideas for future corporate events, fund-raisers, and galas.
More than 80 suppliers participated in this year's show, held March 6—7 in the stylish and elegant Heritage Court at the Direct Energy Centre in Exhibition Place. Their colourful, engaging booths transformed the exhibit floor into a lively market, with new and innovative concepts on display at every turn. In addition, entertainers took to the stage for scheduled performances and industry experts spoke on topics ranging from what's fresh in decor to how events can engage consumers and build brands.
Among the show's attendees were representatives of CTV, Discovery Channel, CHUM Television, Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation, Tennis Canada, Bell Canada, Research In Motion, Petro-Canada, Canadian Tire, McDonald's Restaurants, and the Canadian Marketing Association. Several of the big banks, including CIBC, RBC Financial Group, and Scotiabank, were also represented, as were luxury hotel properties such as the Sutton Place Hotel.
On arrival, guests were greeted by staff from the Butler Did It and Streampoint Solutions, the latter providing registration using its on-site registration technology. Prior to the event, Streampoint also supplied online pre-registration services. The entrance featured massive banners from Beyond Digital Imaging bearing the BiZBash logo and the logos of the event sponsors. Eden Planning further embellished the entrance with lit inflatable cones (extending their motif inside with lit inflatable stars hung from the ceiling over the lounge and conference seating area). Stronco provided the carpeting and booth draping in the entrance and throughout the rest of the event space.
On the show floor, numerous vendors created attention-getting exhibits. Spa Party set up a minispa and supplied free manicures and back and hand massages to attendees. Ice C gave skating demonstrations on a mini artificial ice surface; ice decor specialists iceculture and iceFX were on hand with examples of their craftsmanship prominently displayed; Champagne Showgirls fielded a troupe of performers in colourful dance outfits.
Planners are always looking for new places to hold a meeting or convention, and they could find plenty of ideas on the trade show floor. The hotel sector was represented by exhibitors such as Hilton Garden Inn, Le Royal Meridien King Edward Hotel, Windsor Arms, Pantages/Cosmopolitan and the Gladstone. Other organizations on hand to showcase their offerings included Hunters Glen Golf Club, Rockway Glen Golf Course, Harlequin Cruises, Roy Thompson Hall, Royal Ontario Museum, University Club of Toronto, and Woodbine Entertainment Group.
For trade show attendees, walking from exhibit to exhibit speaking to supplier representatives is hard work. Fortunately, a number of exhibitors passed out tasty eats to keep energy levels high. Chocolate Fountain Canada served fruit with a delicious chocolate dipping sauce. Opulence Catering and Event Management served appetizers such as bulgogi beef with adzuki stuffed rice cake served in a pine dish, shoestring vegetable stuffed chicken with Israeli couscous and lemon thyme sauce, and rack of lamb with orzo confetti. For dessert, Opulence also served mini-portions of cheesecake.
Ginger Island Cuisine served blueberry muffins and coffee in the mornings and double chocolate brownies in the afternoons. About noon on day one of the show, it gave away 350 emerald-paper-bag lunches consisting of lemon grilled chicken with asparagus and toasted orzo grain salad. That evening during the cocktail reception and BiZBash.TO Event Style Awards show, it served appetizers such as Indonesian charred salmon sushi set on checkered sticky rice with pickled ginger; and wild mushroom torta layered with goat's cheese, spring leeks, and whispers of pancetta crust. For guests with a real hunger on—and there were plenty—Toronto BBQ, a division of Ginger Island, provided a food station that served pulled pork on minibuns, black bean quesadillas, and Texas barbeque chicken with corn salsa, sage, and cheddar mashed potatoes.
The show floor was anchored by a comfortable lounge with contemporary chic furnishing from Contemporary Furniture Rentals. Guests took a load off on plush, black faux leather couches and sat on Philippe Starck-designed Charles Ghost bar stools at striking communal tables with brushed chrome frames and black oak tops. Decor accents included Bougie table lamps designed by Ferriccio Laviani for Kartell and floral arrangements from Church Street Flowers. The lounge adjoined the stage seating area, which featured Victoria Ghost chairs, also designed by Starck. Contemporary Furniture supplied the furnishing for both spaces, using Starck's distinctive ghost motif with a black and metallic collage to tie them together.
Midnite Hour Productions provided the staging, including a magnificent cascading drape backdrop and two large flanking television screens. Advanced Presentation Products supplied a massive plasma viewing wall positioned in the centre of the stage between the televisions. It was made of 20 bezel-less plasma television screens, each 42 inches in width. Cornerstone Entertainment Concepts supplied most of the entertainers and programmed the schedule of speakers and entertainers.
The day-one speakers' series kicked off with a high-energy lecture-style presentation by BiZBash NYC president Richard Aaron. Known as “The King of Edu-tainment,” Aaron joked frequently with audience members, even walking into the seating area to get up-close and personal with them. His talk ranged from offering a novel definition of the event business—“we're in the happiness business"—to identifying a list of eight global trends event industry professionals should stay atop to remain competitive in a rapidly changing business environment. For example, he encouraged audience members to familiarize themselves with online social networking sites such as MySpace, where more and more people are interacting, exchanging information, and attending virtual events. He pointed to customer experience management as an emerging trend in marketing and suggested that businesses will rely increasingly on events to present their brands to the public. He also forecast that clients will have a growing concern about the environmental impact of their events and advised event professionals to start coming up with green solutions now so client demands don't catch them by surprise.
Douglas Walker, head of Toronto's RPS Events, spoke about his experiences forming the World Rock Paper Scissors Society, which attracts competitors from around the world to compete in referee-run rock paper scissors competitions. Walker's success in garnering media attention, including ongoing mainstream media coverage of his annual competitions, has made him a recognized expert in the fields of viral, word-of-mouth, and social media marketing. RPS recently branched out to provide custom rock paper scissors events for the corporate market. Walker says his formula for staging successful events includes four principal elements: He endeavours to make events participatory, engaging, unique, and entertaining.
Television and arts visionary Moses Znaimer was scheduled to speak in person at 4 PM, but was snowbound in Collingwood and unable to make the journey into the city. Instead, BiZBash support staff arranged for him to appear live via webcam. Znaimer provided a snapshot of his experiences branding and expanding ideaCity, formerly known as the TED conference (it stands for technology, entertainment, and design). In 2001, Znaimer took over the annual event from American architect-entrepreneur Richard Saul Wurman, who had established it in Monterey, California. Znaimer said the biggest challenge in running the international conference, which features interesting people from diverse backgrounds speaking on a wide range of subjects, is managing the logistics. He says it's been difficult selling tickets to corporate clients because, although the intellectual community loves the event's smorgasbord of ideas, managers don't see immediate value in it. “You don't need to send your professionals to ideaCity,” Znaimer said.
On day two, Mark Thompson chief engagement officer of McKinley Solutions Exchange, offered advice on being a better leader. He was followed by Kevin White, director of production with award-winning event and destination management firm Empire Force Events, who provided ideas for enhancing the quality of guest experiences. He said event designers should keep the concept of “user friendliness” front and centre at all times. Guests might not articulate their feelings, but they will become annoyed if they're forced to walk too far, wait too long, or deal with other unnecessary hassles, he said. White also advised planners to create immersive experiences that cause guests to become personally involved. Taking this idea further, he advocated that planners incorporate personalization, wherein guests are identified and referred to by name. Twisting, another idea White championed, involves putting people on a path so that they think they know what to expect and then adding an unexpected element. “This creates emotion, which in turn makes the event memorable,” he said. Finally, White advocates a concept he calls invisible visibility. Here, event planners stage activities in public in such a way that passers-by are unaware, but guests know what's going on and, as a result, feel more connected because of it.
Audrey Hyams Romoff, president of PR firm OverCat Communications gave an eye-opening behind-the-scenes look at how to get media out to your events. Finally, Inventa cofounder David Nichols, the last presenter in the speakers' series, talked about his company's work staging experiential marketing events for major corporations. “Our focus is to actively engage the target audience, always thinking about the customer experience.” He said brand executives initially considered experiential marketing to be another promotional tactic, but they have come to view it as something much more fundamental. “These events are customer touch points; they promote actual interest in the brand.”
This year's Iron Florist competition was won by Designing Trendz' Craig Gruzd, a three-year veteran of the event. The other competitors were Chad Finucan of Chad Finucan Designs, making his Iron Florist debut, and Jeff Cairns of D?cor & More, competing for the second time. Iron Florist competitors have 20 minutes to create their floral arrangements. They do not get to see the flowers or containers prior to the event. For this year's challenge, the level of difficulty was increased by ruling out the use of water.
A major industry event always seems more complete when an award is given away—or 15. At the close of day one, the winners of the first-annual BiZBash.TO Event Style Awards were announced. Best Overall Event went to Chum Television for its 2006 MuchMusic Video Awards. Best Entertainment Program/Concept went to Solutions with Impact for Bell Canada's Bell Celebrity Gala, Rhapsody Club Cabaret. Segal Communications won Best Corporate Event Concept for its work on Smart Canada's Mystery Revealed Scavenger Hunt. Best Nonprofit Event Concept went to William Osler Health Foundation's The Golf Ball. The winner in the category of Best Event/PR Strategy was Premier Consumer Show's National Bridal Show for Dig for the Diamond. Best Gift Bag went to Ali B. Creations for Brides on Bloor. Best Invitation Design went to CBC Television for its Fall Launch event. For Best Lighting Design, the winner was the Design Exchange with lighting from CCR Solutions for the Design Exchange's Black and White gala dubbed In Steel Blue. Best New Venue went to Toronto Botanical Garden. Best Overall Catering went to CBC for catering by Couture Cuisine for CBC Television's Fall Launch. For Best Overall Event Decor, the winner was Nicholas Pinney Design for Holt Renfrew Hosts Burberry's 150th Anniversary. In Best Staging/Set Design, the winner was Cornerstone Entertainment Concepts for Mortgage Intelligence's 2nd Annual Awards Celebration. Best Table Top Design went to D?cor & More for Casino Rama's An Evening with the Vanderbilt's. For Best Use of Tent Design, the winner was Regal Tent Productions for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation's Butterfly Effect Fundraiser. Finally, for Best Use of Technology, the winner was Royal Bank of Canada with tech support from Frischkorn Audiovisual for the Royal Bank of Canada's annual meeting.
Afterwards, guests mingled and enjoyed a drink at the bar and the winners accepted congratulations from well wishers—a fitting end to an eventful day.