Besides the fact that Gothenburg has been named the world’s most sustainable meeting city by the GDS Index for the seventh consecutive year in a row, and that the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre Gothia Towers is planning a new large meeting room for more than 8,000 people, and a fourth tower that will give the hotel an additional 400 rooms on top of the 1,200 previous ones, the Centre is also about improving its existing business. The new initiative Gothia Studio plays a significant role in this development.
In recent years, several large and extensive digital event productions have been carried out at the Centre. To achieve the desired results, two in-house digital meeting producers help customers take a holistic approach, from concept and storytelling, to meeting dramaturgy, and coaching speakers.
Martin Örnroth is one of the digital meeting producers, and works as an executive producer, communication expert and moderator. He has nearly 30 years of experience in television broadcasting, having worked with Sweden’s most prominent television channels as a programme host and producer.
During the pandemic, when the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre Gothia Towers switched from the classic analogue meeting world to the new digital one, the transition was made very quickly. Suddenly, meetings and events booked for the large facility could no longer have any audience or participants on site. Despite the circumstances, it turned out that customers still wanted to continue communicating both internally and externally, and that they wanted to fulfil their long-planned meetings both with their employees and with existing and prospective customers.
“We adapted quickly and converted three meeting rooms into studios, which we rotated, like in any TV house. At the time, it was exceptional because we had our speakers and moderators here, but otherwise, the building was completely silent.”
The transition to conducting exclusively digital meetings challenged the confidence of many of the speakers. Martin Örnroth says that on one occasion, a CEO came to the studio, a person used to speaking in front of a thousand people on stage. But when this person instead had to speak directly into a camera, observed only by three silent technicians dressed in black in front of him, then that was a whole new challenge.
“It was extraordinary, and it was about getting all the speakers and moderators to feel comfortable with the new situation. Something we were able to help with thanks to our experience from working with the TV format for so long.”
Following the early success of the studio concept during the pandemic, a permanent solution, Gothia Studio, eventually emerged, with technology company Adapt providing equipment and technical staffing.
The fully equipped TV studio, which has its own entrance, can be used for recordings, live broadcasts, meetings and launches. There are three venues with different uses depending on whether a panel discussion, interviews, product exposure or branding is what’s needed. The studio’s LED wall can be used to record keynote speakers and more extensive presentations. Outside the studio is a lounge adapted for 30 people where you can follow the live broadcast and mingle. There is also a separate meeting room for ten people that can be used as a Green Room during an event.
Working as a digital meeting producer involves much of what must be done before, during and after the event. For example, this may include working on the content of the meeting. As Martin Örnroth summarises: “I try to bring the whole palette from the TV world with me.”
He shares another example from the new digital life: Imagine you want to attend four seminars that are all very important, but in practice, you end up having to opt out of two of them. But if the two lectures you opted out of are available in digital form, you can always watch them afterwards, at work, and discuss the content with your colleagues.
“We can still help our customers get the message out. We send out a code from here that allows participants to watch the content later. It’s extraordinary to be able to offer the complement of both a studio and our expertise and experience in producing top-quality digital events. I have brought that knowledge with me from my almost 30 years in broadcasting.
“There is a sustainability perspective here as well. You may not have to fly all the participants to your meeting, even if you might like to. So, there are thoughts about the environment and economy to be put into context.”
Martin Örnroth says that whether it is smaller digital meetings or large international hub broadcasts, the TV world is a bit scary for many buyers of meetings. Often, the customer just books a facility and has to hire some technicians for their digital meeting, and is then left with the words: “It’s all yours.” But many customers need more help than that. The handling of everything may severely affect the budget, with regards to both money and time. And a digital meeting producer can really make a difference with regards to things like that.
“My goal is to ensure the customer gets maximum value for money. The combination of technology and experience is our unicorn. But the challenge with having a service where you can offer a digital meeting producer is that only a few people know that the option exists. This is something we need to get better at communicating.”
When customers are invited to tour Gothia Studio, Martin Örnroth and his colleagues have done everything from a ‘meet and greet’ to having customers come to the TV studio to record a summer greeting for their colleagues, for example. Then, the customers can take the recorded greeting with them on a USB stick and share the content on their social media.
“Having a unicorn product does require a bit more from us. On the other hand, it is incredibly positive when the customer realises the benefits of supplementing the analogue meeting with a digital one, and that it really has such a big impact when the customer is convinced. Because the customer often says: ‘Perfect, let’s add a digital meeting.’”
According to Martin Örnroth, another aspect that speaks in favour of supplementing your live event with streaming, for example, is that it can be a challenge for customers to persuade companies and their most important managers and suppliers to spend one or more days travelling for a couple of hours to reach a meeting. However, the same people might be happy to log in to a digital meeting to access the information that way. A current example is finding out what will happen with the EU’s new environmental rules in 2024 and 2025.
“Imagine that, as an environmental manager, I have to know what applies so that we stay relevant but remain up-to-date. By logging on to the meeting and attending for two hours, I found out everything the representative of the Swedish Work Environment Authority told me about the rules that will apply in the future. After such a broadcast, a remarkable number of participants say that they prefer the digital meeting.”
The Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre Gothia Towers has hotel rooms, several restaurants, many different types of meeting rooms and a modern TV studio all under one roof. It has been shown that Gothia Studio’s broadcasting offer has become a positive complement to the trade fair and congress business, whether the customer wants to broadcast across 14 time zones, with simultaneous interpretation into five languages, and live streaming from several studios in parallel for a whole week, or whether the customer just needs a small digital meeting.
Some common types of assignments for Martin Örnroth and the studio are:
- Onboarding new employees in a modern studio environment.
- “TED Talk”-style programmes to build long-term relationships with customers.
- Attract investors on capital market days.
- A digital complement to physical trade fairs and in-house meetings, offering interviews, updates and summaries.
“We are one of the few similar facilities that can provide our customers with this complementary offering. We have simply added a digital layer to our entire meetings business. It is like the frosting on the cake.”