In September 2021, the Québec City Convention Centre hosted the 79th annual congress of the Fédération québécoise des municipalités (FQM), a major gathering that presented the challenge of ensuring compliance with all applicable health measures without hampering the positive experience of participants. This event was the Convention Centre’s very first when it opened in 1996, and 25 years later, it marks the relaunch of major events in Québec City. The 2021 edition, organized in close collaboration with the Province of Québec’s health authority, required hard work over several months and proved to be a success.
Anything but conventional support
At the beginning of the pandemic, the Convention Centre was quick to equip itself with a health measures guide to ensure everyone’s safety. At the same time, in order to closely follow the development of the situation, staff members quickly familiarized themselves with all the rules to follow in order to provide guests with the best possible support for their events.
It was in June 2021 when the Fédération québécoise des municipalités formalized its decision to hold its annual convention at the Centre. The provincial government relaxed some of the restrictions over the summer to allow events for up to 250 people. After the 2020 edition’s cancellation, FQM participants and delegates were eager to meet in person.
“The health guidelines have changed a lot, and positively so, in the time between signing the contract and the event, which enabled us to develop a concept that could accommodate as many people as possible while complying with the Province of Québec’s health authority,” said Ms. Caroline Bérubé, Customer Care Director at the Convention Centre.
The FQM opted for an event in which participants would be separated into three “bubbles” of 250 people. The Centre team therefore developed circulation plans and routes so that these three bubbles were independent of each other in the building, but aligned with the daily programming of workshops and each room’s specific needs.
“Usually, the FQM uses the entire Centre for its event and hosts nearly 2000 people. For this edition, the Centre was once again fully used, but by 750 people, because of the physical distancing measures and the circulation plans,” explained Ms. Stéphanie Verret, Event Coordinator.
A well-contemplated concept in compliance with current health measures
Even developing the FQM congress program required the Convention Centre team’s almost constant support, because the “three bubbles” concept required more logistics than usual, a bit like three conferences had to be organized within one. Activities were planned, included a recognition gala, training sessions, conferences, workshops, networking opportunities, meals, and coffee breaks.
“The Centre’s team had never been so involved in the programming and content of an event, always striving for the best proposals for rooms and routes in the building, and according to the changes in customer needs in the time leading up to their convention,” said Ms. Bérubé.
In fact, we had to think about the needs in terms of participant registration and reception, equipment management, cleaning of the premises, audiovisual services, and meal services. A lot of additional labour was therefore to be considered.
Caroline Bérubé added other examples: “For the audiovisual portion of the event, the technical team of our partner Encore Canada included over 40 people, unlike the usual 10. Important logistics also had to be considered in terms of coffee breaks and meal services. For this, our food partner Capital HRS scheduled more team leaders and room supervisors. They were all very excited to get back into the race with this first big event.”
The staff’s versatility and dedication, in addition to the flexibility of the rooms demonstrate that you can host all types of events at the Québec City Convention Centre during a pandemic or any other time. In the case of the FQM congress, each step of the event’s design was consistent with the health measures in force.
“You can certainly say that the FQM had prepared its participants well by communicating the scenario to them in advance, so that they had all the necessary information and understood the event’s concept. On site, the master of ceremonies reminded everyone of the health guidelines, which created a feeling of security. It’s important to us that visitors feel safe when they come to the Centre,” stated Ms. Bérubé.
Ensure everyone’s safety, with ease and consistency
From day one of the FQM congress, the Convention Centre staff stood out in the way they greeted visitors and provided directions, all in a safe space that was perfectly adapted. The participants greatly appreciated this warm and human touch.
“Despite the complexity associated with the logistics of the three bubbles and the circulation routes, the delegates appreciated the support provided by the Convention Centre staff. There was always someone available to direct people to the right place, which was very reassuring. The FQM is very proud of the success of its event, and this is in part thanks to the possibilities and quality of the room layouts given the health measures in place. Our members felt safe throughout the congress,” added Mr. Dulac.
We can say mission accomplished for the Fédération québécoise des municipalités’ 79th annual congress. The Convention Centre is more than ready for the relaunch of major events in Québec City and business tourism.
“We’re happy to see that the situation and the guidelines are improving for the event industry. We want the organizers to return and, above all, to feel confident when they do business with us,” said Ms. Bérubé.