This article was originally published in Bizbash Best 2020 – An annual magazine for the professional events industry in North America
Here, C.E.O. and founder of StartWell Qasim Virjee dives into detail on his Toronto, Canada-based business—then offers up his advice for enabling authentic collaboration at events. 786 King St. West, 647-799-5566, startwell.co[PDF Version Here]
- Give attendees the option of finding ‘their’ space. Mix seating formats so people can choose to sit on a couch with others, or perch on a stool, or be next to others in a row of chairs, for example.
- Choose a venue with capped capacity. The larger your attendee list gets, the fewer chances people have to meet and spend time with each other one-on-one.
- Matchmake. Just pairing a few single attendees with multiple people in the audience they may want to speak with before the event through email introduction can be a massive upside for the liveliness of your audience day-of.
- Learn from family style. When considering meals, choose items that can be shared in small groups—something that works for food as well as beverages (think: empty water bottles and glasses on tables to be self-filled from a central water tap).
- Create places for serendipity. Sometimes the best conversations are born out of proximity and in semi-private rooms. An arcade game console connected in a conference room can give people breathing time to relax and interact socially in between presentations.
Located in downtown Toronto, Canada, StartWell is an innovation campus which houses over 50 companies through three buildings, totaling 20,000 square feet of heritage real estate. Founded to give local entrepreneurial teams a happier place to do their life’s work, we have taken an experimental and agile approach to defining our service and space offering, which has allowed for integrating office, meeting, and event space in a single place.
As Toronto’s only dedicated corporate offsite venue, our events platform at StartWell includes a turn-key space for 200 people that is accessorized by private meeting rooms, semi-private lounge and library areas, as well as an in-house espresso bar and podcasting studio. Throughout, we’ve learned to integrate tools that enable social interaction and serendipity for our guests and members, which make it easy to form relationships and collaborate with others in the same room or across the world instantly using built-in turn-key technology.
In hosting over 100 intimate corporate offsites per year, we’ve learned that no matter what the reason for producing an event, they all involve bringing people together. The magic that happens when people gather with purpose is unique to the experience they share and can result in great things—from new relationships to innovations that can create massive opportunities for everyone involved.
Whether due to tight production timelines or difficulty streamlining communication between stakeholders or anything else, it’s too often the case that event planners don’t consider how important it is for events to cue attendees to interact authentically with each other. However, designing social interaction on the event floor can be straight-forward. It’s all about remembering that the people attending your event want to be together—something that should involve sharing, self-expression, and delight.”