Virbela’s Expo Hall Revitalizes a Popular Trade Show for Wider Attendance

Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA) provides training and support to building officials in 444 municipalities. When social distancing prompted OBOA to reshape its annual meeting and trade show, Virbela’s Expo Hall offered an exciting new venue. From vendor booths to social spaces, more than 1,100 attendees experienced the real-time, real-world culture that typifies the building industry.
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Virtual World Versatility

The versatility of virtual worlds helps define OBOA as a leader in Canada. Ontario ranks first in the country with 40% of all construction starts nationwide, so OBOA stays busy, offering training to industry stakeholders and helping members to enforce building code regulations. As a role model for other provinces, the organization values innovation, especially when technology can evolve alongside its industry.

“We have lots of technical ways to communicate, but we want to be as virtual as possible,” reveals Aubrey L. LeBlanc, Chief Administrative Officer for OBOA. “In Virbela, the 3D aspect, the avatar replacement of the individual, the putting people in any room for any purpose—it fosters the interactivity we want.”

That’s why, in 2020, OBOA held its annual meeting and trade show in Virbela’s Expo Hall.

Industry Engagement 

The event is popular with building industry professionals. Over the course of its history, 700 or more attendees would take over local hotels for a week. Ticket prices reflected the costs of overhead in a physical location divided by the limited number  of attendees venues could accommodate. 

As a result, municipalities usually sent only their most seasoned officials. In turn, OBOA has always focused on providing exceptional event content to provide ongoing value to its members. 

But when social distancing protocols took effect, OBOA knew it needed to act quickly to save the event—or risk significant revenue and disappointing its members.

In Virbela, the event attracted more than 1,100 attendees, a 57% boost from the year prior. By reducing overhead and hosting within a scalable platform that can accommodate thousands of attendees, OBOA created the margins and the space to grow.

In the Expo Hall, OBOA members wandered booths, meeting vendor exhibitors and  discovering new products. Social areas offered casual places to talk shop. Technology demonstrations, honoree ceremonies, and other breakout sessions mirrored the options of any other trade show.

“The democratizing effect of Virbela was valuable for everyone,” shares LeBlanc. “Some of our members had never attended the event, due to cost or travel times. In the Expo Hall, they were able to benefit from new connections and industry updates.”

With Virbela, OBOA is able to support an industry based on physical spaces and carry it into the future of technology.

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Ontario Building Officials Association

Founded in 1956, the Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA) supports the construction of safer, more sustainable and accessible buildings in Ontario.

Ontario, Canada
Use Case
Virtual Events
Company Size
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