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March 2013

Innovative Meetings: Reinventing the Wheel

By Jennifer N. Dienst, Contributing Editor
an event in itself. Thom Connors, regional vice president for SMG and general manager of Cobo Center, said that the first exhibitors — GM and Ford — begin moving in the first week of November, and the process continues through the opening of the show in mid-January.

To accommodate other business during this period, Cobo Center slowly fills up its more than 800,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space with NAIAS’s almost outlandishly over-the-top showrooms, which can include everything from two-story vehicle displays to hospitality suites, offices, and built-in kitchens. And don’t forget the lighting — what’s a car show without a perfectly lit staging area?

“[NAIAS] has more rigging of lights and displays than any other show I’ve seen,” said Connors, who has worked for SMG since 1982. “The challenge is, sometimes there are as many as one thousand lighting instruments per display. Fortunately, Cobo Center was built with the infrastructure to accommodate this, with a 10-foot-by-10-foot rigging grid in the ceiling.”

Another aspect of what makes accommodating NAIAS such a feat — besides its plethora of 50,000-square-foot showrooms and numerous fleets of vehicles — is the fact that the show is really five shows in one, with the same spaces being re-used and re-vamped for most of the events, sometimes in the span of just one evening. “There’s a constant changing of displays and presentations throughout that week,” Connors said. “Overnight, between the Charity Preview and the first day of the public show, the ballroom becomes a food court, and the 30,000-square-foot media center converts into a beer garden.”


Innovative Meetings is sponsored by the Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau

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