Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

June 2014

CMP Series: 5 Supercharged Customized Meeting Spaces

By Jennifer N. Dienst

“One of the biggest challenges is the logistics of moving the equipment in and out,” said Tim McGill, CEO of Hargrove, which has served as Modern Day Marine’s general services contractor for 30 years. “[The equipment] can well exceed a couple hundred tractor-trailer loads. The other challenge was that we had to be in and out in a three-week period.”

Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Photo courtesy of Hargrove Inc.

When 47 world leaders — including President Obama, along with representatives from the European Union, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the United Nations — gather together for two days, it’s safe to say some extra planning will be involved.

In the spring of 2010, the largest gathering of world leaders in Washington, D.C.’s history took over Halls D and E of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for two days of discussions on the global threat of nuclear terrorism. Besides a mind-boggling level of security, the event required as small a footprint as possible to keep the program confined and secure. Throw in 5,000 members of the media, opening and closing receptions, lunches, dinners, and a smattering of other requirements, from soundproof rooms to a smoking section, and the summit added up to quite the planning feat.

“It was definitely one of the more challenging ones,” said James W. Smith Jr., CMP, assistant director of convention services at Events DC, which operates the convention center. “This event was like [the presidential] inauguration on steroids in the respect that two blocks on each side [of the convention center] had to be blocked off.”

Working with the convention center, the U.S. Department of State, and the White House, Hargrove fabricated and designed every event space element from top to bottom. To comply with the rigorous standards that come with hosting close to 50 world leaders, Hargrove re-created the event spaces inside its own Lanham, Md., headquarters building beforehand, so White House and State Department officials could inspect everything from table heights to flag arrangements. In addition to creating 50 hard-wall delegation offices, Hargrove designed a United Nations–style plenary space to accommodate discussions between the world leaders, complete with a custom-built table and 15 interpretation booths.

Every detail was under scrutiny, down to a team of U.S. Army food-prep inspectors tracking every piece of food served, from the butcher to the plate. “It was nice to see that kind of responsibility,” Smith said, “since we were hosting these world leaders on American soil.”

Orange County Convention Center

Photo by Lisa Croft-Elliott

When 30,000 attendees arrived in Orlando last December for the 14th annual AKC/Eukanuba National Championship (AENC), 15,000 attendees of the four-legged variety came with them. For the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC), whose entire North/South Building hosts the event, it meant bringing in a whole new level of hospitality.

AENC is the largest dog show in the United States, with eight individual competitions as well as numerous specialty shows, seminars, and special attractions. In addition to a main 2,300-seat performance arena built in one of the OCCC’s exhibit halls, another 200,000-square-foot hall is set aside as a staging and preparation area for the dogs, and outdoor space is designated for 10 bathing stations and grassy areas for exercise and relief. The indoor space has to be kept air-conditioned at all times, because some dogs remain in the building overnight.

Equipped with rigging points, a stage, and a 14-foot Jumbotron, the 60-foot-by-100-foot performance arena hosts the main finals competition, which is filmed and streamed online to 1.3 million viewers. In addition, 23 40-foot-by-60-foot rings are set up for evaluations and examinations.

It’s the blank flexibility of the OCCC’s 950,000-square-foot North/South Building, instead of a rigid arena setting, that works so well for creating the environment. “We can conform the seating arrangement dependent on if we have to change halls or to a different section of the convention center,” said Michael Canalizo, AKC’s director of event management. “And having the [right] number of seats to make it look like a very full audience pleases the camera. If you have seating for 16,000 and your event normally draws 5,000, it can look a little barren.”

The OCCC began hosting AENC annually in 2010, after years of the show switching back and forth between the East and West Coasts. According to Canalizo, the venue was one of the few that could accommodate the event, due to its size, the city’s airlift, and other factors. “It’s probably the perfect dog-show venue,” Canalizo said, “by all accounts and opinion.”

That’s not something the OCCC itself left to chance. “Under normal circumstances, we don’t have animals in our building, except for service animals,” said Michelle M. Neely, CMP, the OCCC’s director of event management and exhibitor services, “so we had to amend our policy, and we worked very hard and long with our neighboring hotels to make sure they would allow the dogs [to stay here] as well.”

Test Time

Earn one hour of CEU credit. Once you finish reading this CMP Series article, read and watch the following material:

› “Meeting Room Setups,” a chapter from Experient’s Guide to Meeting Management, which was originally published in Convene in September 2000 and has stood the test of time — available at convn.org/room-setups.
› A time-lapse video of the building of TED’s Next Chapter Theater at convn.org/ted-time.

To earn CEU credit, visit pcma.org/convenecmp to answer questions about the information contained in this CMP Series article and the additional material.

To earn additional credit, you can take more more tests in our series here: pcma.co/ConveneCEUs

The Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) is a registered trademark of the Convention Industry Council.

Contributing Editor Jennifer N. Dienst is a freelance writer based in Charleston, S.C.

This CMP Series article was sponsored by Tourism Vancouver and the Vancouver Convention Centre.

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