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Our Team has remained actively engaged behind the scenes, preparing daily to host your next event. We understand the current state of affairs has likely affected your event plans, but rest assured that we’ll be ready when the time is right. The Austin Convention Center staff is continuing to make improvements to our facility, working diligently to make sure we remain the most well-prepared event space in the country. We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on!




ur industry is predicated on the power of gathering. Whether the goal is to share ideas, network, bond or generate leads, gathering in person has been proven to further the development of organizations and professions. In this regard, meeting attendees have long epitomized “strength in unity,” and since March, meeting planners have done the same in order to manage the unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic. Recent industry events such as MPI’s hybrid World Education Congress and the ASAE Virtual Annual Meeting & Exposition saw meeting professionals gathering — as best they could under the circumstances — to share strategies in the areas COVID-19 has brought to the fore, such as cancellation clauses and virtual/hybrid meeting design. This issue of F&D is yet another very timely “meeting of the minds,” with numerous planners sharing their survival tactics during this critical time. Guest columnists cover wide-ranging topics including staying positive and productive, reinventing oneself as a planner, preserving supplier relationships, attendee health and safety, and revising the planning processes. Our Fall issue also brings you plenty of input from suppliers on safely handling in-person gatherings during this time. Memphis, Atlantic City, Phoenix and Jackson are all great examples of cities that have honed their approach to hosting groups under the guidance of the CDC and local government and health advisors. While the ongoing knowledge exchange among meeting professionals is essential to keeping the industry alive, another indispensable ingredient is to seek support for the field’s affected businesses and individuals. F&D is pleased to see several organizations spearheading this effort. Major examples include the SEARCH Foundation (see page 44); MPI Foundation’s One Million to Meet campaign, supported by IMEX Group (page 6); the Events Industry Council, which has joined the COVID Relief Foundation (page 8); and the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, now co-chaired by Michael Massari, Chief Sales Officer for Caesars Entertainment. Producing successful face-to-face meetings is hard work, and requires the concerted effort of many parties beyond the planner. The same dedication and teamwork will be required to salvage those events in the face of the greatest challenge to the industry since the 20072009 recession. Given the strides that planners and suppliers have made this year, they’re unquestionably up to the task.

FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS FALL For Association & Corporate Meeting Planners & Tradeshow Professionals


Volume 27 No. 3 Chief Operating Officer David Korn Editorial Director George Seli Contributing Editors Anthony Bilden Laura Janelle Downey Debi Lander Deborah Shapiro Creative Direction & Design AR Design Business Operations David Mermelstein

© Copyright 2020 by Bedrock Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Opinions expressed in by-lined articles and advertising copy are not necessarily those of the publisher. Advertisers are responsible for all costs, damages and claims regarding advertising insertions. Facilities & Destinations is published four times a year by Bedrock Communications, Inc., PO Box 1807, New York, NY 10150-1807. Telephone: (212) 532-4150. Fax: (212) 213-6382. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to Facilities, PO Box 1807, New York, NY 10150-1807. Printed in U.S.A. Cover ad space is available by contacting a Facilities advertising account executive at (212) 532-4150.

– George Seli Editorial Director, Facilities Media Group

CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS In Brief...........................................................................................................................................6 FORUM Kim Lewis, Visit Jackson..........................................................................................................18 Elizabeth B. Armstrong, Association & Society Management International, Inc....................19 PERSPECTIVES Kari Messenger, “Pivoting” as a Planner.................................................................................42 Jennifer Squeglia, Take Stock in Your Partnership Approach..................................................43 Kate Patay, Navigating the Crisis............................................................................................44 Shannon Licygiewicz, RFPs in the COVID-19 Era....................................................................45 Jamie B. Kervin, Pandemic-Era Planning.................................................................................46 Stacey Jackson, Hybrid Meetings Case Study.........................................................................47

DESTINATIONS Memphis......................................................................................................................................21 Atlantic City.................................................................................................................................29 Meeting in the Great Outdoors..................................................................................................32 VENUE REVUE Phoenix Convention Center....................................................................................................26 Site & City Profiles.......................................................................................................................34 Advertiser Index..........................................................................................................................16


ON THE COVER In certain respects, the Hernando de Soto Bridge evokes the current state of the meetings industry. In the COVID-19 era, meeting professionals need the bravery of the Spanish explorer to navigate unfamiliar territory, and ultimately build a bridge to a post-pandemic world. Memphis is certainly doing its part to attain that future with stateof-the-art health and safety practices and major upgrades to the Renasant Convention Center. Thanks to these efforts, face-to-face meetings will soon be thriving once again in this classic American city. FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL

IN BRIEF The meeting of the future is closer than you think.

60,000 sq. ft. ballroom & redesigned exhibit space


Enhanced ventilation & filtration system

GBAC STAR cleaning accreditation

Touchless doorways

Outdoor gathering space

3x the number of loading docks

Hybrid meeting broadcast stage

67,000seat domed stadium

Walkable downtown

World-class attractions, dining & nightlife


Take a short flight or drive to find convenience, hospitality and expanded facilities for your next meeting. Plans are underway to redefine the future of meetings by embracing and enhancing all safety protocols. St. Louis’ $175 million upgrade of America’s Center includes touch-free doorways, a 60,000 square foot ballroom, expansive outdoor green space and a state-of-the-art hybrid meeting broadcast stage. The meeting of the future is one with enhanced ventilation and free-flowing ideas throughout an additional 92,000 square feet of exhibit space. This GBAC STAR Accredited facility is set against the backdrop of a world-class city in the heart of downtown St. Louis’ innovation center. We’re not just looking ahead. We’re looking forward. Learn more at



of IMEX Group, and Ray Bloom, Chairman of IMEX.


CHICAGO, IL — IACC has launched IACC MultiPOD meetings, a framework for hosting one meeting with in-person groupings of participants in two or more different locations. IACC identified three critical features of a multi-located meeting: venue capabilities, strong technology and production delivery, and collaboration between all parties. “Given global restrictions on travel and limits on the number of people who can gather in person, many business events will take place regionally in smaller groups,” noted Mark Cooper, IACC CEO. “However, that does not diminish the desire for inperson live experiences and to foster cross-fertilization of ideas across countries and continents.” Partnering with PSAV and ElectroMedia Design (EMD), IACC

has developed a specification document and venue pledge that must be committed to by any of the 400 IACC-certified venues in 25 countries wishing to host a POD meeting. DALLAS, TX — Meeting Professionals International (MPI) recently announced that its longtime strategic partner, IMEX Group, has donated $250,000 to mirror ongoing efforts toward assisting distressed MPI members. Most of the donation has been offered as a grant to the MPI Foundation, whose One Million to Meet campaign aims to raise $1 million by the end of 2020 to accelerate the recovery of meeting and event professionals around the world. “COVID-19’s abruptness made face-to-face interactions an unfathomable situation. To watch our

Paul Van Deventer

community and our members struggle when these are the individuals representing a top 10 global economic driver is heart wrenching,” said Paul Van Deventer, President and CEO of MPI. “Unsolicited support, like this, demonstrates how acts of generosity and kindness between organizations can aid in a united mission toward recovery. Our members, our industry and our world benefit from gracious people like those at IMEX Group; we don’t take this for granted and know that we are indeed stronger together.” In recognition of their donation, MPI is providing “Industry Champion” credentials to both Carina Bauer, CEO

MONTEREY, CA — The Monterey County CVB has hired Teresa Savage as its new Vice President of Business Development. “The meeting and conference industry is going through the greatest transformation it has ever experienced,” said Rob O’Keefe, President and CEO of Monterey County CVB. “We’re thrilled to have an industry leader with significant experience growing this business, both at hotels and with DMOs, to help us redefine our future.” Previously Vice President of Sales for Visit Napa Valley, Savage brings more than 20 years of hospitality sales experience in California,

Teresa Savage

including a stint at Monterey Marriott Hotel, during which time she served on the Marketing Committee for the Monterey County CVB.

IACC MultiPOD supports one meeting with in-person groupings of participants in various locations 6

NASHVILLE, TN — Effective Oct. 1, Nashville entered Phase 3 of its Reopening Plan. With an approved plan from Metro Public Health, events can now be held at 30 percent capacity, up to a maximum of 500 people. Masks are required at all events, and in all public spaces. Restaurants and Continued on page 8



SAFELY. Contact us today to book your next event! 513.419.7304


Continued from page 6

bars may operate at 50 percent capacity with social distancing and no more than eight patrons per table.

WASHINGTON, DC — The Events Industry Council (EIC) is a member of the new COVID Relief Now Coalition, comprised

Amy Calvert

of jobs lost, furloughed or reduced. There’s a ripple effect when events don’t

happen that runs through travel, hotel, entertainment and other industries. Our businesses are closing. Our workforce is suffering. Our global economy depends on this industry to fuel its recovery.” WASHINGTON, DC — Events DC has invested in a robust suite of new health and safety tools to help safeguard facilities against COVID-19. New safety equipment includes Kogniz and Certify, both thermal scanner systems to monitor temperature; FujiTec Ionful, an air purification system; and NanoSeptic, a selfcleaning system for high touchpoint surfaces. “With the implementation of these new smart health and safety tools across our venues, it is our hope that Events DC can serve as an industry leader in the reimagining of events and best practices, while emphasizing the utmost importance of creating a safe environment for all of our future guests,” stated Gregory A. O’Dell, President and CEO of Events DC.


WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Travel Association recently announced that IPW will be a live, inperson event held in Las Vegas from Sept. 18-22, 2021. “Next year’s IPW will reunite the global travel community and be the keystone for safely rebuilding international travel to the United States,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “While IPW will look a bit different next year, expect it to be the turning point for the allimportant inbound travel sector.” Steve Hill, CEO/ President of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, commented: “IPW is crucial to reviving international travel, and

we’re pleased that the U.S. Travel Association is dedicated to holding an inperson show in Las Vegas next September. These new dates will allow greater flexibility for attendees and will ensure the best possible experience for a successful and productive tradeshow. We look forward to welcoming delegates to the new West Hall expansion at the Las Vegas Convention Center as well as showcasing new and exciting developments throughout the destination.” U.S. Travel plans to open registration for IPW exhibitors in mid-November. IPW buyer and media registration will open early next year.

of nearly 250 public and private sector groups in the United States. On Sept. 30, the coalition urged Congress to not leave town for the 2020 elections without passing additional COVID economic relief. EIC Chief Executive Officer Amy Calvert commented, “COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the global business events industry. The World Travel and Tourism Council reported that one million jobs per day were being lost due to COVID-19. But it’s not just the direct impact

Events DC has implemented some of the latest cleaning technologies across its venues 8


g n i t e e M Safely Today

for a Stronger Tomorrow

The key to the Orange County Convention Center’s (OCCC) success is its adaptability, resiliency and flexibility. The OCCC is leading the way to provide safe events in our new normal. Through a strategic data-driven approach and deliberate planning prioritizing health and safety, the OCCC is providing controlled gatherings and unique experiences, so we can begin meeting safely today for a stronger tomorrow.

1-800-345-9845 | |



ALBANY, NY — On Sept. 24, the Albany Capital Center (ACC) hosted Plug Power’s second annual Plug Symposium. Plug Power, the company building the green hydrogen economy, welcomed nearly 1,500 remote and in-person attendees, following the current COVID-19 guidelines. “This event highlights how the Capital Center is ideally suited for large hybrid events,” said Doug McClaine, General Manager of the ACC. “With companies not being permitted to meet in person in large groups, there has been a demand for large-scale virtual event solutions, and our team at the ACC is best suited for this exact scenario.” GREEN BAY, WI — Resch Expo, Green Bay’s 125,000-sq.-ft., column-free exposition center, opens in January. The new facility will be adjacent to the Resch

93,500 sq. ft. of meeting rooms and pre-function space. Construction on the project is scheduled to begin in 2022, with anticipated completion in 2024.

Plug Symposium, a recent hybrid meeting at the Albany Capital Center

Center, a 10,000-seat arena, and near Lambeau Field. INDIANAPOLIS, IN — On Sept. 14, the Indianapolis City-County Council offered unanimous bipartisan support to approve up to $155 million in bonds for the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center. The expansion would add a 50,000-sq.-ft. ballroom across the street from the current convention center, as well as another

LOUISVILLE, KY — The Kentucky International Convention Center and Kentucky Exposition Center are the first centers in Kentucky to have received the GBAC STAR accreditation. The third-party program helps facilities establish a comprehensive system of cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention. “Clients expect transparent and meticulous health cleaning procedures, and the health

Rendering of the Resch Expo, opening this January in Green Bay, WI 10

and safety of our guests, clients and employees continues to be our highest priority. As events continue, we want to take proactive steps and exceed industry standards in sanitation and

cleanliness,” commented David Beck, President and CEO of Kentucky Venues. MIAMI, FL — The Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) recently earned the GBAC STAR accreditation. “The health, safety and security of the Miami Beach Convention Center and all who enter is our top priority,” said General Manager Freddie Peterson. “The MBCC proudly joins the ranks of other nationally and internationally recognized GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation venues.” In addition, the MBCC received LEED Silver certification in August, as part of its new $620 million renovation. NEW YORK, NY — On Oct. 20, The Javits Center hosted the first live hybrid event in New York City since the COVID-19 outbreak. Located inside the convention center’s new 30,000-sq.-ft. broadcast studio, Grant’s Fall 2020 Conference included inperson and virtual speakers Continued on page 12




Highly-competitive Room and Meeting Cost Incentives Special Midweek Bonus Incentive Programs

Meet AC Booking & Professional Planning Support

2020-2022 New Group or Convention Bookings

Contact us to learn more about Meet AC’s attractive Convention Center and city-wide incentive plans! Call 1-844-855-6338 or visit today!


Continued from page 10

and participants, a full catering program and strict safety protocols designed in accordance with all state regulations. “We have been thrilled to host Grant’s 2020 Fall Conference as our first hybrid event in our new broadcast studio, marking a positive step in the economic recovery of our city, our state and our industry,” commented Alan Steel, President and CEO of the New York Convention Center Operating Corporation. Implemented safety protocols included designated entry and exit points for all participants, required masks or face coverings, and advanced online registration for guests.

PHILADELPHIA, PA — The Pennsylvania Convention Center recently received the GBAC STAR accreditation on outbreak prevention, response and recovery. “By deploying strict cleaning, disinfection and staff-training protocols, we set the stage for a healthy return to live events and continuing our commitment to excellence in venue management,” said John J. McNichol, President & CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. “The GBAC STAR accreditation further strengthens our reactivation efforts, and we are pleased to be among the facilities to receive the accreditation.”

SEATTLE, WA — The Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) is authorized to reopen for business following Governor Jay Inslee’s modifications to the state’s Phase 2 and Phase 3 restrictions around business meetings, professional development training and testing, and similar activities, which became effective on Sept. 21. The new guidance permits meeting and business events to be held at an indoor capacity of 30 percent of the usable space or 200 guests, whichever is less (excluding venue staff). Alcohol, receptions and networking events are still prohibited. The WSCC is pursuing GBAC STAR accreditation, has established a variety of Safety First protocols, and has developed a virtual event studio to enable the broadcast of hybrid events.

ST. LOUIS, MO — StreamStage, a new hybrid meeting solution, has been introduced at America’s Center. Offered in the Ferrara Theatre, StreamStage features everything needed for a hybrid experience, including a production manager, ample theater space for social distancing, Internet bandwidth for live streaming, HD Camera, studio backdrop with lighting and projection capabilities, audio and streaming technology. It is available to rent for either a half day or a full day. “Our new StreamStage is a direct response to organizers seeking new ways to connect with their stakeholders in a safe and responsible manner, and embodies our dedication to building the meeting facility of the future,” said Kathleen Ratcliffe, President of Explore St. Louis.

StreamStage, a new hybrid meeting venue at America’s Center 12


Boise’s Best. At its Centre. Centrally located in the heart of vibrant downtown Boise, the newly expanded Boise Centre has a variety of customizable meeting spaces, modern amenities, exceptional culinary services and a friendly and dedicated staff ready to make your next event an unforgettable experience. Explore Idaho’s premier convention center for yourself. • Centralized, downtown location • Only seven minutes from Boise airport • Over 20 direct flights to and from Boise

• Closely surrounded by more than 100 restaurants • Over 1,200 hotel rooms within walking distance • Close to outdoor recreation, including The Boise Greenbelt



EAGAN, MN — The Omni Viking Lakes Hotel, the brand’s first Minnesota property, opened Oct. 1. The Nordic-inspired hotel features 320 guestrooms and suites and 35,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The four-star hotel is located in the Viking Lakes

LAS VEGAS, NV — Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino reopened Oct. 8 following a COVID-19 closure. The hotel will only be open four days a week (Thursday through Sunday), but its casino will be open seven days a week.

The newly renovated Hilton Garden Inn Jackson Downtown

Ribbon-cutting for The Omni Viking Lakes Hotel. (L-r): Peter Strebel, Omni Hotels & Resorts President; Brent Glashan, Omni Viking Lakes Hotel GM; and Don Becker, Executive Vice President for Real Estate and Development, Minnesota Vikings.

multiuse development, which offers shopping, dining and entertainment, and is anchored by the Minnesota Vikings team headquarters and practice facility. JACKSON, MS — The Hilton Garden Inn Jackson Downtown, a historic hotel located in the heart of the city center, has completed renovations to its 7,321 sq. ft. of function space, 186 guestrooms, full-service restaurant and bar, lobby and fitness center. LAKE TAHOE, NV — Harveys Lake Tahoe Hotel & Casino has renovated all 519 guestrooms in the resort’s Tahoe Tower as part of a $41 million total property investment over the past two years. 14

LAS VEGAS, NV — Park MGM and NoMad Las Vegas reopened Sept. 30, marking the final MGM Resorts properties around the world to open following COVID-19 closures.

Louis Clayton has opened after a multi-milliondollar transformation. The downtown property offers over 17,000 sq. ft. of meeting space as well as an open-air pool deck on the third floor. WASHINGTON, DC — AC Hotel Washington DC Convention Center opened

Oct. 5, located just steps from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The 234-room hotel features the AC Kitchen, serving a European breakfast, and Estrella, offering rooftop entertainment and panoramic views of downtown DC.

NEW YORK, NY — Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Genting Americas have announced plans for a new hotel located at Resorts World Casino New York City. Hyatt Regency JFK at Resorts World New York is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2021. The 400-room, four-star hotel will include new restaurants, 5,000 sq. ft. of total function space, retail establishments and additional gaming areas. ST. LOUIS, MO — The 268-room Le Meridien St.

The new Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL


organized bocce ball tournaments, waived resort fees and one complimentary night per 26 consumed. The meeting must be booked by Dec. 31, 2020, and actualized between Jan. 1, 2021, and Dec. 30, 2021. For details, email miramar@


FORT LAUDERDALE and PALM BEACH, FL — The Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa and the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa are offering the Together At Last promotion, which includes double MarriottBonvoy Points and a $10 credit toward master bill for each paid room night. In addition, 2021 contracted meetings include flexible attrition and cutoff dates, and complimentary videoconferencing services. Valid on new bookings that confirm by Dec. 18, 2020 and actualize by Dec. 31, 2021. To book Marriott Singer Island, call (561) 340-1700. To book Marriott Pompano Beach, call (954) 782-0100.

LITCHFIELD PARK, AZ — Per The Wigwam Assurance Clause, planners can contract a new group or meeting by Dec. 31, 2020, and receive a onetime rebooking credit of 16

100 percent if canceled 45 days or more prior to arrival. The terms apply to groups arriving by May 31, 2021. Rebooked program must be of equal or greater contracted revenue, and rescheduled and actualized prior to Dec. 31, 2021. For more information, visit meetings-events.

MARIN COUNTY, CA — The Marin CVB’s Marin Meetings Incentive Program is offered to new meetings held in a Marin County business improvement district hotel now through December 2021. Groups must contract by Dec. 1, 2021 to be eligible. Eligibility is based upon proposals originated by the Marin CVB and distributed to multiple hotel properties. Incentive amounts per total actualized rooms are as follows: 251+ rooms, $1,250; 126-250 rooms, $1,000; 76-125 rooms, $750; 50-75 rooms, $500. For more information, contact Christine Bohlke, Sales and Marketing Director, at MIDDLEBURG, VA — Salamander Hotels & Resorts’ five properties are offering the following

incentives as part of the company’s Well-Meeting Program: 50 percent guestroom attrition flexibility; 50 percent food and beverage attrition flexibility; 100 percent rebooking credit for a future event within 12 months; one complimentary room category upgrade per 10 rooms reserved; one complimentary suite upgrade per 20 rooms reserved; one complimentary room per 40 rooms reserved and consumed. The offer is valid for new group bookings of 10 rooms or more on a peak night. Groups must book by Dec. 31, 2020, and actualize by March 31, 2021, to qualify. For more information, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Ty Brassie at (760) 799-6916 or tbrassie@

MONTECITO, CA — Rosewood Miramar Beach recently launched the Beach House Buyout program, offering added benefits and perks for groups who book all 26 accommodations in the resort’s Beach House. The package includes private group fitness classes on Miramar Beach, dedicated access to poolside cabanas,

THE WOODLANDS, TX — Benchmark Resorts and Hotels has introduced the Zero Risk Meetings Clause. New meetings contracted by Dec. 31, 2020 for arrival by March 31, 2021 qualify for no attrition or cancellation fees applied until 60 days in advance of arrival. New meetings contracted by Dec. 31, 2020 for arrival between April 1, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021 qualify for a 100 percent one-time rebooking credit. For details, visit benchmarkresortsand event_spaces/meetings_ accelerator_program/.

ADVERTISER INDEX Austin Convention Center...... 1 Boise Centre........................... 13 Duke Energy Convention Center.................................... 7 Explore St. Louis...................... 4 Meet AC.................................. 11 Memphis Tourism..................C2 Orange County Convention Center............... 9 Ocean Center......................... 15 Ocean City CVB..................... 39 Phoenix Convention Center.....................................C4 Visit Jackson........................... 18 Visit Savannah.......................... 3



CAESARS FORUM WELCOMES ITS FIRST ATTENDEES The cover story of this year’s F&D summer issue reported on Las Vegas’ game-changing new meeting venue, CAESARS FORUM, which at the time was preparing to host its first clients. Among them was ConferenceDirect, whose Annual Partner Meeting (APM) was scheduled for Oct. 26-29, 2020, as a hybrid event. APM is devoted to education, networking and recognizing the company’s top performers from the previous year. Prior to the meeting, Jerry Horan, ConferenceDirect President & COO, said, “APM 2020 will be a historical event for ConferenceDirect as we host our first hybrid event, leading the industry back to recovery with safe, effective face-to-face events that are crucial to our industry and the economy.” APM 2020 turned out to be not only historic, but also a resounding success that demonstrated the versatility of CAESARS FORUM and the viability of meeting under Caesars Entertainment’s health and safety protocols. A highlight was ConferenceDirect’s last-night event on Forum Plaza, the 100,000-sq.-ft. outdoor dedicated event space connected to CAESARS FORUM and adjacent to LINQ Promenade. Compelling entertainment was easily sourced, consisting of a Sight and Sound disc jockey, Planet Hollywood’s Tenors of Rock and various acts and talent from Caesars Entertainment’s resident show Extravaganza. Serving to make the outdoor event even more memorable was a customized menu featuring Greek and Middle Eastern items, prepared by CAESARS FORUM Chef Eric Vaughn’s culinary team.

Michael Massari, Chief Sales Officer, Caesars Entertainment

During the closing general session, Horan recognized Michael Massari, Chief Sales Officer for Caesars Entertainment with the ConferenceDirect President’s Award for being a supportive partner over the years. In turn, Horan accepted an honorary key to Caesars Entertainment for hosting CAESARS FORUM’s first conference. “Caesars Entertainment has been an amazing partner throughout this entire process, working diligently with “Caesars Entertainment the ConferenceDirect team to ensure safe meeting has been an amazing protocols are implemented,” Horan said.

partner throughout this entire process, working diligently with the ConferenceDirect team to ensure safe meeting protocols are implemented”

—Jerry Horan, President & COO, ConferenceDirect


“We have always admired the work that [CEO] Brian Stevens and the team at ConferenceDirect do,” Massari commented. “We enjoy a longstanding partnership and are pleased that we hosted this important event.” In the near future, the 550,000-sq.-ft. CAESARS FORUM is scheduled to host several other key meeting industry events, including MPI WEC 2021, Cvent Connect 2021 and 2022, as well as PCMA Convening Leaders 2022. —G.S. 17





n the following Q&A, Kim Lewis provides an inside look at how Mississippi’s capital city is faring during this challenging time for the hospitality industry. The City With Soul is proving resilient with a combination of booking incentives for groups, a full arsenal of sanitation and safety best practices, and even recently completed projects that enhance the hospitality offerings. Planners who would like further detail on any of the points Lewis addresses can reach her at To learn more about Jackson’s meetings industry, visit

“Even during COVID-19, the city of Jackson has continued to grow and move forward. Many attractions, restaurants and hotels have used this time for renovations to their property.” Q. How is Jackson’s meetings business shaping up for 2021 and beyond? A. We see a lot of interest in Jackson as a host city for events in 2021 due to our current financial incentives that we are offering. We are also seeing an increase in interest from regional meeting planners. Many people are ready to get out, but not necessarily ready to fly or travel a long distance from home. Regional events would make Jackson the perfect drivable destination. Q. When do you project a rebound to 2019’s booking numbers? A. With the expected decline in events due to COVID-19, Visit Jackson has seen a large decrease in events compared to the summer of 2019 due to the pandemic. As of this time, we have rebooked a large percentage of those lost events and have had an increase in bookings for future events. It is difficult to say when things will permanently pick back up since the situation itself is so fluid. 18

Q. What kinds of booking incentives are you offering groups? A. We have long been able to entice groups to Jackson with our lower tax rate, ample meeting and convention space, and extensive complimentary services package. With the current challenges surrounding the hospitality industry, Visit Jackson has added financial incentives for meeting planners that book events before the end of 2020. Planners can hold the events anytime in the future, and 100 percent of the funds will be paid directly to the hotel or venue to help offset additional costs associated with COVID-19. We urge anyone interested in booking an event to reach out to our Sales & Services department to see how we can help you host your event in the City With Soul. Q. Please give a few examples of the best practices Jackson’s Convention Complex and hotels are implementing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A. Area restaurants, hotels and attractions have made adjustments and are finding their groove. Jackson industry partners have added additional sanitizing procedures to ensure staff and guests’ health and safety, mastering the delicate balance of social distancing and excellent customer service. A few prominent examples would be wearing face coverings, spacing out tables for either dining or conferences, reducing congestion areas where small groups of attendees may gather, and even reducing the amount of one-on-one contact staff has with guests. Visit Jackson has provided face coverings, hand sanitizers and signage to all interested industry partners at no charge. Q. What services to planners do you believe set Visit Jackson apart from many other CVBs? A. Many cities offer services to their booked groups. We have been told repeatedly that our complimentary services package goes above and beyond what meeting planners are used to receiving in other cities. Besides providing the traditional maps and visitor guides, Visit Jackson offers their meeting planners access to Registration Assistants that they may utilize in different ways. Some groups like them to set up a booth and provide tourist information to their guests; others use the assistants to check-in and register their guests, including onsite printing of name badges. Visit Jackson is also happy to obtain a welcome letter from local government agencies. We are often asked to provide an official welcome to kick off the event, and we are always happy to do so.

Continued on page 20






alls Church, VA-based Association & Society Management International, Inc. (ASMI) manages all aspects of meeting planning and production for a variety of association clients, including the American Textile Machinery Association, American Trauma Society, National Homeland Security Association and others. A specialist in emergency management, Elizabeth Armstrong holds a Master of Association Management degree from The George Washington University and is a Certified Association Executive and Qualified Association Specialist. She is a member of the Association Management Company Institute, the Council of Manufacturing Associations at NAM and the American Society of Association Executives. In the following discussion, Armstrong provides insights on how ASMI, its clients and industry partners have been adjusting to the challenges posed by COVID-19. Q. How have your new contracts with venues been impacted by the pandemic? A. The ongoing impact of the disaster on our ability to convene anywhere has given us pause to think more holistically. A crisis in one part of the country (or globe) impacts the ability to gather an audience drawn from other locations, not necessarily just those potential attendees based in the “disaster zone.” Facilities need to recognize that. For any contracts we have negotiated since March, we are including a very developed force majeure clause that addresses any unimagined event that would prevent a reasonable percentage of our usual attendance. Q. Do your contracts also address the contingency of government restrictions on attendance numbers at the destination tightening before the meeting date? A. That makes it easy: When the locality’s laws make it illegal to gather [or gather over a certain number], it’s easy to address the contracts. It’s harder when [attrition results because] our members don’t have an appetite or can’t attend because of work-related duties.

Q. Have any particular suppliers been great to work with during the pandemic? A. The supportive CVBs recognize that we’re all in this together. And they realize that if we can strike the best outcome for all parties contractually, it’s going to pay off in the long run. I guarantee that I’m going back to the venues that were flexible with us. The first major event that we canceled was in the first week of July in Chicago, and the Hyatt there just blew our socks off: Although they were not contractually obligated to do so at the time, they released us from the minimum F&B and minimum hotel pickup. They basically just wanted an event of any size at any time we could do it — and I will keep coming back to the Hyatt in Chicago “The supportive because of that commitment. Also, the Long Beach CVB has CVBs recognize done a tremendous job: They that we’re all in have provided visuals showing this together. And how you can have a hybrid they realize that event, how you can space out if we can strike the attendance. Although we cancelled an event we’re the best outcome having in November in Long for all parties Beach, we’ve already made contractually, it’s the decision to re-sign with going to pay off in them for our next available the long run.” 2,000-person event as a result of their being proactive and demonstrating a long-term commitment to the collective hospitality and conference industry. However, I have encountered a few destinations and brands that are less willing to consider the collective impact of what’s going on today, and I won’t forget them either. Q. Do the new cleanliness and safety accreditations that facilities are obtaining factor into your site selection? A. We will definitely give preferential consideration to venues that have been proactive with these kinds of standards, such as GBAC STAR accreditation and VenueShield. Q. Are some of your clients breaking their large annual events into smaller, regionalized meetings? A. I think that is something we need to take a hard look at. One of my groups is the International Association of Emergency Managers. Typically, they have 2,000 attendees in person, and we’re going virtual in November. Continued on page 20



FORUM KIM LEWIS Continued from page 18

Q. Which offsite venues or activities would you recommend to planners seeking to express the local culture through their event? A. With numerous indoor and outdoor events planned, Jackson offers ample activities during downtime. Jackson is home to 30 museums, including the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, which has recently extended its hours to include Sundays, allowing more time to accommodate additional groups. Numerous markers along the Mississippi Writer’s Trail, Blues Trail and Freedom Trail are located in Jackson. These trails make for a perfect outdoor tour. Each marker provides history and insight into some of the world’s most famous people, places and events. Q. Are there any new infrastructure developments in the city that will be advantageous to meeting groups? A. Most certainly, even during COVID-19, the city of Jackson has continued to grow and move forward. Many attractions, restaurants and hotels have used this time for renovations to their property. Homewood Suites is a brand-new, 125-room hotel that has recently opened in the Fondren District. The city’s planetarium and zoo have begun extensive renovations. Numerous restaurants have invested in providing an area for outdoor dining. The Jackson Convention Complex has FAC I L I T I E S & D E S T I N AT I O N S



ELIZABETH B. ARMSTRONG Continued from page 19

We explored organizing “watch parties,” and ultimately we decided that because of the composition of our audience of emergency managers, we didn’t want to overtly sponsor any kind of organized gathering. But local watch parties can be added to the list of innovations meeting planners can do to help maintain member connectivity and engagement. Q. What is an example of your efforts to make the meeting experience compelling for remote attendees? A. We’re having virtual awards presentations and virtual certifications honoring the class of 2020. We’re doing everything we can to enrich the experience. For example, we have produced a huge electronic book for the honorees; it provides a snapshot of each honoree with their certificate or plaque, so they have some kind of keepsake. We didn’t have that [keepsake] as part of our live presentations before, so that’s been a silver lining [to the situation]. However, I can already anticipate for our big November virtual meeting that nothing can replace the connectivity of in-person.

2021 Prime Site Meeting Hotel Awards Ballot Fill Out Form & Mail, Email or Fax Your Vote: Facilities & Destinations, PO Box 1807, New York, NY 10150 Fax: (435) 578-8193 • Email:

VOTE for the top hotels, resorts and conference centers your group has used for its meetings in the last three years. Please base your vote(s) on the following criteria: • Attractiveness and functionality • Technological capabilities • Quality of staff and conference planner • Teambuilding • Food & beverage/ catering • Lighting • Acoustics • Climate control

a new building management company eagerly looking forward to welcoming groups back to their facility. The new Mississippi Trade Mart has been completed and offers meeting groups 110,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in three halls that are seamlessly connected to the newly renovated, 6,500-seat Coliseum.

• Proximity to airport & other transportation • Onsite or offsite lodging • Other support services • Front-desk operations • Setups and breakdowns • Room décor • Quality/size of ballroom • Special packages • Spa • Nearby attractions

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attendees in the downtown area at different price points, so groups can really maximize attendance for their events,” notes Malvin Gipson, Vice President, Convention/Sports Sales &



characterful town steeped in Americana, Memphis, TN, is among the most intriguing midmarket destinations a planner can select. From Graceland to Beale Street to Mississippi riverboats, Memphis offers a variety of signature experiences that are sure to strike a chord with attendees. And while group business has been compromised this year due to the pandemic, the Home of the Blues has not been merely singing the blues in response. Instead, it has completed a major renovation of the Renasant Convention Center that will enhance the experience for groups in the near future and post-pandemic. The city has also been working to ensure that those meetings happen in line with guidance from health authorities. In short, Memphis is ready to enter a new era in meetings — one that will be defined by new health and safety practices as well as new opportunities for convention center clients. What remains unchanged is Memphis’ affordability and logistical convenience. “Our destination is highly affordable, with many hotel options available for

Renderings of the modernized Renasant Convention Center 21



West Terrace


East Meeting Room

Riverview Terrace


Services with Memphis Tourism. And attendees will have an easy time exploring downtown, which is “highly walkable,” Gipson adds. “The legendary nightlife on Beale Street is just a mile from the convention center, with the majority of that walk taking place on a tree-lined, pedestrian-only Main Street that is brimming with locally owned shops alongside some of the best restaurants in Memphis. If your attendees don’t feel like walking, we also have bike rentals, electric scooters and even a recently restored trolley line that connects the convention center district to the South Main Arts District.”

“We are now able to offer a hotel package with the Renasant Convention Center to accommodate over 1,000 rooms on peak between just three hotels, whereas it took 10-12 hotels in the past” —Malvin Gipson, Vice President, Convention/Sports Sales & Services, Memphis Tourism

Flying into the city is also convenient, as Memphis International Airport (MEM) is located just seven miles from downtown. The logistical experience within the airport is also becoming more customer-friendly. “Our airport is nearing the end of a $245 million modernization of the main concourse, which includes the addition of moving walkways, wider corridors, larger boarding areas, higher ceilings and natural lighting,” Gipson describes. “At Memphis Tourism, we cannot wait to see the final result of this massive undertaking, and we are looking forward to welcoming more visitors to Memphis 22

through this beautiful new gateway to our city.” Scheduled for January, Orgill is expected to be the first in-person group at the modernized convention center. “We remain hopeful that in January we can get back to beginning meetings in person and working within the health guidelines,” says Dean Dennis, General Manager of the Renasant Convention Center. Overall, a good amount of events are scheduled to take place in Memphis in the near future. “We have around 50 meetings scheduled between now and the end of the first quarter of 2021,” Gipson reports. “Most of these are smaller events that require fewer than 150 peak rooms, and around half are from our regional area.” At 300,000 sq. ft., the Renasant Convention Center is also well suited to midsized groups.


The $200 million investment into the Renasant Convention Center focused on creating a more flexible facility that connects attendees to the outdoors. Floor-to-ceiling windows admit natural light and afford views of downtown Memphis and the Mississippi River. “One great feature of the new Renasant Convention Center is that we have opened up the west side of the building, so delegates can finally see the mighty Mississippi rolling by during networking breaks,” Dennis notes. “And at sunset, the outdoor terrace on that side of the building is going to have particularly stunning views.” In addition, an open-air concourse now connects the facility to Main Street, affording panoramic downtown views. Flexibility is evident in the option to transform Front Street into an outdoor exhibit hall. Protected from the elements, the streetscape flows between the main convention facility and five riverfront meeting rooms. The expertise of the designers combined with client feedback to create exciting new features for the center. “Local architect LRK partnered with tvsdesign, who are well known in convention center design,” Dennis says. “They brought a large amount of expertise in creating spaces that follow current trends. In addition, there were several sessions held with planners looking for input on design and wanted features. A focus group of users led by Lani Glancy from AutoZone assisted in defining renovation aspects.” Groups can also look forward to reimagined F&B at the Renasant Convention Center, thanks to a collaboration with FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL

—Dean Dennis, General Manager, Renasant Convention Center


“One great feature of the new Renasant Convention Center is that we have opened up the west side of the building, so delegates can finally see the mighty Mississippi rolling by during networking breaks”

the Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel. “They have had a recent leadership change there and Paul Wilson, the new GM, brings a wealth of experience on that side and we have had several conversations on the new, creative food concepts for the Center,” Dennis explains. “Discussions have also included how we can incorporate local flavors into our menus as well as partnering with local outlets to feature their products.”


place with proper cleaning protocols, disinfection techniques and work practices in place to combat biohazards and infectious disease.” Toward achieving that accreditation, the convention center established a COVID-19 Safety Committee, comprised of the leadership team and key personnel in the Housekeeping and Setup departments. “So far, the focus has been on best practices from shared collaboration throughout the industry,” says Dennis. “The pursuit of our GBAC certification was done by the Committee, and we are proud to be certified under that program.” He adds that “While there is no guarantee of an illness-free event, we do know that planning, training and implementing reasonable health and safety measures are the best ways to protect live events and the people who create them.” Like the convention center, the city’s hotels have been diligent in the effort to combat the spread of COVID. “Hotels all across Memphis have enhanced their cleaning protocols to ensure the safety of our visitors, which we take very seriously,” says Gipson. The most salient example in the convention market is the 590-room Sheraton Memphis Downtown Hotel, attached to the convention center via skywalk and featuring its own 14,675 sq. ft. of meeting space. “As part of Marriott International, this hotel is following the guidance of the Global Cleanliness Council to make sure every guest feels welcome while staying safe, just like all of our Marriott properties,” Gipson points out. Groups looking for a historic lodging experience need look no further than The Peabody Hotel Memphis. Known as the “South’s Grand Hotel,” the 464-room property opened in 1869 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel’s 80,000 sq. ft. of function space includes venues such as the 16,000-sq.-ft. Grand Ballroom, Executive Conference Center, and rooftop event space accommodating 700 attendees



Memphis’ meetings industry is working closely with the proper authorities on mitigating the risk of COVID infection. “All of our event plans are coordinated with the Shelby County Health Department to develop specific procedures/plans on a case-by-case basis to work within the restrictions, guidelines and participant number restrictions,” says Gipson. “The Shelby County Health Department released a new directive in October allowing indoor gatherings [of any size], as long as we can present a substantial social distancing plan to the Health Task Force whereby attendees can safely congregate. The directive was issued based on the consistent downward trend in coronavirus cases in Memphis.” In addition, the convention center has become GBAC STAR accredited. “The GBAC STAR is the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response and recovery accreditation for facilities. [It is] a performance-based accreditation program that helps facilities establish a comprehensive system for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention,” Dennis explains. “Our participation in GBAC STAR instills confidence that our venue Beale Street, home to legendary live music clubs has the proven systems in



Distillery, from the Orpheum Theatre to Graceland, so many of the attractions that make Memphis a unique place to hold an event also offer meeting spaces that would be perfect for an offsite event.” He also cites Clayborn Temple, a Romanesque Revival church just south of Beale Street; Crosstown Arts, a venue hosting a variety of artistic performances and exhibitions; and, for planners looking for an outdoor setting, the city’s riverfront parks. “We’re in the middle of reimagining our riverfront parks, with options for outdoor receptions right on the banks of the Mississippi River.” Following is a selection of Memphis’ most distinctive locales for offsite events: Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion

in view of the Mississippi River. “The Peabody is also a popular independent hotel for meetings and events, and they are taking the utmost precaution to protect every guest, while also ensuring each stay is enjoyable and memorable,” says Gipson. “Their team has already hosted several socially distanced events for groups of local officials, for example, proving their skill at accommodating groups safely.” Among Memphis’ smaller hotels, one of the most distinctive is The Central Station Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton. Attendees staying at this 123-room property can experience an icon of the city’s transportation industry, the 106-year-old Memphis Central Station. “Our Hilton brands, like the Central Station Hotel in downtown Memphis, are all following the Hilton CleanStay program, pioneered through a partnership between Hilton and RB, the maker of Lysol and Dettol,” Gipson relates. Overall, there are 4,000 existing downtown hotel rooms, with 2,000 more in the works — including a 500-room convention center hotel by Loews at Civic Center Plaza. The property will be Memphis’ second convention center hotel. “We are now able to offer a hotel package with the Renasant Convention Center to accommodate over 1,000 rooms on peak between just three hotels [Sheraton, Peabody and Loews], whereas it took 10-12 hotels in the past,” Gipson explains. “Loews is not selling at this time … but we do believe it will offer a great room package once complete.”


As a city with a rich history, culture and entertainment tradition, Memphis is replete with venues that lend a memorable character to offsite events. But why not take advantage of Memphis Tourism’s deep knowledge of these venues and let the staff assist in matching them with attendee demographics and the meeting’s objectives? “Our specialty is really aligning offsite event spaces with the purpose and vision of the event. Nothing about Memphis is cookie-cutter — and we think your event shouldn’t be, either,” says Gipson. “From the National Civil Rights Museum to Old Dominick’s 24


Many event venues bill themselves as “unique,” but the King’s home in Memphis is truly one of a kind. Elvis Presley’s Graceland accommodates banquets and receptions within the mansion, on the grounds and even among Elvis’ car collection. The Presley Motors Automobile Museum houses the legendary Pink Cadillac, a 1975 Dino Ferrari, a 1973 Stutz Blackhawk and many more standout vehicles. Graceland offers a total of eight meeting spaces, including the 10,000-sq.-ft. Icons: The Influence of Elvis Presley Exhibit and the 10,000-sq.-ft. Graceland Soundstage.


Elvis’ first paid performance took place at Levitt Shell in 1954, and today the multipurpose amphitheater is rentable for private events. Located in Overton Park, Levitt Shell is near Memphis Zoo and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art — both memorable offsite event venues in their own right.


Attendees can also steep themselves in Memphis’ musical history at The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. Group functions can be hosted among iconic guitars and exhibits chronicling the city’s musical journey since the 1930s. Exclusive tours are available, and live rock, blues or soul musicians can liven up the proceedings.


Another venue that deserves to be called unique, this 32-story steel pyramid (the 10th-largest in the world) on the banks of the Mississippi River includes a 600,000-gallon aquarium, a cypress swamp with 100-ft.-tall trees, bowling alley, archery range and the interactive National Waterfowling Heritage Center.


Lush outdoor environs are available for group events at both the Dixon Gallery & Gardens and Memphis Botanic Garden. Indoor spaces are also offered, complemented by onsite catering: the Dixon Gallery houses the Hughes Pavilion and Winegardner Auditorium, while the Memphis Botanic Garden offers Hardin FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL


Memphis Riverboats, the ideal way to experience the Mississippi


Another great choice for “close to nature” events in Memphis is Shelby Farms Park, one of the nation’s largest urban parks. The Park is home to more than 200 species of wildlife, over 2,000 acres of forestry, more than 20 bodies of water, hiking trails and an 11-mile greenline. Event spaces include the Great Lawn and Outdoor Stage, picnic pavilions, and the FedEx Event Center, which includes the over-7,200-sq.-ft. Lakeside Ballroom, two breakout rooms and a full catering kitchen.


Memphis Riverboats offers five ships ranging from the 11-passenger Captain to various multi-deck riverboats with much larger capacities. It’s the best way to experience the Mississippi, and the voyage is made all the more captivating by live entertainment and historical sightseeing.


In an age when securing meetings business can be challenging to say the least, it is especially vital that a destination’s CVB and convention center present a united front when it comes to both sales and customer service. Memphis Tourism and the Renasant Convention Center certainly exemplify that approach. “I aggressively support Memphis Tourism and our sales teams to help book business,” says Dennis. “Having both sales and operations in my FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL

background, I am actively engaged from start to finish with all our groups. Memphis is a fantastic meeting destination and I am always looking for ways to assist the efforts of Memphis Tourism and our team in enhancing our guest experiences.” Post event, Memphis Tourism can assist planners in two respects: “Our research team can work together with planners to estimate the true economic impact of their events, so they can leverage that information in future conversations with destinations,” says Gipson. “We can also survey their attendees to gauge their satisfaction with the event, and with the overall Memphis experience.” But the satisfaction after a well-executed event is not only on the client side. “Our entire team is focused on the No. 1 goal of exceeding client and guest expectations,” Dennis remarks. “We aim to make memorable experiences to ensure they will want to return.”


Hall and the Goldsmith Room, both with direct garden access.


• 300,000 total sq. ft. • 118,000-sq. ft., column-free exhibit hall (the largest in the region), divisible into three spaces • 28,000-sq.-ft. ballroom • 18,000-sq.-ft. secondary hall/ballroom • 46 breakout rooms • The Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, a 2,100-seat connected theater





any groups look forward to revisiting the Phoenix Convention Center (PCC) in the near future, and with good reason. Not only is the facility itself top quality, but it’s also surrounded by the best of the Valley of the Sun. With over 800,000 sq. ft. of retail space, restaurants and bars, and professional sports franchises in the vicinity, attendees have an array of free-time options. In addition, planners can take advantage of the presence of three public universities as potential sources for local speakers. What is more, this meetings oasis in the Sonoran Desert is very accessible: The Phoenix Sky Harbor International 26


Airport is a mere four miles away from the PCC, which is served by a dedicated METRO Light Rail stop. Thanks to these assets, Phoenix’s convention industry is proving resilient even in the face of the pandemic. “Currently, we are close to our average for conventions in 2021 and beyond, but it may be a few years before we fully realize a rebound to 2019 numbers,” notes Jerry Harper, Deputy Director of Sales and Marketing for the PCC. At press time, the PCC was still awaiting approval to reopen, and making the necessary preparations to ensure it happens with optimum safety. “We are closely monitoring reopening guidelines issued by the Arizona State FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL

well for physical distancing,” Harper explains. “Many are also exploring hybrid options to accommodate those who may not be able to travel.” The PCC offers a variety of event venues, both indoors and outdoors, that a planner can select from according to space requirements in the age of social distancing. All spaces have been designed to evoke the local environment, and indoor spaces feature a layout that greatly facilitates event logistics. “There are two features that set us apart from many of our competitors: Our architecture and our stacked floor plan,” says Davis. “Throughout our campus, guests will find a variety of colors, textures and finishes designed to capture the warm hues of the Sonoran Desert and the cool tones of an Arizona desert sky. Even our outdoor space, Canyon on Third, is bordered by our two main buildings (North and West), giving it a cavernous appearance that pays homage to the many canyons in Arizona. Additionally, our campus layout is a stacked floor plan designed to make it convenient for guests to move about the campus.” The North and West Buildings offer a total of 502,500 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 81 meeting rooms and two large ballrooms, each measuring over 45,000 sq. ft. The South Building houses 143,400 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 18 meeting rooms and a 28,000-sq.-ft. ballroom. Canyon on the Third spans over 80,000 sq. ft., accommodating a variety of events under the Arizona sky. “We find that a lot of meeting and event planners are looking for outdoor space to enhance the experience for attendees by offering a chance to take full advantage of the weather,” says Davis. “Our outdoor event Governor’s Office,” says Jacqueline Davis, Marketing and Communications Manager at the PCC. “Once we’re approved space — Canyon on Third — is ideal for events that want a flexible, blank canvas. The space can be customized based to reopen by state and/or local health and government on meeting and event needs. The space has been used for officials, we’ll do so by following the guidance of the Centers evening receptions, carnivals, fan festivals, security screening for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” and so much more.” A variety of industry experts and healthcare professionals Just as the PCC’s design is beyond the CDC are informing the attuned to the Southwestern convention center’s reopening plan. “Our outdoor event space — Canyon locale, so is the facility’s cuisine. The result has been robust health on Third — is ideal for events that “Aventura’s state-of-the-art food and safety measures that include court, PHX Kitchens Downtown earning GBAC STAR accreditation want a flexible, blank canvas. Food Hall, provides an array of and establishing five strategies: The space can be customized based dining options, such as locally • Constant cleaning and disinfecting, on meeting and event needs. roasted coffee and authentic in compliance with GBAC STAR’s The space has been used for evening Mexican cuisine,” Davis notes. 20 elements; receptions, carnivals, fan festivals, Aventura Catering, part of • Removing touch points wherever Aramark Corporation, was possible (e.g., from entrance and security screening and so much created specifically for the PCC exit, parking areas and ticket office); more.” and has established partnerships • Encouraging or requiring —Jacqueline Davis, with local farms and suppliers personal preventive measures Marketing and Communications Manager, to ensure the F&B that attendees (e.g., requiring masks for guests Phoenix Convention Center enjoy is fresh, innovative and and employees, installing hand locally inspired. Aventura also sanitizer stations and posting contributes to the PCC’s sustainable operations by using reminders about proper hygiene); compostable packaging and purchasing products made • Client communication and staff training (e.g., providing from plant-based materials free of any GMOs, among other employees training and constant reminders on disinfecting practices. protocols); and Indeed, environmentally conscious groups have an • Following CDC recommendations for physical distancing. ideal partner in the Phoenix Convention Center, which is “Right now, we have quite a few clients who are utilizing LEED Silver certified. “There are over 700 solar panels that the same space while anticipating fewer attendees. This works FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL


generate enough output to power 14 homes in a year, and we’ve purchased more than 31,000 chairs made from recycled car batteries and seatbelts to use in our meeting rooms,” Davis explains. “We also recycle more than 460 tons of material each year.” Just as the Phoenix Convention Center is devoted to conserving the environment, it is also fulfilling its due diligence when it comes to protecting attendees and staff in these challenging times. Returning groups will not only rediscover the wonders of meeting in the Valley of the Sun, but they will do so with confidence in the health and safety of their attendees.

Awash in natural light, the Phoenix Convention Center’s prefunction spaces connect attendees to the environment



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• Attractiveness & Functionality of Meeting Venue • Size & Quality of Meeting Space • Technological Capabilities • Quality of Staff • Food & Beverage Options • Lighting, Acoustics, & Internet Access • Other Meeting/Event Support Services • Amenities • Recreational Activities • Dining & Entertainment Options • Lodging Quality • Accessibility to Airport • Ease of Travel within Destination

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Atlantic City

Reopened for meetings business, and ready to conduct it safely and successfully By George Seli


re-COVID-19, Atlantic City’s meetings business was on a roll thanks to the dynamic team at Meet AC, major hotel re-brandings and timeless entertainment assets, including casinos, shows and the legendary Boardwalk. Beyond meetings and conventions, the city’s overall hospitality industry was responsible for an unprecedented economic impact. As Meet AC’s new President and CEO Larry Sieg points out, “Atlantic City couldn’t have had a better year than 2019. My sales team here at Meet AC had stellar performances in going out into the market and getting new business.” Like all other successful meeting destinations, Atlantic City is now working toward reliving those glory days. Replacing Jim Wood, Sieg took the helm of Meet AC in July and immediately addressed the challenge of facilitating the city’s reopening efforts. “When I first came on board, I was working in partnership with the convention center, Boardwalk Hall and the CRDA [Casino Reinvestment Development Authority] to put together what the guide for reopening was going to look like,” says Sieg, formerly Director of Communications and Marketing


with the CRDA and a 30-year veteran of the city’s tourism and hospitality industry. The finalized guide focuses on cleanliness and sanitation as the top priority. “For example, all of our restrooms [in the Atlantic City Convention Center] have been changed over to contactless, from the soap dispensers to the sinks to the facilities. [We’re also] working on filtration and HVAC for indoor air quality. Our partner, Spectra Venue Management, has done a really good job of putting together a plan to welcome back our convention attendees.” While Meet AC retains large conventions on the books through 2026, the New Jersey government is currently restricting meetings to 25 or fewer participants indoors and 500 outdoors. Despite this limitation, “the city is open and doing well,” Sieg reports. “The casino industry has been doing really well since reopening, and many of the hotel properties have come up with creative ways [to host meetings]. Harrah’s, for example, created an outdoor meeting and convention space, so they’ve been able to do some events. Also, Ocean Casino Resort just had a tradeshow called Action Expo; it took place in their parking 29

“Our partner, Spectra Venue Management, has done a really good job of putting together a plan to welcome back our convention attendees” —Larry Sieg, President and CEO, Meet AC garage. If you didn’t look at the walls, you would never even know you were in a parking garage; you would think you were on a tradeshow floor.” The short-term focus for Meet AC, then, is booking small meetings. “Because we’re positioned so well — within driving distance of a third of the population of the United States — we’re in a good place to hold small meetings,” Sieg notes. “I think you’re going to see associations break their larger conventions out into smaller ones and more regional [meetings]. And I believe that we are positioned really well to handle those and bring them into the destination.”


indoor dining, and more. Apart from new COVID-related safety initiatives, groups returning to the ACCC will note two significant upgrades. Last spring, the facility achieved LEED Gold certification, and in September 2019, the ACCC completed a $9.1 million renovation of its 32 restrooms. The ACCC houses 500,000 contiguous sq. ft. of exhibit space​, five exhibit halls ranging in size from 29,400 sq. ft. to 199,500 sq. ft., 45 meeting rooms and 29 covered loading docks. A pedestrian air bridge links the convention center to the 502-room Sheraton Atlantic City, which has its own 21,000-plus sq. ft. of meeting space. Back in 2015, Atlantic City welcomed a major addition to its inventory of convention facilities when Harrah’s Atlantic City debuted the Waterfront Conference Center. The venue offers two 50,000-sq.-ft. ballrooms that can be configured 300 different ways, generating more than 60 smaller meeting rooms, as well as 26,000 sq. ft. of prefunction space. Aptly named, the Waterfront Conference Center overlooks the Absecon Inlet and connects to Harrah’s 2,590 guestrooms. Recently, Harrah’s completed a $56 million upgrade of the 507 rooms in its Coastal Tower, as well as a $24 million renovation of the 416 rooms in its Marina Tower. The renovations and the new conference center are part of an over $250 million investment that Harrah’s has made in Atlantic City during the last four years. The investment also includes over $3 million in upgrades at the Pool After Dark nightclub and the new Gordon Ramsay Steak. Two other major hotel projects, both completed in the summer of 2018, contributed to the pre-pandemic growth Atlantic City’s meeting industry experienced. First, Revel reopened as Ocean Casino Resort, offering groups 1,399

The ACCC is one of six convention centers located throughout New Jersey that have recently come together to create the New Jersey Convention Center Coalition. The NJCC Coalition (also including Cape May Convention Center, Meadowlands Convention Center, NJ Convention Center and Exposition Center, Ocean City Music Pier/ Civic Center and the Wildwood Convention Center) aims to provide consistent standards for all six facilities to follow in safely hosting events. “We are excited to partner with convention centers and event facilities around the state of New Jersey on a safe, responsible and successful reopening,” said Spectra’s Jim McDonald, General Manager of the ACCC and Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. “Our facilities directly impact the economies in the communities in which we serve and support thousands of jobs and union employees throughout the state. We support and provide a positive impact on local businesses and understand the continued operation of our organizations is a major component of their business model.” The standards are being developed in collaboration with each venue’s staff and local health departments in each town, and will be informed by reopening guidance from the state of New Jersey The Atlantic City Convention Center is a LEED Gold building as of last year and the New Jersey Department of Health. Specific safety procedures already discussed include guestrooms, 160,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor function increasing contact tracing, requiring masks for all occupants, space, and amenities such as Topgolf Swing Suite and the temperature checks at the door, following state guidelines for 32,000-sq.-ft. Exhale Fitness Spa. Second, the Hard Rock 30


Hotel & Casino Atlantic City resulted from a $500 million investment into the Taj Mahal Casino, redeveloping the exterior as well as the gaming and entertainment experience. The 2,000-room property offers more than 150,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space. Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena accommodates general sessions of 7,000 attendees or 300-plus-booth tradeshows. Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa has been undergoing property-wide enhancements, most recently investing more than $14 million into a new Lobby Bar and adjacent VIP check-in, as well as a redesign of over 300 Fiore Suites. Borgata has also introduced a new sports entertainment venue, Moneyline Bar & Book, and nightlife experience, Level One Cocktail Private dining is available at the elegant Knife & Fork Inn, established in 1912 Bar & Lounge, representing a $12 million investment. The Borgata offers groups 106,000 sq. ft. of function space, including 88,000 sq. ft. at the Boardwalk and on the beach, such as clambakes,” says Sieg, 2,000-room main hotel and 18,000 sq. ft. of high-tech meeting who has resided in New Jersey since 1980. Another option space at the 800-room The Water Club at Borgata. is Steel Pier, which opened in 1898. In 2017, the amusement park introduced a 227-ft.-high Observation Wheel featuring BEYOND THE CASINOS 40 climate-controlled gondolas. Unique packages for groups Atlantic City casinos are a natural draw for many attendees can be put together at Steel Pier. during their free time, and thankfully these venues have been On the topic of offsite activities, Sieg adds that “Our adjusting well to COVID protocols. However, many planners dining scene has exploded over the past 10 years with some will prefer to utilize at least some of that free time for group really great eclectic dining experiences. We also have a events that are conducive to networking. And as long as the lot of local distilleries that are opening up, which are great pandemic remains a concern, outdoor functions have the places to do offsite events.” One option is Little Water advantage of allowing for higher state-mandated attendee Distillery, the city’s first and only distillery to produce caps and, in some cases, better control over social distancing. whiskey, rum, vodka and gin. Along similar lines, planners Fortunately, Atlantic City is home to the iconic Boardwalk can book a group event at Tennessee Avenue Beer Hall, and accompanying beaches. “We do a lot of events on the just steps from the Boardwalk and beach. The axe-throwing trend has caught on at some of Atlantic City’s bars; the recently opened AC Axe & Pub at Steel Pier is a case in point. Planners who have had to cancel their 2020 Atlantic City meetings due to COVID have certainly not forgotten the varied entertainment experiences the city offers, from gaming to shows to the beaches and Boardwalk. When those assets are combined with upgraded hotels and meeting facilities and the very proactive team at Meet AC, groups have plenty of incentive to rediscover Atlantic City in the near future. “The most important message is to let everyone know that Atlantic City is reopened, it’s strong and we’re looking forward to all being together again,” Sieg concludes. The historic Steel Pier was graced with a new Observation Wheel in 2017



Meeting in the Great Outdoors CAESARS FORUM hosts ConferenceDirect’s 2020 Annual Partner Meeting in its Forum Plaza

These venues afford both fresh air and peace of mind in the age of social distancing


t goes without saying that the world is a much different place today than it was in January. We are fortunate to see events begin to return, often in smaller numbers and exhibiting tremendous care for attendees’ health and safety. We hope the trend continues throughout the months ahead. While medical information about the transmission of COVID-19 changes quite frequently, professionals have advised that it is less likely to contract the virus outdoors. When you’re outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing potentially infectious respiratory droplets containing the virus. A tangential benefit of being outdoors is that “it offers an emotional boost and can help you feel less tense, stressed, angry or depressed,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Indeed, while outdoor event space was always something of an added benefit when planners looked at staging their functions, it has become a sought-after commodity as a result of the pandemic.


Recently, Caesars Entertainment inaugurated CAESARS FORUM, Las Vegas’ newest convention facility (highlighted as the cover feature of the F&D 2020 Summer issue). In addition to housing the two largest pillarless ballrooms in 32

the world, one of CAESARS FORUM’s selling points, noted during our pre-opening tour, is its “garage doors” that open to extend available space into the 100,000-sq.-ft. Forum Plaza. Allowing groups to gather under the stars and in the shadow of the High Roller observation wheel, the plaza was integral to the resounding success of ConferenceDirect’s recent conference (see page 17). No doubt, Forum Plaza will attract larger groups looking for a venue that can cater to their needs and as well as the needs of the day.


In January, following the conclusion of PCMA Convening Leaders at San Francisco’s recently expanded Moscone Center, we joined many of our industry colleagues to explore Napa and Sonoma, an hour north of the San Francisco Bay area. Our visit to Napa commenced with a stop at the awardwinning Hagafen Cellars, where in addition to a tasting of wines and olives (grown alongside the winery’s vineyards), we received a most informative and entertaining introduction to the region’s winemaking history. These days, planners do well to supplement the boutique winery’s tasting room with its patio, which facilitates social distancing. Napa’s Meritage Resort and Spa and sister property Vista Collina have a combined 467 guestrooms, and are set FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL

amidst the former’s vineyards — Trinitas Cellars. Wines the property has additional rooms available at its sister served to groups utilizing the resort’s over 80,000 sq. ft. of property, the Orchards Inn. indoor and outdoor function space often include its own L’Auberge de Sedona also offers the over 3,000-sq.special vintages. In addition to traditional function space ft. Creekhouse, which includes five bedrooms that can such as the over 10,000-sq.-ft. Meritage Ballroom, the resort be utilized as function spaces. The Creekhouse’s highhas some unique spaces, including an underground cavern ceilinged common area opens to a spacious terrace. Stairs — the Grand Estate Cave — from the terrace can further where dinner events can be extend the space down to an hosted among wine barrels. open lawn, one of many areas Returning to our focus on alongside the creek suitable outdoor spaces, the Meritage for events. has an over 1,900-sq.-ft. deck More traditional functions and more than 1,300 sq. ft. of can be staged within the pre-function space peering 2,400-sq.-ft. Monet Ballroom, out into its vineyards. The L’Auberge’s largest indoor Vista Collina’s Rooftop space. The ballroom has Terrace similarly looks out large windows to allow an Group functions are complemented by vineyards and expansive Napa skies at The Meritage Resort and Spa upon row after row of plush abundance of natural light, greenery and farms whose a wood-burning fireplace produce covers the nearby for crisper evenings, as well hillsides. The 16, patio doors to extend the ft. Vista Collina Lawn is space outdoors an additional the largest event space 3,100 sq. ft. L’Auberge’s and allows attendees to 2,670-sq.-ft. SpiritSong experience Napa without Terrace is solely an outdoor leaving the property. area that overlooks Sedona’s Surrounded by tasting “Snoopy Rock” (so named for rooms from local vineyards, its said similarity to the famed guests can spend time in Peanuts cartoon dog sleeping a contained open-air environment and enjoy a variety of atop his doghouse). The scenic lawn enables planners wines from celebrated vintners. to stage receptions and other events that make a lasting impression. ON THE ROCKS ... As planners cautiously determine their path to return Outdoor meetings are a natural choice when in Sedona, to indoor spaces, knowing that there are facilities offering AZ. The town’s monolithic red rock formations seemingly compelling outdoor spaces along with well-developed health change colors throughout the day, while the night skies are and safety measures is comforting. This sampling of venues a stargazer’s paradise. With gathering outdoors becoming in the western United States can be supplemented with the standard, properties like L’Auberge de Sedona have scores of others across North America and beyond. Here’s to become even more attractive. The 88-room luxury resort is hoping that future features can take our focus back indoors. secluded in a valley alongside Oak Creek and rests in the Cheers! —D.K. shadows of picturesque rock formations. Ideal for buyouts,

Sedona’s natural environs can become part of the meeting experience at L’Auberge de Sedona





AUSTIN CONVENTION CENTER GBAC, a Division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, the Austin Convention Center and the Palmer Events Center will implement the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention at their facilities.

Fast Facts: Facility

Located in the heart of the capital city’s downtown, the LEED® Gold-certified convention center spans six city blocks


he four-story Austin Convention Center, a LEED® Gold-certified building, is a leader in the convention and meeting industry. The facility is located in the heart of the capital city’s downtown business district and spans six city blocks. With five column-free exhibit halls, totaling 247,052 sq. ft., the exhibit space can accommodate 1,289 booths that are 10 ft. by 10 ft. The flexible building space has two ballrooms that range up to 40,510 sq. ft. in size, along with 54 meeting rooms and show offices. Ample parking is provided in two parking garages with 1,700 spaces. ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY There is robust and complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the facility. Over 20,000 wireless devices can connect simultaneously, so there is no need to roam, looking for the full connectivity sweet spot. There are new video walls for additional wayfinding and client messaging to go along with a 24/7 network support team for event customization. Rated one of the most technologically advanced convention centers in the country, this gigabit-rated facility moves voice, video and data at over one billion bits per second. It offers a variety of in-house services including complimentary wireless Internet access, redundant high-speed Internet II access, plug-and-play capabilities, and a

friendly onsite technical staff to help with networking needs and support. HOTELS There are 42,000 hotel rooms in Austin and 11,000-plus of them are downtown within a two-mile radius of the Center. This inventory includes the 800-room Hilton Austin, adjacent to the Austin Convention Center and connected by the Hilton Overhead Walkway at 4th. North America’s largest Fairmont property with 1,048 rooms, the Fairmont Austin is connected directly to the Austin Convention Center via the Fairmont Canopy Walk. Additional nearby hotels include Four Seasons Hotel Austin, JW Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown, Radisson Hotel & Suites, Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown, Driskill Hotel, Omni Austin Hotel Downtown, Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel, W Austin, Hyatt Place Downtown Austin and Westin Austin Downtown. Located adjacent to the Center, the all-new Austin Marriott Downtown is scheduled to open in 2020 with 600 guestrooms. GBAC STAR ACCREDITATION The Austin Convention Department has announced its commitment to achieving Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accreditation, the gold standard for prepared facilities. Under the guidance of

Location: Downtown Austin Total Area: 881,400 gross sq. ft., covering six city blocks Meeting & Exhibit Space: 374,278 sq. ft. Fifty-four meeting rooms. Five contiguous exhibit halls with 247,052 sq. ft. of columnfree space. Ballrooms: Seven, ranging in size from cozy and intimate to one of the largest in Texas at 40,510 sq. ft. Technology: Gigabit-rated facility with complimentary Wi-Fi to accommodate over 20,000 wireless devices connecting simultaneously. New video walls for additional wayfinding and client messaging to go along with 24/7 network support and event customization.


Hotels: 11,000 downtown hotel rooms. Convention Center connected to Hilton Austin and Fairmont Austin via Hilton Overhead Walkway and Fairmont Canopy Walk. Airport: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), eight miles from the Convention Center Nearby Attractions: State Capitol, Sixth Street Entertainment District, Warehouse Entertainment District, University of Texas, LBJ Presidential Library, more than 20 museums including the Texas State History Museum, dozens of art galleries and historical attractions.

Contact Information

Trisha Tatro, Interim Director of Austin Convention Center Department Paul Barnes, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Amy Harris, CMP, Director of Sales

500 E. Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX 78701 • (512) 404-4200; Fax: (512) 404-4220 • 34





his energetic capital city boasts an expanded convention center, new hotels and plenty of room to stretch out and meet safely. In fact, Forbes recently ranked Boise among the Top 10 Cities Best Positioned to Recover from Coronavirus. A vibrant downtown awaits groups with an abundance of outdoor dining, shops, entertainment and recreation opportunities — all with ample space to socialize safely. BOISE CENTRE: CLEAN AND SAFE Situated in the heart of downtown is Boise Centre, Idaho’s premier convention center. Boise Centre is dedicated to ensuring the safety of all guests and staff. A Clean & Safe Plan has been implemented that includes a number of new processes to combat the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, Boise Centre has applied for the GBAC STAR facility accreditation. Within the convention center, you will find 31 versatile meeting rooms and event spaces, the latest in wireless technology and beautiful views of the Boise Foothills. Boise Centre proudly provides in-house catering, audiovisual, technology and event production services. HYBRID MEETINGS Whether you are planning a face-to-face meeting or a hybrid event with virtual and in-person participants, Boise Centre’s inhouse audiovisual and IT departments can handle a wide range of videoconference and streaming needs to bring your event to life. Our team of professionals, coupled with the building’s robust 1 GB network infrastructure (2.5 GB in Fall 2020), offers the expertise and reliability necessary to deliver a seamless meeting experience for both onsite attendees and those in locations across the globe. To assist you with virtual events, Boise Centre has added a fully customizable event studio complete with staging, backdrop, lighting and cameras. THRIVING CITY AND WIDE OPEN SPACES Boise’s energetic, walkable and compact downtown offers numerous outdoor dining options. The city’s 8th Street, known as Restaurant Row, has recently expanded, adding a pedestrian and patio district where groups may dine at a safe distance. Within a 10-block radius, visitors will find many one-of-a-kind eateries, breweries, wine-tasting rooms, over 100 shops, numerous art galleries and a weekly farmer’s market. From hiking, biking and golfing to stand-up paddleboarding and

whitewater rafting, Boise offers tons of activities and wide-open spaces for social distancing. Just four blocks from downtown is the Boise Greenbelt, a 25-mile walking and biking path that follows the Boise River through the city. The nearby Boise Foothills boast hundreds of miles of hiking trails with options for all abilities. Golf, skiing, whitewater rafting and wineries are all available within an hour.

Fast Facts: Facility

Location: Downtown Boise COVID Resources: Clean & Safe Plan and in pursuit of GBAC STAR accreditation Total Sq. Ft.: 86,000 Meeting Space: 31 meeting rooms, including three ballrooms Technology: Complimentary shared Wi-Fi throughout with dedicated Internet bandwidth up to 2.5 GB available to purchase and plug-andplay capabilities


Hotels: 1,300 downtown hotel rooms and thousands more within a short shuttle ride Airport: Boise Airport, seven minutes from facility Nearby Attractions: Historic Basque Block, Boise State University, over 100 shops, 80 restaurants and 20 breweries, 25-mile Boise Greenbelt walking and biking path along the Boise River, whitewater rafting, hiking and nearby golf

Contact Information

Pat Rice, Executive Director (208) 336-8900 or Ali Ribordy, Director of Sales (208) 489-3608 or

850 West Front Street, Boise, ID 83702 • (208) 336-8900 • FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL




WINNER OF 10 CONSECUTIVE FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS PRIME SITE AWARDS ALWAYS A PRIME LOCATION FOR YOUR NEXT MEETING LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Located in the heart of the Midwest’s most walkable city, Cincinnati, the Duke Energy Convention Center is within an eight-hour drive or one-hour flight of over half of the U.S. population. COMPACT AND WALKABLE Cincinnati has enjoyed a dramatic transformation in recent years that makes it a first-class convention and meeting destination. A blend of big-city sophistication and warm Midwestern charm, Cincinnati offers a mix of history, tradition and energy that will connect with you personally, fosters connections, and creates great experiences. When you come to Cincinnati and the Duke Energy Convention Center, plan for an attractive location including easy accessibility; a compact, walkable downtown; and an affordable, world-class convention center and hotel and meeting facilities. And, when the meeting concludes, plan to explore a city rich in character and entertainment including professional baseball and football; Broadway shows and world-class museums, including the Smithsonian-affiliated National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; plus a nationally recognized park system featuring the largest riverfront park in the nation. DESIGNED BY MEETING PROFESSIONALS, FOR MEETING PROFESSIONALS Convention planners, show organizers and meeting professionals provided valuable input, and the result was a convention center designed by you and for you. The verticality of the design means that attendees save the soles of their feet! Featuring 200,000 sq. ft. of divisible ground-level exhibition halls, 30 modern meeting rooms on the second floor, and 57,500 sq. ft. of ballroom space immediately

above the meeting rooms, the Duke Energy Convention Center offers the largest and most spectacular 40,000-sq.-ft. Grand Ballroom in the Midwest. SELECTED BY CUSTOMERS AS A CENTER OF EXCELLENCE Exhibitor Magazine’s readership of show organizers and exhibitors recently selected Duke Energy Convention Center as a 2021 “Center of Excellence” and a Top 30 Convention Center in North America. The Center’s professional and solution-driven staff is prepared to make your next meeting a success. READY TO HOST YOUR NEXT EVENT Now hosting events regularly, the Center is prepared to safely and successfully host your future meeting, convention or tradeshow in any format. Remaining solution-focused, the Duke Energy Convention Center features a full broadcast studio with professional support capable of handling hybrid events, combining both live and virtual audiences. With the health and safety of its employees, partners, clients and guests top of mind, the DECC was the first convention center in Ohio to achieve GBAC STAR accreditation. As a GBAC STAR-accredited facility, the Center has implemented the most stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention. The third-party validation by ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, demonstrates the Center’s preparedness and commitment to operating safely. For more information about booking the Duke Energy Convention Center, contact Justin Markle, Director of Sales, at (513) 419-7304 or visit

525 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202 • (513) 419-7304 • 36





n the heart of a revitalized downtown, a vibrant new hospitality district continues to grow. With world-class hotels, restaurants, museums and entertainment venues, you’ll find that St. Louis is a great choice for your next meeting or event. St. Louis is an accessible and affordable destination that will keep delegates entertained with magnificent theater, live music, sports and more that are all within reach. Located in the heart of downtown, the America’s Center convention complex provides more than 502,000 sq. ft. of continuous exhibit space with 80 versatile meeting rooms, the 1,400-seat Ferrara Theatre and the 67,000-seat Dome at America’s Center, providing planners with unparalleled flexibility and accessibility. With some of the most premier hotel brands in the industry, including Marriott, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, Westin and Hyatt, there are more than 7,000 available guestrooms in downtown St. Louis and more than 38,000 rooms in the metropolitan area. If you are looking for that ideal single hotel or need 4,500 rooms peak for your citywide event, St. Louis can accommodate you. St. Louis is filled with unique offsite venues to meet the needs of your group. One must-see venue is the National Blues Museum that

is just steps from the America’s Center Convention Complex. The museum is an interactive treasure trove of sights and sounds saluting the country’s indigenous music with numerous galleries and an intimate performance space for concerts to provide entertainment for meeting groups and special events. A 2,500-sq.ft. private room offers flexible space for receptions or dining. St. Louis is a foodie’s delight, with an endless array of diverse dining options along Washington Avenue. Attendees will enjoy Peruvian, Italian, French, Mediterranean and more cuisine varieties from around the world, all within walking distance of the America’s Center.

Arch 2018 World Premiere Program After five years in the making, St. Louis’ Gateway Arch has been completely transformed with biking and running trails, space for outdoor concerts and indoor events, and a new state-of-the-art museum commemorating the westward expansion of the United States. Through the Arch 2018 World Premiere program, planners and their attendees can benefit from VIP experiences at the Gateway Arch, as well as a series of incentives from hotels and event venues, and the America’s Center Convention Complex. To learn more about the program, visit

701 Convention Plaza, Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63101 • (800) 916-8938 • FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL






he Volusia County Ocean Center, located steps away from the world-renowned sands of Daytona Beach and surrounded by outdoor adventures and incredible attractions and accommodations, is a modern, state-of-the-art facility that offers events the space, features and attentive service they need to exceed expectations. From an arena capable of holding more than nine thousand attendees to a 93,028-sq.-ft. exhibit hall, as well as multiple meeting rooms and ballrooms, you can find the space to host events of all sizes and needs. Whether you’re looking to book a convention, conference, sports or esports competition, competitive arts event, or something else, the Ocean Center has the space and flexibility to make it happen. Thanks to an incredibly attentive staff, each event feels like a big deal, no matter its size. Unlike competing convention centers, the Ocean Center makes even the smallest meetings or events feel like the center of attention. We pride ourselves on providing a high level of personalized service other convention centers can’t offer.

And beyond the walls of the facility, activity awaits. With outdoor adventures, exciting attractions, waterfront dining and accommodations, and miles of wide, open beach, there’s plenty to see and do when the day’s events wrap up. Whether attendees are thrill-seekers logging high-speed laps on the same track as the NASCAR greats at the Daytona International Speedway, outdoor enthusiasts enjoying the natural beauty of the beaches and springs, or foodies ready to discover their next great bite, there’s something for everyone. And getting here is a breeze! The Ocean Center is located just minutes from Daytona Beach International Airport, where travelers can catch a flight on Delta Air Lines or American Airlines year-round, with seasonal service to Toronto, Canada, on Sunwing. And for road warriors, Interstate 4 and Interstate 95 offer convenient travel to the destination. No matter what you’re planning, the Ocean Center’s state-of-the-art technology, ample and unique event spaces, and attentive staff will ensure your event is the most important thing happening in Volusia County. Book today and let the Ocean Center team make you the center of attention!

101 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32118 • 38





cean City, Maryland, doubles as both the perfect destination and the top-tier meeting space your group deserves. Well known for its beautifully maintained 10-mile beach and family-friendly getaways, Ocean City is the perfect place to bring the whole family for your convention or meeting. Working from your hotel room takes on a new meaning when you have a view of the ocean or the bay. Ocean City offers a variety of delicious dining and cuisine options for you and your group, many with outdoor options available. Plus, choose from an abundance of activities and places to explore. Check out the educational and sightseeing boat tours and snap some pictures of the famous Assateague Ponies (a nearby wild herd of horses), or take a stroll on the world-famous, three-mile Boardwalk. For a relaxing golf outing, select from the 17 championship golf courses surrounding Ocean City, or cast your lines on a charter boat fishing trip right here in the White Marlin Capital of the world. From a huge selection of hotels to tucked-away beach bungalows, you’ll find perfect accommodations among the town’s 10,000 rooms. Many hotels in Ocean City offer meeting spaces ranging from ballrooms to boardrooms, so you don’t even have to leave the hotel to fulfill your meeting needs. The Ocean City Convention & Visitors Bureau is happy to help distribute your RFP and any meeting requirements to local properties. If you’re looking for larger meeting space, the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on the bay is here to fulfill your needs. This convenient drive-to destination offers expert staff, exclusive catering by Centerplate, ample free parking and 1,900 hotels rooms within walking distance.



The Convention Center is equipped to handle groups of all sizes and types, including exhibits, meetings, sporting events, competitions, esports and more. Its 1,200-seat Performing Arts Center is perfect for seminars, presentations and performances. A new 30,000-sq.-ft. expansion, plus additional meeting and exhibit space, is coming in 2022. Ocean City looks forward to you meeting at the beach and planning a convention with a view! For information on the Roland E. Powell Convention Center or any meeting venue in Ocean City, contact Regina Brittingham, Sales Manager, at (410) 289-2800 or

4001 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, MD 21842 (800) OC-OCEAN; (410) 289-2800 •

THE ROLAND E. POWELL CONVENTION CENTER PLAN A CONVENTION WITH A VIEW. Your attendees will enjoy multiple wide-open exhibit and meeting spaces throughout the center, perfect for everything from trade shows, sporting events and competitions, to e-sports and meetings. And our bayside location can’t be beat! Main Exhibit Hall – 45,500+ sq. ft. of column-free, flexible halls Bayfront Ballroom – 19,126 sq. ft. • Exhibit Hall –14,000 sq. ft. of flexible space • 21 meeting rooms • Performing Arts Center –1,200 seats with state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment, box office, concession area and spacious dressing rooms • •

While you’re here, enjoy our 10 miles of beautifully maintained beach and our famous 3-mile Boardwalk! Comfortable drive, less than three hours from Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, and 30 minutes from the Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico Regional Airport (SBY).




To learn more about meetings and events in Ocean City, or hotels that can accommodate your group, contact Regina Brittingham at 800-626-2326 or

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The Together Again Expo General Session area featured physically distanced seating and one-way aisles

ORANGE COUNTY CONVENTION CENTER Arriving in waves, teams entered the OCCC via a one-way entry point following a successful health screening process during the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championships



resented with a new reality, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) developed a plan to enhance the entire attendee experience with safety in mind. Focused on creating a controlled environment, the OCCC implemented its Recovery and Resiliency Plans in July, by successfully hosting the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Junior National Volleyball Championships and the Together Again Expo.

PRE-ARRIVAL Preparations for each event began long before participants arrived at the OCCC. Following an enhanced communications strategy, the OCCC and show organizers openly discussed new plans, policies and procedures to help guide and educate attendees ahead of time. CHECK-IN The implementation of a controlled check-in process played an important role in creating a safe and secure event experience. By funneling attendees through restricted access points, the OCCC managed attendee flow, avoided congestion and administered essential health screenings in the form of temperature checks and surveys. Considering all touchpoints, planners also designed a new touchless registration process, with a focus on self-service and predetermined arrival times. For instance, Together Again Expo attendees confirmed their attendance via QR code. Similarly, AAU Volleyball participants arrived at predetermined times, and were admitted entrance as a team via a single one-way entrance. OFFERING A SAFE AND ENJOYABLE EVENT EXPERIENCE Returning for 19 years, the AAU Volleyball Tournament has developed a rhythm for success at the OCCC. No stranger to crowds, the

OCCC employees disinfected the Expo Hall and General Session Area throughout the duration of the Together Again Expo with electrostatic foggers

OCCC typically hosts more than 100,000 participants, chaperones and coaches as they gather to compete annually at this event. With the current climate posing new challenges, this year’s event featured reduced teams and courts, increased distancing between sets, and decreased capacity due to a no-spectator rule. Additionally, AAU planners limited the number of ancillary events and cancelled the traditional opening ceremony to avoid congregation points and crowding. Similarly, the Together Again Expo challenged convention center planners, paving the way for the OCCC to guide the industry by implementing plans for hosting events in a post-COVID world. With ample space at its disposal, the OCCC had plenty of room for physical distancing. Considering attendees, exhibitors and employees, planners designed a floor plan featuring wider aisles, revised physically distanced seating plans, and strategic positioning of furnishings to avoid congregations of people and enhance distancing measures. In partnership with Orlando Health and Visit Orlando, the OCCC also offered its unique medical concierge service to clients. This first-of-its-kind program provides a safer environment for guests by offering a vast network of healthcare services and expertise, to further safeguard attendees and instill confidence. RESULT With no illnesses or cases reported following each event, the measures taken by the OCCC and show organizers proved to be successful and are a testament to hosting live events under our new normal. Offering a blueprint to navigating conventions, tradeshows and events, the OCCC has led the way for the industry, displaying the necessary tools, strategies and methods to allow us to meet safely today for a stronger tomorrow.

West Concourse – 9800 International Drive • South Concourse – 9899 International Drive • North Concourse – 9400 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32819

(407) 685-9800, (800) 345-9845, Fax: (407) 685-9876 • 40






avannah is one of the most popular visitor destinations in the United States, and with its growing popularity, meeting planning professionals and convention decision-makers are taking a closer look than ever before.

With a planned midyear 2021 opening, the new Thompson Hotel on Savannah’s new riverfront Eastern Warf Community is also in the works. The upscale boutique-style hotel will offer 193 stylistic guestrooms and a 9,500-sq.-ft. ballroom.

With more than 45 cultural attractions, Savannah draws meeting attendees craving a diverse and safe experience. This one-of-a-kind destination will enthrall your attendees with its eclectic atmosphere and relaxed pace. Trolley, Segway and walking tours covering history, hauntings, architecture and food fill downtime with excitement and entertainment, and elegant accommodations within blocks of meeting venues make gatherings in Savannah a step above the rest.

Meeting attendees also are sure to enjoy Savannah’s palate-pleasing twist on Southern cuisine and farm-to-table fare served at many awardwinning restaurants that are ready to host your networking breakfast events, executive lunches and reward dinners in style. This city is famous for its unique brand of coastal cuisine, with restaurants serving authentic shrimp and grits, extra-crispy fried chicken, mouthwatering barbecue and so much more.

One reason for the increased interest is the planned expansion of the Savannah Convention Center. The building will double the size of its exhibit hall to 200,000 sq. ft., add a new 65,000-sq.-ft. ballroom, increase the number of breakouts and boardrooms to 24, and include 900 parking spaces. With the expanded center expected to open in late 2023, interested groups are already inquiring about rates, dates and space for future events.

By its nature, Savannah loves to welcome guests. But it’s also about caring for our fellow citizens, our visitors and each other. The Savannah community has come together to create the Savannah Safe Initiative, a commitment to help stop the spread of COVID-19 with cleaning and disinfecting protocols to help ensure the health and safety of everyone in our places of business. Over 600 Savannah-area businesses, including the Savannah Convention Center, have taken the pledge. Ultimately, what event planners are looking for is an ideal destination in a city with the perfect mix of accessibility, affordability and facilities to accommodate their group properly. Savannah offers all of that and more. To learn more and start planning your meeting today, go to

You and your guests will find it is easy to get to Savannah with over 40 daily nonstop flights to 25 destinations at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport. Carriers include Delta, American, United, Jet Blue, Allegiant, Frontier, Sun Country and the recently announced Southwest Airlines service starting in early 2021. Additionally, Savannah is serviced by Amtrak’s Silver Service/Palmetto Line, connecting it with cities including Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and Miami. There are a variety of convention hotels in Savannah, highlighted by the new 419-room J.W. Marriott at Plant Riverside. This luxury hotel includes dozens of larger-than-life geodes and historical displays from developer Richard Kessler’s private collection, and an entertainment district overlooking the Savannah River that boasts 14 different food and beverage outlets. The hotel even has a 135-ft. chrome dinosaur hanging from its lobby ceiling.

Meetings Contact

Jeff Hewitt, Senior Vice President, (912) 644-6416,

101 East Bay Street, Savannah, GA 31401 • (877) SAVANNAH; (912) 644-6424; FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL


“PIVOTING” AS A PLANNER Adapting to a new role in the era of COVID-19 By Kari Messenger, CMP, DES


ot long ago, I felt like I was in the prime of my career. I was confident about executing meetings and built strong relationships with my clients as well as the general industry. Then COVID-19 hit. I watched as my industry partners and friends were furloughed and laid off day after day, and began to worry and wonder what my own future would hold. My once very busy spring of traveling to conferences back to back was canceled, and I found myself in a new position of applying force majeure and halting all projects leading up to conferences. Like many others, my heart was broken watching our beloved hospitality industry come to a screeching halt, and I felt lost for many weeks to follow. As time went on, I began to think about what I wanted for my career and starting asking myself these questions: • What will the hospitality industry I love look like in the future due to the repercussions of COVID? • Will I be planning in-person meetings any time in the near future? • Am I capable of planning virtual meetings? • Is there a place for my skills in the virtual meeting world? • Do I need to start thinking about switching to a new industry? • Do I need to start thinking about what unemployment will mean to me and my family? As time progressed, there was still work to be done, and I found myself transforming into a new role within the association meeting planning industry. This new role inspired a new attitude, and instead of asking questions of doubt, I started telling myself what I can control. Here is what I came upon: I am a project manager. One of the first steps my team took when moving our in-person meetings to virtual was creating a virtual meeting project plan. This plan consisted of defining tasks and roles for each team member and what needed to be done in order to execute a successful virtual meeting. Our team naturally fell into the role of managing this plan and working with our clients in a new way to ensure our attendees had a positive experience at conferences in a digital format. I am a partner. Reality struck — understanding conferences were not going to happen in person any time soon, I found myself relying on the industry relationships I


If COVID has taught me anything, it is that I can adapt to whatever obstacle comes my way in life have built over the past several years. These relationships were more important than ever when we navigated the terms of our contracts with venues. Whether the result was rebooking or cancelling due to force majeure, my industry partners worked side by side with me throughout the process. I am a digital expert. During this time, I was able to receive my Digital Event Strategist (DES) certification. This program helped me understand how to plan, produce and measure digital events from start to finish. These were completely new skills for me in my career, and having the opportunity to receive this certification helped my confidence flourish in this new setting. I am an adapter. If COVID has taught me anything, it is that I can adapt to whatever obstacle comes my way in life. Last month, I conducted my first virtual site visit. While I would rather have been on the plane to the destination, a virtual site visit meant that more of my team could experience what the property looked like. It was a proud moment knowing I was able to share a new experience with my team, and that there will be new opportunities to do this in the future. I am looking forward to meeting in person once again, but in the meantime, I know that I have found my place in the COVID planning world. I would not have made it without the support of my network consisting of industry partners, friends, coworkers and family. Kari Messenger, CMP, DES, is Senior Meetings Manager at the Association Management Center (AMC). She has been serving the AMC and its clients for five years, and in the association industry since 2010. In 2019, Messenger was elected to serve on the board for the Association for Women in Events. She has also been involved with PCMA, ASAE and Association Forum, and received the 2020 Association Forum Forty Under 40. FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL

TAKE STOCK IN YOUR PARTNERSHIP APPROACH 5 best practices for working with meeting venues as we emerge from COVID-19 By Jennifer Squeglia, CMP


he last eight months have been some of the hardest on our beloved meetings and events industry. Through it all, the interactions with my colleagues and partners continue to inspire. We are resilient and positive. And although the months ahead will be challenging as we reopen, it is the people we are collaborating with that will make it rewarding. One day, we will look back together at our collective accomplishments. For now, we benefit from taking the following approaches toward our work with venues on future programs. All five have always been central, but they take on a new level of importance in the current climate.


With so many variables changing frequently, it is crucial to communicate often with your hospitality partners and keep them up to date on the status of your program, and likewise that they keep you up to date on their end. Respond to your email and return the phone call — it is more important than ever that we remain in touch with our partners.


With ongoing changes in CDC guidelines, state regulations and quarantine requirements, as well as company travel policies in flux, the only thing certain is uncertainty. This is a really difficult environment to enter into a contract; you want to balance protecting your company and being reasonable to the venue. Lacking a crystal ball, it is particularly challenging to determine room block and meeting space requirements. Contract clauses — such as attrition and cancellation — will be reevaluated and need to be adjusted to allow for some flexibility in this ever-changing, uncertain time. It’s more important than ever to consult with your legal teams to make sure you are protecting the company you represent. At the same time, you need to be mindful that the hotel is a business whose revenue stream has been enormously impacted. We want to get back out there and hotels need business, so both sides need to work closely together and be as flexible as possible in order to achieve a win-win.


We’ve always been a bit hesitant to put all our cards on the table, but in these circumstances, transparency is key. Ask and/or answer the tough questions with respect and honesty. For example, inquire about the hotel’s financial health or the protocols if a guest and/or employee tests positive for COVID. FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL

Nobody wants to be blindsided. Getting through those difficult conversations can be uncomfortable, but when you are respectful and authentic, the outcome is typically a good one.


The last several months have been a wild ride — things that you never thought you would see are happening. If you have concerns about an aspect of the hotel’s services, such as staffing levels and cleanliness protocols, clearly express your expectations. If you are negotiating an addendum or contract and want to incorporate a clause about certain guidelines being in place (or not) for the event to proceed, be very clear on which guidelines that covers — are they the CDC’s, state’s or company’s? Clarity is key and no question is stupid.


The next several months promise to be bumpy and frustrating as we all climb out of this together. There will be times when you won’t hear right back from someone or the answer isn’t what you want or expect. Remember to pause and be patient. One of the reasons we all love this industry so much is because of the great people we get to work with, and oftentimes the partnerships we form soon become friendships. This pandemic has been so hard on us professionally, with a record number of furloughs and layoffs. On top of that, it has been difficult for so many on a personal level — be it an aging parent you can’t visit, supporting your child’s virtual schooling, or just feeling overwhelmed. When interacting with people, remember to ask how they’re doing and really listen to the answer. Above all, be kind and remember that we truly are all in this together. Jennifer C. Squeglia, CMP, is Principal of her event-planning company, RLC Events, Inc. Since its founding more than 13 years ago, Naples, FL-based RLC Events has partnered with clients from a variety of industries, including defense, healthcare, financial services and insurance. Squeglia previously served as Director of Meetings & Client Events for Fidelity Brokerage Company, and prior to that as an Event Manager for John Hancock. Her career started in the hospitality industry working at luxury resorts in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, St. John in the US Virgin Islands, Savannah, GA, and Martha’s Vineyard.


NAVIGATING THE CRISIS Four tips for planners to preserve their physical, mental and financial health By Kate Patay


o one had a playbook for what 2020 has thrown our way. Whether it was COVID-19, wildfires, politics or home schooling, this year has affected all of us and our businesses in some way. What I know for sure is that there are ways to not only survive this crisis, but thrive in it. While chairing a crisis relief foundation for event professionals during the most widespread crisis we’ll all likely face in our lifetimes, and simultaneously keeping a hospitality consulting business afloat, I’ve learned a thing or two. Four things to be exact, and I’ll share them with you after a little story … March 11, 2020. Las Vegas. The SEARCH Foundation is preparing to host its largest fundraiser to date in conjunction with TSE/Catersource and raise funds for event professionals in need. We know COVID is going to affect us in a big way and we know grant requests for crisis relief are going to skyrocket, so we’re focused on a safe, distanced event with some of the best meeting minds in the country (shout out to the SEARCH Event Team) to execute this successfully. As we were doing final walkthroughs and opening doors, a global pandemic was officially announced and the first case of Coronavirus in Las Vegas was reported — within 60 minutes of each other. Long story short, Planet Hollywood/Caesars Entertainment and CORT Events were amazing in accommodating our event parameters with proper distancing. We not only had our last in-person event for the foreseeable future, but we raised a record amount of funds while everyone’s phones dinged with cancelled events throughout that night (and the next few months). Since that time, we have banded together in a way like I’ve never witnessed. I’m watching companies and individuals recreate themselves and what events look like to ensure we safely find our way back to face-to-face meetings. The instantaneous switch from live to virtual to this new chapter of hybrid events is an exciting time for our industry to truly show its creative side and come out better, stronger and more nimble. Am I always this positive? No. I have my days. I’m more of a realist, but I see the innovations in technology, as well as safety and sanitation, that will pave the road to recovery. If you’re struggling to find that path, here are four things you can do on personal and business levels to bring clarity:


I’ve said this before quarantine and I’ll say it long after: Always have your important tasks and your must-do’s scheduled. I tend 44

to schedule mine early in the day for two reasons: It makes me get up and ready instead of procrastinating, and I find my creative streak is highest in the morning. But if you are most creative at 11 p.m., then have your schedule reflect that. For example, I’ll never take a call at 3:30 p.m. because I’m usually distracted and hangry. So create a schedule based on what works for you.


This looks different to everyone, but you can’t take care of others if you’re not your best self. Up until February my version of healthy was working out five days a week. Now I give myself a win if I get in two workouts. Maybe it’s one more homecooked meal than usual, or just listening to your Apple Watch when it tells you to stand up and breathe. Celebrate the little wins … it’s great for your mental health.

We have banded together in a way like I’ve never witnessed. I’m watching companies and individuals recreate themselves and what events look like to ensure we safely find our way back to face-to-face meetings. SET BOUNDARIES

If you don’t have boundaries in place your #WorkFromHome may quickly turn into #LiveAtWork. I set firm boundaries not only with time, but also with consumption of news and social media. Too much information can be toxic. Stay informed, but don’t let negativity take over. I appreciate differing opinions in my circle of friends in-person and online, but the minute one turns ugly as opposed to informative I push pause. Please work to be OK with varying opinions, but know when it’s just not a battle worth fighting.


I’ve seen event planners create partnerships with venues to be able to sell two dates to clients, so they have a target date and a Plan B. I’ve also seen companies stay afloat by planning Continued on inside back cover


RFPs IN THE COVID-19 ERA New questions to include, and familiar ones that have become more critical By Shannon Licygiewicz


t’s hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again. Time to plan year-end meetings, holiday parties and start mapping out what your 2021 event strategy sessions might look like. While we all are working on different checklists, there is one thing we all have in common — meetings are not and will not look the same moving forward. This means you cannot just dust off last year’s RFP and solicit a venue using the same questions and criteria. There is a whole new world of requests you should be asking your prospective venues to ensure the health and safety of your team and attendees, and the overall success of your event.

Sales teams have been listening to their clients’ concerns and questions over the last six months and have developed ways to help streamline this new normal for events The good news is that many venues have worked tirelessly over the last few months of “down time” to put policies and procedures in place to ensure their clients’ safe return. Not only have they implemented operational upgrades and cleaning measures, but they have also come up with innovative ways to host events. In most cases, they will probably already have answers to your event-planning questions. In addition, sales teams have been listening to their clients’ concerns and questions over the last six months and have developed ways to help streamline this “new normal” for events. So, before you send out your RFPs for year-end events and beyond, here are some of the questions our team at the Albany Capital Center has been getting that you may want to include:

Health and Safety

• Will I be responsible for contract tracing in the event of an exposure? • Will you be doing temperature checks for everyone in the building? • What is your current capacity and how could it change? FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL

• Who will enforce social distancing? • Can you provide a blurb on your cleaning and sanitizing procedures that I can pass along to attendees? • Do attendees need to bring their own masks? • How will food service be “touchless” or safe? • Do you have contactless check-in and registration processes?


• Has your cancellation policy changed? • What if we have attendees coming from a state with a mandatory quarantine? • What if your venue’s state bans all gatherings? • What happens if we cannot get enough in-person participants and decide to go virtual?


AV and IT, while always an important part of an RFP, may now need to be moved to the forefront of your line of questions. Planners need to make sure venues are equipped to stream live, record sessions, support higher levels of Internet speed and provide tech assistance. These areas are more important than ever in this new virtual and hybrid world. Even more important is coming up with creative ways of using virtual meeting tools, such as broadcasting a keynote from one room of a venue to other meeting rooms, and offering virtual tradeshow booths.


• Would it be possible to have a panel discussion with half the participants in one room, some in a second room and some joining remotely? • Can we record presentations to show at a later date or prerecord for the live event? • What streaming services do you offer? • What security measures are taken with your Wi-Fi system to ensure a safe connection? • If we have to make the event hybrid or virtual at the last minute, can you accommodate?


Another important aspect to consider is a walkthrough of the facility. While you might have been at the same location for years, planners now need to look at things with another set of eyes. Safety, cleanliness and technology are at the Continued on inside back cover


PANDEMIC-ERA PLANNING 4 tips from a longtime meeting professional in the religious sector By Jamie B. Kervin


he Bible has so much to say about meeting together. Consider the program schedule and allow enough time to The book of Hebrews implies that it serves to encourage wipe down mics and podiums between speakers. Build in one another toward love and good works. In the New additional time between sessions to safely move attendees Testament, the disciples break bread together often, and in and out of meeting rooms. You may need to consider not they encourage all of the churches to do the same. Even holding breakouts. the Old Testament speaks consistently about the people assembling together. As both a nonprofit ministry of Cru 2. Communicate. Determine your protocols (temperature and a third-party meeting planning company that serves the checks upon entry, face masks and/or social distancing Christian ministry market, Arrowhead Conferences & Events requirements, denied entry should a participant not is committed to helping our clients follow Jesus’s teachings meet the communicated guidelines, etc.) and clearly about gathering for the purpose of taking the Gospel to the communicate those expectations to your attendees, in end of the world. And although we have certainly had to writing. Provide as much information to attendees before pivot toward virtual events they register so they are able when necessary, no matter to make an informed decision If your attendees are what industry you’re in, on whether the event is coming from all over nothing will ever replace appropriate for them. Provide the country, remember the experience of meeting a thorough FAQ page on your that their experience together. There is an element website or in your registration to an in-person meeting that materials. If your attendees with COVID-19 might be cannot be replicated virtually. are coming from all over the different than yours, so I would argue that, with few country, remember that their never assume they know exceptions, they are more experience with COVID-19 your expectations efficient and produce better might be different than yours, results. so never assume they know So how do you make that happen in a time where social your expectations. People from rural areas likely have a distancing seems to be the antithesis of gathering together? very different perspective than attendees from urban cities. 1. Plan. Think through every element of your event and how it could be impacted by new safety protocols before you Although you want to take every precaution to keep your distribute your RFP. If your venue is already contracted attendees as safe as possible, you don’t want to guarantee for a future meeting, go back to that venue and ask the their safety. Avoid statements like “We are taking every appropriate questions. Consider an addendum to your precaution to guarantee your safety.” Instead, consider original agreement. What additional requests do you need statements like “We are following all guidelines provided to make of a venue? Can the hotel provide a large enough by the CDC and encourage you to do the same.” space to socially distance? Are the hotel’s restaurants open, and at what capacity? What are the current safety 3. Collaborate. This is new for all of us. I have close to 20 protocols? What does meal service currently look like? years in this industry and have never experienced anything like this. We’re all learning from one another. Work very After your venue is selected and contracted (making sure closely with your venue. Hopefully they will have held your force majeure language is updated and that you’re an in-person meeting by the time your meeting comes reasonably comfortable with your ability to cancel should it around. Lean on their insight and allow them to help you become necessary), thoroughly consider your registration in ways you possibly never have before. process and what changes need to be implemented. Do your attendees need to sign a waiver releasing you from liability Work with the CVB to determine current city and should they get sick? Do you need to limit attendance? Continued on inside back cover 46


HYBRID MEETING CASE STUDY A firsthand account of how one meeting planning company successfully adjusted its processes By Stacey Jackson


s the meetings, events, convention and hospitality industries entered 2020, no one had an inkling of what would occur in terms of facing the ever-changing process of conducting a live, in-person meeting. We could not even fathom that there would be a day when this may be a question mark for our clients, nor how it would affect jobs and the industry as a whole. As a leading end-to-end meetings logistics company focusing primarily on live face-to-face meetings, Global Meetings & Incentives (GMI) recognized the need to adapt to the way meetings would operate in a COVID-19 era. We also recognized the need to collaborate with customers on processes that would allow them to return to live in-person meetings. In July 2020, we began working with one of our key accounts on a series of district-level meetings around the country, including eight manager-level meetings and 40 sales meetings — replacing the national leadership and national sales meeting we would operate under normal circumstances. Below are the steps that we put in place to make this a success for all, as well as lessons we learned throughout the planning, execution and onsite process. As a first step, GMI partnered with our client to create a Back to Live Meetings task force comprised of the GMI team and the following departments from our client’s company: security, human resources, meetings and events, and sourcing. Through weekly calls, we discussed each process and created checklists to be used during execution.


Keeping attendees safe was our first and foremost concern. We needed to determine which corporate policies to establish in order to ensure health and safety at live meetings. First, we understood that each individual and team had their own comfort levels when it came to traveling to and attending a live meeting. Before we moved forward with planning the in-person meetings, we conducted a survey of the entire sales force and leadership to determine the percentage of individuals who would attend virtually vs. in person. We learned that approximately 80 percent of the attendees were ready to travel and get back to live meetings. Next, we created a health and safety checklist to be used during planning, onsite and post-conference stages.


It became apparent that we needed a more detailed sourcing FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL

process providing additional information in order to make an informed decision based on the new environment. •H ealth and Safety: Each property, city and state has its own set of recommendations and/or requirements during the pandemic. We required each property to provide us with their health and safety protocols and an outline of what steps they were taking to ensure their facilities were adhering to the CDC guidelines as well as local guidelines. •M eeting Space and Meeting Sets: Our task force required that all attendee meeting sets be at least six feet from one another. To meet that requirement, we needed medium-sized to large ballrooms, as we used a separate table for each attendee. Because we offered our attendees the option to participate virtually, an extensive production component was added to our onsite requirements. Each meeting had a production team of four to six people in the back of the room running the show, Zoom meetings, cameras and presentations. • Hotel Services: We learned that most of the hotels were operating with a limited staff. This greatly impacted the hotel’s ability to provide services that we were accustomed to, as well as the planning process. • Sales and Catering: Sales departments have been reduced to one or two managers in some cases, causing hotel responses to be slightly delayed. • Housekeeping: Hotels are taking strict precautions when it comes to entering guestrooms. Housekeeping services were not being provided unless a guest made a specific request. • In-Room Amenities: Some properties have removed all in-room amenities, including hotel directories, hair dryers, irons and even some bathroom amenities. In many cases, remote controls are in plastic casings and then changed after each guest’s stay. • Room Service and Dining Outlets: Most properties have discontinued room service during the pandemic or, if they do provide it, it is contactless, with orders being placed via guests’ cellphones and then delivered outside the guestroom in an individual bag. We also found that some properties had only one or two dining outlets open, which became challenging during planning. 47

HYBRID MEETING CASE STUDY Continued from page 47

•C heck-in and Checkout: Hotel companies promote their apps and in-room services for the check-in and checkout process. This enables the guests to bypass the front desk and access their room via their cellphones. If a guest had to visit the front desk at check-in, plexiglass barriers separate the hotel agent and guest, with hand sanitizer readily available. •P ublic Spaces: Abundant signage on the walls and floors directed guests to follow the appropriate distancing guidelines. Masks were required in all public spaces; handsanitizing stations were spaced throughout public spaces as well.


Our task force agreed that attendee communication was of the utmost importance in the current climate. We ended up overcommunicating to ensure that our attendees were aware of the company policies and that safety was a priority. In the past, GMI provided confirmations to all attendees with general location information, air and ground procedures, and general onsite details. Now, much more information is required: •H otel health and safety procedures •C orporate Policies: Each attendee received our client’s corporate policies prior to the meeting regarding the new meeting requirements. As previously discussed, each attendee was given the option to attend in person or virtually. They could also change their mind at any time during the registration process. •T ravel Precautions: We linked the CDC recommendations and guidelines to all our communications, registration website and confirmations. Masks were required to be worn during travel and in all public spaces. In the past, we would provide ground transportation for each attendee to and from the airport. Collectively, we decided, due to the concern of our attendees, that everyone would be responsible for his or her own ground transfers. We provided guidelines in our communications and urged attendees to ride individually with a facial covering.


•R egistration: •T raditional registration and onsite check-in changed dramatically. Gone are the days of shaking hands and hugging those you have not seen upon arrival. Instead, we provided attendees with PPE kits, name badges and any other required information at a table where attendees could pick them up individually. •W e determined with our client that their corporate policy would require each attendee to sign a Health Attestation Form each day. We provided this form on the meeting app that was available to all attendees. They would go on it each day, before entering the meeting room, to answer all questions regarding health and COVID-19. We also provided hard copies at the registration desk for each 48

attendee if the app was not accessible. • I ndividual PPE kits were sent to each meeting location, including a facemask, hand-sanitizing wipes, gloves and hand sanitizer. •T he registration desk had signage regarding social distancing, hand sanitizer and a cup of pens that were all sanitized prior to their arrival. After a pen was used, our onsite team made sure it was not used again. •L eadership and Brand General Sessions: In the past, since these meetings had the entire sales team together, they consisted of one main general session, smaller area general sessions and then smaller district or regional breakouts. During these live meetings, through production, we either did the main general sessions live from the corporate headquarters or had these prerecorded for all meetings to view at the same time. Leadership also traveled to different meeting locations in person. During these visits, production was able to go to their meeting location and broadcast the presentations live to the other meeting locations. •F ood and Beverage: This was deemed to be one of the most challenging areas during planning. Some of the larger chains allowed buffets to be provided but with new guidelines: They were served by one attendant behind a plexiglass shield. Breaks and beverages were another story. We worked with each property to design breaks that included either prepackaged items and/or individual snacks in to-go boxes. If possible, all coffee was served by one attendant. This did end up increasing the budget, as hotels charged attendant fees for that service. •O ffsite/Evening Events: We were able to do group dinners in locations where restaurants were open. Attendees were seated six feet apart at outdoor tables. If a meeting owner wanted a group activity, we looked at options like outdoor bonfires on the beach with boxed meals, dinner by the pool with no more than three people per table, or outdoor venues like TopGolf. Each meeting owner received feedback from their team before planning began, in order to gauge everyone’s comfort level. •D aily Check-Ins: Each onsite GMI team member was required to check in daily with the project manager to give updates on how things were going onsite. Updates would concern the Health Attestation forms, F&B, social distancing, daily hotel staff check-ins, etc. If attendees had concerns, they were able to discuss them with our onsite GMI team member, and we could accommodate them in two ways: They could either go to their room and attend virtually, or depart at the end of the day and rejoin virtually from home the next day.


We received positive feedback on two things planned for virtual attendees only: a game and a meal gift or Visa cards. •O n one day during the week of the meeting, we organized a game for training purposes. The live attendees had the FACILITIES & DESTINATIONS 2020 FALL

HYBRID MEETING CASE STUDY Continued from page 48

game on the screen or in the meeting room, while the virtual attendees had two options to access it. If an attendee indicated during the registration process that he or she would be virtual, the game was shipped to the attendee’s home. And if someone decided to change from live to virtual at the last minute, the registrant was able to access the event via the meeting app. • To include them in meals or evening dinners, we partnered with a company that sent links to all virtual attendees where they could access restaurants to order in for breaks, dinners and other meals We put a cap on the amount that could be spent each day, and in some smaller towns, we could provide them with an online visa card to use at a local restaurant of their choice.


In all, GMI is more than pleased with the outcome and feedback we received from our completed Back to Live Meetings projects. The attendees voiced their excitement to be back onsite with their team and able to collaborate and learn together in person. We as an industry must be flexible with the new guidelines put upon us, reduced hotel staffing challenges and the everchanging quarantine requirements. If done properly, we feel confident that live meetings can return in a safe manner with all details being considered and managed. Stacey Jackson is a Senior Meeting Planner at Boca Raton, FL-based Global Meetings & Incentives (GMI). She brings over 21 years of industry experience to GMI, a leading meetings logistics provider with emphasis on the pharmaceutical and life sciences industries.



and designing an entire meeting or event with no date. They worked with their client to create the experience for an event that might happen in January, or might happen in June. In this way, the event-planning company maintains steady income so they can keep staff on the books. Our industry is so creative, and we have so much to offer. We will recover and we will set the new standard for meetings and events. I’d love to connect and hear your feedback, your pivots, or ways you’re surviving and thriving!

top of the list, and going over things while moving through the facility helps spur questions, solutions and overall planning. In addition, you will be able to see for yourself what new signage has been installed, how entrances and exits are labeled, larger spaces that are now needed for social distancing, and cleaning procedures in action. The Albany Capital Center has even Facetimed with clients to give them a virtual walkthrough if an in-person visit isn’t possible or travel restrictions did not permit them to come to New York. While it is a very challenging time right now for the hospitality industry, remember that even if you can only take a small step forward — it is important to take that step. The sales and event teams at venues are ready with Plans A, B, C and D for your next event. Use their hard work and preparation to your benefit and let them be part of your reimagined team.

Continued from page 44

Kate Patay, CPCE, is the Chief Strategy Officer of Patay Consulting, a firm designed to assist businesses and individuals to discover and amplify their authentic brand and image. She is an international speaker, brand strategist, consultant, hospitality influencer, SEARCH Foundation Chairwoman and Ambassador for the Meetings Mean Business Coalition. She can be reached at kate@katepatay. com. For more information on the SEARCH Foundation, visit

PANDEMIC-ERA PLANNING Continued from page 46

state guidelines for in-person gatherings. Ask for their assistance and input on how best to stay within those guidelines for your event. 4. Be flexible. I am hopeful that one day, in the not-so-distant future, our industry will return to normal. Until that time, know that if there is one thing that’s constant right now, it’s change. Be prepared to change meeting rooms, meeting setups, for a speaker to have to quarantine and not be able to attend your event, for 10 percent of your attendees to cancel

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Shannon Licygiewicz is Director of Sales at the Albany Capital Center. at the last minute, etc. But also be prepared for exceptional things to happen. Be prepared for overwhelming gratitude from your attendees that they’re getting to meet in person. And be prepared to look back on all of this one day and realize how much you learned, and how much you and your attendees were changed for the better. Jamie Kervin is Senior Account Manager for Arrowhead Conferences & Events, a ministry that provides Christian meeting planning services. Kervin previously served as Senior Sales Manager with Hilton Hotels, Event Coordinator for the Committee on Discipleship Ministries of the Presbyterian Church in America, and public relations professional for a high-tech public relations firm.






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