Presented 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 Guidelines in July, by successfully hosting the Together Again Expo.
Representing the return of trade shows to The Center of Hospitality, OCCC planners revised the traditional trade show experience to offer a safe and controlled environment for attendees, exhibitors, speakers and participants.
Preparations for the event began long before participants arrived at the OCCC. Following an enhanced communications strategy, OCCC and Together Again Expo organizers openly communicated new plans, policies and procedures to help guide and educate attendees ahead of time.
The implementation of a controlled check-in process played an important role in creating a safe and secure event experience. By funneling attendees through four restricted entry points, the OCCC managed attendee flow, avoided congestion and administered essential health screenings in the form of temperature checks at each entrance.
Considering all touchpoints, show organizers designed a touchless registration process, with a focus on self-service. Prior to arrival, participants received QR codes via email for a touchless check-in at the event. Once registered, attendees received a complimentary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kit for use throughout the event.
Attendees entered the venue via four restricted access points following a successful health screening.
Offering a Safe and Enjoyable Event Experience
With a reputation for hosting world-renowned trade shows for nearly forty years, the OCCC worked closely with Alliance Nationwide Expositions to execute the Together Again Expo and pave the way for the OCCC to guide the industry by implementing plans for hosting events in a post-COVID world.
Adopting a hybrid event format, the Together Again Expo combined traditional meeting elements with virtual capabilities to engage more than 1,000 on-site and 8,000 remote attendees. Designed in response to current challenges, the event presented an innovative approach to gathering safely, catering to attendees near and far with varying comfort levels.
With ample space at its disposal, the OCCC offered plenty of room for physical distancing at the modified expo. Considering the safety of on-site attendees, exhibitors and employees, event planners designed a floor plan featuring wider aisles, physically distanced seating plans, and the strategic positioning of furnishings to avoid congregations of people and limited capacity measures.
Additionally, following a countywide mask mandate, all Together Again Expo attendees, exhibitors, speakers and employees were required to wear a face covering while inside the OCCC. Ambassadors were located throughout the building to ensure compliance to this mandate, and post-event sentiment reports revealed that attendees were in favor of the mandate, with many feeling safer because of the policy.
In partnership with Orlando Health and Visit Orlando, the OCCC also offered its unique medical concierge service for the event. 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.
The Together Again Expo General Session area featured physically distanced seating and one-way aisles.
Offering a Controlled Dining Experience
Demonstrating its CenterSafe initiative, Centerplate – the OCCC’s exclusive food and beverage provider – offered a controlled dining experience for attendees. With robust food safety and hygiene measures already in place, this new initiative focuses on enhancing Centerplate’s current policies, to further limit risk and instill confidence.
Amplifying its focus on sanitation, Centerplate introduced a number of new measures, including plexi-glass barriers between guests and employees, the use of new, covered containers for food, the availability of portable hand sinks beside all food preparation and distribution areas, and the use of touchless payment options to limit person-to-person and person-to-surface contact.
Enforcing strict physical distancing guidelines, Centerplate assigned attendees to concession areas to assist with attendee flow and limit congregations. Within dining areas, employees and signage reminded guests to remain at a 6-foot distance while seated, and to adhere to the mask mandate, with an exception made during the consumption of food or beverages.
During the event, Chef K, Centerplate’s Executive Chef, demonstrated post-COVID dining solutions debuting a new take on a reception buffet at the OCCC. The engaging showcase emphasized how Centerplate will safely provide memorable food and beverage experiences under our new normal.
Focusing on a controlled dining experience, this new reception style transitions from the traditional self-serve buffet to an attended buffet, where a Centerplate employee serves food to guests in an enclosed container.
Centerplate’s Chef K demonstrated post-COVID dining solutions at the Expo, including a new take on reception buffets at the OCCC.
As a Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) STAR accredited venue, the OCCC implemented a series of rigorous sanitation protocols throughout the duration of the event. Following a comprehensive sanitation schedule, staff thoroughly disinfected the venue each evening, and introduced numerous enhanced cleaning measures throughout the move-in, move-out and event process, including the sanitation of the general session area, all furniture and seating areas, expo hall disinfection, and regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
OCCC employees disinfected the Expo Hall and General Session Area throughout the duration of the event with electrostatic foggers.
With no illnesses or cases reported following the event, the measures taken by the OCCC and the Together Again Expo are a proven success and testament to hosting live events under our new normal. Offering a blueprint to navigating live events, the OCCC is leading the way by displaying the necessary tools, strategies and methods to allow us to meet safely today for a stronger tomorrow.